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Aug 12, 2022
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Emmi Roth promotes newly acquired Athenos Feta line, prepares for growth


Photo by Rena Archwamety/Cheese Market News
CHEESE MOMENTS — Emmi Roth’s groundbreaking celebration of its new headquarters and conversion facility included a spread of the company’s most iconic cheeses as well as new additions such as the Athenos Feta brand, which was acquired in late 2021. Feta will be among the products converted at the new facility, which is set to open mid- to late-2023. 


Photo courtesy of Emmi Roth
BETTER WITH FETA — In June, Emmi Roth rolled out its new #FoodNeedsFeta marketing campaign, showing consumers how adding Feta can change an entire recipe into something new and exciting.

By Rena Archwamety

FITCHBURG, Wis. — Against a backdrop of blue sky, fields of corn and a vintage red barn, leaders, employees and guests of Emmi Roth last week gathered in rural Stoughton, Wisconsin, to commemorate the groundbreaking of its new headquarters and conversion facility. Attendees enjoyed a spread of the company’s most iconic and award-winning cheeses, such as Roth Grand Cru and Emmi AOP Swiss Gruyere, as well as new additions like Roth Hot Honey Gouda and Athenos Feta.

“The facility here will be 158,000 square feet, and its main focus will be conversion. We’re going to be converting Feta, doing portion cutting and also some shredding,” says Emmi Roth Director of Manufacturing Jordan Ehlen. “It will be a lot of our branded items — Athenos Feta, our Roth Havartis, Grand Cru and Goudas.”

Ehlen notes that this new facility will allow Emmi Roth to better leverage its other facilities in Wisconsin by offering internal conversion capacities, allowing the other plants more opportunity for growth. The company still will work with industry partners on specialized conversion of other items.

“The new site will be a complete complement to our current facilities, giving us the ability to convert cheeses into their final forms. This enables us to better meet the needs of our customers and consumers, giving them the forms they desire,” says Tim Omer, president and managing director of Emmi Roth.

He notes the company also had considered options north of its current corporate offices in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and as far south as Illinois, but ultimately it came down to what would be best for Emmi Roth’s current employees.

“They’re the heart of who we are, and we couldn’t do what we do without them,” Omer says. “Stoughton is a location central to our plants in Monroe, Platteville and Seymour, and near enough to our current corporate office in Fitchburg to maintain ease of commute. Stoughton is also a vibrant, energetic community with so much to offer — and we look forward to giving back locally.”

The company also is expanding with its future employees in mind, and the new conversion plant is designed to minimize physical stress from lifting and bending, designing work flows to be efficient and effective.

“A lot of the equipment we bought is the latest technology. It provides the most efficiency and flexibility that allows us to meet customer needs,” Ehlen says. “We really did our homework and invested in what works best for us and also will give us future capacity and options for our consumers in the long run.”

• New campaign

One of the company’s latest growth opportunities is its acquisition of Athenos, the No. 1 Feta brand in the United States, late last year. In June, Emmi Roth launched a new marketing campaign for the Athenos brand. The campaign, #FoodNeedsFeta, shows consumers how adding just one ingredient — Feta — can change an entire recipe into something new and exciting.

“The campaign was built to revitalize the Athenos brand, grow the category and hold our place as the No. 1 Feta brand in the market. As the leading Feta brand, we have the ability to impact the entire Feta category, which is incredibly exciting,” says Amie Wentz, Athenos senior brand manager, Emmi Roth.

Emmi Roth is using an omnichannel approach for its #FoodNeedsFeta campaign to reach its target audience everywhere, including on TV streaming services, social media, podcasts or shopping online. And while new product innovations are in the pipeline, the brand itself will not see major changes.

“Just like all of our other brands, it’s important for us to maintain brand awareness, so consumers will not see many changes on the shelf,” Wentz says. “We are making minor enhancements to the label, like adding the Wisconsin Cheese logo and our new brand tagline, ‘Simply Made, Greek Inspired.’”

Wentz adds that Emmi Roth is looking at innovation in both the Athenos Feta and hummus lines, adding new hummus flavors in early 2023 and looking at new ways to create more meal occasions around Feta by innovating new formats.

• Future expansion

Omer says the company continues to innovate and expand products across its portfolio.

“A big focus right now is our Athenos business, having just launched a new marketing campaign to support the brand. We’re also going into the holiday season and are focused on promoting many of our specialty cheese brands, too,” he says.

“We’re continually focused on innovating our core products,” Omer adds. “Some things you’ll see soon include the expansion of our fondue line to include a beer cheese fondue, adding new customer-voted Havarti flavors including tomato basil and french onion, and innovation within the Athenos business.”

In addition to expanding and promoting its cheese lines, Emmi Roth is focused on expanding its team as it plans to add 100 new positions at its new facility, including line attendants, machine operators, warehouse workers and order pickers, as well as management teams, quality and maintenance personnel. The company also recently hired new Plant Manager Tim Hilgers, Technical Manager Greg Majkrzak, Senior HR Business Partner Seth

Rehbaum and Logistics Manager Brian Birkhimer.

“Our core target is to hire our specialized positions by the first of the year,” Ehlen says. “As we look to fill up our crew and our staffing, once we get closer to that ‘go live’ timeline — the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter — is when we’ll start hiring our crews.”

Omer says Emmi Roth has been no different than other companies across the country facing challenges such as supply chain, inflation and labor shortages. The new Stoughton facility, he says, will help take some of these complexities and minimize them.

“From a labor standpoint, we’re a people-first company,” he says. “We know how important our people are and are proactively focused on keeping our talent. We put a lot of emphasis on creating a great overall employee experience, including increasing pay and benefits, improving safety precautions and more.”

The company also is focused on ambitious long-term sustainability goals, and the new facility is being built with sustainability top of mind, Omer says. Among these is a landscape that will consist of native plants, grasses and trees inspired by the oak savannah — symbolic of Wisconsin’s beauty — and flora that will help protect soil health and the natural ecosystem. Additionally, the facility will feature low-flow plumbing fixtures, use high-recycled content in building finishes, use locally sourced building materials, have heat recovery and smart ventilation, and more.

“We’re excited to make an impact with this new facility, from initiatives to give back to the local community and create additional jobs here in Wisconsin, to achieving greater business efficiency and collaboration, and ultimately getting cheese in the hands of more consumers across the United States,” Omer says.

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