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May 10, 2019
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Starting with Feta, Nasonville Dairy introduces Café Olympia line for retail

RETAIL EXPANSION — Nasonville Dairy is offering its award-winning Feta under its Café Olympia label for retail. The decision to introduce the Café Olympia brand for retail was made to meet the needs of customers who don’t want to do a private label product but also want something smaller than a national brand.

INNOVATIONS IN KEFIR— Nasonville Dairy plans to add new flavors to its kefir lineup later this year. The company also will be launching A2 kefir milk products.

By Kate Sander

MARSHFIELD, Wis. — Nasonville Dairy, a family-owned dairy processor in northern Wisconsin, continues to expand its product lines with its Café Olympia label for retail.

The company is starting with Feta under the brand and likely will expand to other cheese varieties as well, says Ken Heiman, who manages the business along with his brothers Kelvin and Kim.

The decision to introduce the Café Olympia brand for retail was made to meet the needs of customers who don’t want to do a private label product but also want something smaller than a national brand, Heiman says.

The company has had the brand for awhile, but has used it as a control brand as needed. This will be the company’s first foray into the retail world with the branded line.

Among the offerings under the retail brand is the company’s new Cucumber Lemon Feta Crumbles, which won second place in the Flavored Feta class at the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

This cheese joins other award winners, including the company’s plain Feta, which won first place in last year’s World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest and second place in its class at the Wisconsin State Fair. Also offered under the Café Olympia brand are other flavors of Feta including Tomato & Basil, Mediterranean, Garlic & Herb, Lemon Pepper and Black Pepper in addition to plain and reduced-fat varieties.

Other flavors may be introduced as well, but the company will keep to traditional Mediterranean flavors and not go too far afield, says David Leonhardi, national sales manager, Nasonville Dairy.

“There are new flavors on the horizon, and we continue to play with spices to see what complements the base Feta flavor and will create new excitement in the category,” he says.

While new flavors generate attention, Leonhardi adds that plain Feta is still by far the best seller overall, with upwards of 80 percent of Nasonville’s Feta sales being non-flavored varieties.

Whether plain or flavored, Heiman and Leonhardi both express excitement about the retail brand and its positioning. Feta has been a bit flat in retail, but they see potential in the category. One of Nasonville Dairy’s strengths is its ability not to just offer new products but to create a quality product that will answer the needs of its customers, Heiman says.


“There are new flavors on the horizon, and we continue to play with spices to see what complements the base Feta flavor and will create new excitement in the category.”

David Leonhardi
Nasonville Dairy


Feta is an “Old World” cheese, but consumers need new ideas on how to use the cheese, Leonhardi says, whether that’s in salads and wraps or sandwiches or charcuterie boards.

“It’s a meaningful category, but it’s not growing as fast as it could,” Leonhardi adds. “No one has given it a fresh look or taste. We’re bringing something new.”

Café Olympia retail cups are litho printed and offer a nice presentation, Heiman says, noting Nasonville is working with customers to supply the various sizes of product they need. The company is adding the capacity to offer larger Feta cubes instead of just diced product, and those larger cube sizes will be available this summer. In addition, the company is offering larger, value-added packages than some other retail brands.
“We’re setting ourselves apart with 1- and 2-pound packages of Feta in brine and 10- and 12-ounce crumbles,” Leonhardi says, noting that a traditional 6-ounce size also is available.

The move into more retail offerings comes on the heels of the company’s 2016 expansion and renovation of its Feta plant.

The space reconfiguration and outfitting of new equipment at Nasonville Dairy’s main plant just outside of Marshfield, Wisconsin, allowed the company to increase its Feta production. The capital project also expanded the company’s abilities to make more consistent product and more unique products for more people, Heiman says, noting the company can consistently adjust, for example, if a customer wants a weaker lipase flavor or a stronger lipase flavor. Nasonville also can provide multiple varieties of Feta including reduced fat, no fat and low salt.

“We’ve worked through the trials and tribulations you have with new production lines,” Leonhardi says. “We’re now extremely consistent with flavor profiles and body.”

The company also is in the midst of adding a new brine system and more packaging capacity. The project, which ultimately will add about 15,000 square feet, is expected be finished by August or September, Heiman says. It also includes space for labs and offices.


“It’s a meaningful category, but it’s not growing as fast as it could. No one has given it a fresh look or taste. We’re bringing something new.”

David Leonhardi
Nasonville Dairy


While Feta is Nasonville Dairy’s most-produced cheese, the company also takes pride in creating many other cheeses, producing more than 40 varieties. In addition to its main plant in Marshfield, it also operates a smaller cheese plant in Abbotsford, Wisconsin.

As the marketplace evolves, demand for organic is growing, and the company is able to supply organic products as well as GMO-free. Nasonville Dairy markets its “Omega 3” line of products, which currently includes Cheddar, Farmer’s cheese, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack and Buffalo Wing Jack varieties.

Nasonville continues to meet the demand of customers looking for “hot” cheese — which ranges from jalapeno to Carolina Reaper, the company’s hottest.

“The interest in hot, hot and hotter is always fascinating,” Leonhardi says.

The company’s Blue Marble Jack also is growing in popularity, and the company continues to work to offer convenience-sized packaging for foodservice, such as 1-pound sliced cheese packages.

“Convenience is huge in today’s world of labor shortages,” Leonhardi says, noting that the company can also make retail slice packages.

In addition to cheese, Nasonville Dairy operates a milk bottling operation and Weber’s Farm Store, all in the Marshfield area.


“Convenience is huge in today’s world of labor shortages.”

David Leonhardi
Nasonville Dairy


At the bottling plant, Nasonville Dairy produces kefir, another area of growth. Nasonville Dairy is expecting to expand its award-winning kefir line in a couple of different ways over the next several months.

First, Leonhardi says the company is getting close to launching A2 kefir products. Milk that is high in A2 beta-casein is thought by some to be easier to digest than milk with A1 protein. The Heiman family owns its own herd of 450 cows and has had these cows tested to determine which produce A1 and A2 milk. With this testing completed, the farm is able to segregate the A2 cows and process A2 milk by itself. It’s thought that the cultures in kefir help with digestibility as well, so the combination of these cultures and A2 milk will make a uniquely positioned product, Leonhardi says.

In addition, the company is expanding its kefir flavor lineup. This past year, the company’s raspberry kefir placed first and its vanilla kefir placed second in the Drinkable Cultured Products class at the Wisconsin State Fair. Later this year, orange, lemon and mango flavors will be joining the kefir lineup.

Even with all of these things going on, Leonhardi says the company is pulling in a bit and focusing on its core competencies.

“We don’t do absolutely everything,” Leonhardi says. “We’re trying to reel ourselves in a bit and focus on the items we have.”

Being large enough to provide significant quantities of numerous cheeses but small enough to be nimble and work directly with customers allows Nasonville Dairy to provide a level of service that not every company can.

Having a strong team in place also is important to the company’s success. In addition to the three brothers, Heiman says several family members — including six sons of the three brothers — are involved in the business. In addition, the company boasts three Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers with certifications in numerous cheeses.

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