The Hansen Companies: Delivering Frozen Foods and Fundraising Solutions

If you’re a company or organization that has been making your own pizzas from scratch and wishes to expand business, the Hansen Companies (Hansen) may be the answer. Whether distributing products through fundraising or through retail facilities, Hansen is the source for “private labeling.” Hansen’s own manufacturing plant and warehousing facilities are located in Green Bay, Wis., and currently serve Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. Although located in the Midwest, Hansen assists companies nationwide.

The Hansen family originally founded the companies in 1912 as a milk delivery service. Since then Hansen grew to include restaurants, wholesale frozen food lines, and a dairy plant that produced bottle milk and its own ice cream brand. Pizza production and fundraising were a small part of the business in the beginning.

Hansen’s current “operational niche” was conceived in the mid-’90s when the focus changed to concentrating on providing top-quality frozen pizza products and to expand the fundraising business.

Chuck Martin, CEO of Hansen, took over the company from its third-generation family ownership in 1995. He focused his attention on the growing, prosperous areas of the company and efficiently reconsolidated the multiple facets into two divisions: Hansen Frozen Foods, Inc. and Hansen Fund Raising Services, Inc.

When the international ice cream company Martin was working for merged and was bought out, he left and acquired Hansen with a partner. He came to Hansen with an accounting background, plus cheese and ice cream manufacturing experience.

In 2002 Martin bought out his partner and became majority owner. Two key managers, Sue Chenault and John Graycarek, purchased ownership interests in the companies. At that point corporate mission/direction was developed and implemented, and the company began to grow at a more exponential rate.

Agility is Key

The Hansen Frozen Food division produces primarily private-label pizzas. The niche market that Hansen created is one of quality and flexibility. Instead of having to run a production line with the same product all day long like the bigger guys, Hansen can change line orders quickly and efficiently. The production of client-tailored products for regional brands that handle all their own marketing is the key focus of the Hansen Frozen Food division.

Hansen’s private-label customers are the ones who bring most of the new ideas. Customers’ ideas and concepts are developed into products that meet their specifications.

Frozen pizza is mostly assembly work, where ingredients are purchased from vendors and run on the assembly production lines. Hansen maintains a diverse, but steady supply chain to assure it can send whatever its clients desire down the line. There’s the core of the product – the pizza crust, the tomato paste, the cheese – and then a world of additional components. Hansen’s strategic partnerships with suppliers result in quick responses to ingredient requirements that will match customer recipes and assist with developing new ones as requested.

Rolling in the Dough

The Hansen Fundraising Services division started out selling pizzas in local school gymnasiums. Hansen would take the cheese, crust and sauce, etc., to the site for the group to assemble and sell. Over time, Hansen expanded into a full-service fundraising company.

Currently, in addition to selling Hansen’s own brand of frozen pizzas, many product categories were added to compliment the programs offered, such as cookie dough, gift items, chocolate, cheese and more. As Hansen continued to grow an additional facility was acquired in order to pack the student orders. The state-of-the-art technology used in the packing facility results in a very high level of accuracy as required by its customers.

Locally, Hansen sells directly to Wisconsin schools and other nonprofit organizations. Outside of its local area Hansen is a supplier to independent fundraising companies. Hansen products and services are used in many states throughout the country.

Since 2002 Hansen has been a key member of the international organization AFRDS – the Association of Fundraising Distributors and Suppliers. This has assisted this once-small local Green Bay company to become nationally known as a supplier of quality products and services for the fundraising industry.

Order Up

While facing certain market challenges, Hansen had found that the down economy thankfully hasn’t been a problem for the frozen pizza side. “People seem to be switching from delivery to frozen pizza from the grocery store,” says Martin. “They’re not going out to eat as much as national statistics show. The frozen pizza at home is a nice option.” To keep up with demand, Hansen added 6,000 feet to its facility in the past 18 months for increased pizza productions. Additional space for packing and fundraising brings the total expansion to 25,000 square feet.

Along with reinforcing the pizza-making infrastructure, Hansen is streamlining its supply channels. “With fundraising – going back five to 10 years – we imported a lot of hard goods such as gift items from China,” reflects Martin. “Now we’re getting away from that due to long lead times and quality issues. We are moving to more and more domestic suppliers. We believe it is important to support our home economy as much as possible.”

Hansen stays on course, maintaining just the right amount of stock for all sides of the business. This is done through high-level sales monitoring. For the fundraising division, Hansen tracks sales by student and can generally predict how much a group will sell. Though sales per student dropped in 2009, in 2012 they picked up again significantly. Fundraising inventories are especially challenging to manage. Hansen uses unique inventory control programs to monitor incoming order requirements as compared to existing inventory and on order inventory. In pizza production, daily pizza manufacturing metrics measure labor, productivity and waste. Monthly sales, production and profit totals round out the financial picture. “Nothing too unique!” chuckles Martin.

In the next couple of years, Hansen will work to add more private-label accounts on the pizza side of things. On the fundraising side Hansen will seek more independent distributors to carry its products. “We’re going for saturation within our fundraising areas, especially in the Midwest, as well as looking for opportunities to provide private-label frozen pizza products for other fundraising companies,” shares Martin. Judging by history, the Hansen Companies will be enjoying another hot slice of success.