Fizzeology Foods - Culturing Relationships
Faith Anacker has a long interest in the wise traditions of herbalism and wild foraging, and has been fermenting foods on her handbuilt homestead for many years. When the opportunity came to purchase the local cultured food business Fizzeology, she was ready. “Even though I had no experience with running a food business, I knew that this would work perfectly with my life purpose; the Fizzeology mission is to raise health awareness, and that is what I live for. I began to learn the business from Mike Bieser in January of 2013, he showed me the recipes and his processes, and I worked in the kitchen for four months and bought the business in early April.”
“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was getting into at first. Making the product came naturally, but the administration and having employees was a challenge. My biggest mistake early on was hiring employees too soon. Our sales were minimal. We had about seven strong accounts to start, most of my time and energy in the beginning went into building up those accounts. We needed to increase our sales to keep going.” noted Faith.
After a few months, Fizzeology moved the business to the newly created Food Enterprise Center (FEC) in Viroqua, WI. Located in an old office equipment factory, the Vernon Economic Development Association sought to create a unified space where local organic farmers and local food processors could provide year round local food to restaurants and food retailers. With commercial kitchen space available, the FEC was the perfect new location for Fizzeology.
Fizzeology is driven by relationships - with the community, customers, and employees, and also with the ecosystems that provide the raw ingredients for the products. To Faith, Fizzeology represents an opportunity to share her view of Driftless Culture and promote a sustainable business model. Her passion of sharing this message is clear in her classes and workshops, which are focused on holistic health and consumer awareness. The Fizzeology Philosophy of Relationships is a curriculum that she is developing to help people learn about the many aspects of sustainability that are more common in the Driftless Region than in mainstream America, and all of these concepts are woven into the business model that she is developing.
Faith has benefited from many great teachers along the way, including her business advisor KJ Jacobson, who has worked with many of the local small businesses in the Driftless region. “She taught me accounting and her advice is key to the success of Fizzeology. I resisted some of the tasks at first, but now we have created job descriptions and standard procedures for all of the workings of the business. I work very hard to lead by example and allow others to bring their particular strengths. We now have four part-time employees and one contracted sales representative.”
With the exception of ginger, a few herbs, and lime juice, all of the ingredients for Fizzeology’s cultured products are sourced locally. “I live in Amish country, so a lot of my ingredients are bought directly from them. Many of them raise cabbage for the fresh market, but there is no market for the seconds. There is so much waste. I buy the seconds and pay a good price for them. We are not here to profit on others’ hard work,” said Faith.
The Fizzeology product line includes five regular products: “Naked Kraut,” “Kickapoo Cordito,” “German-Style Kraut,” “Kickapoo Kimchi,” and a “Seasonal Ferment” that changes by season. The newest addition to the Fizzeology product line is a nationally distributed product made for Dr. Mercola called “Organic Fermented Vegetables.” “Dr. Mercola had created a starter culture designed to increase the vitamin K2 content, and the recipe is designed for nutrient density. They were looking for a partner for years because this is a complicated product. Someone referred us to them, and we are a perfect fit because we already make a similar product with our ‘Seasonal Ferment.’ It took six months and three test batches to get to this point, but we are now shipping the very first batch.”
While Fizzeology has always used organic, local and wild-harvested ingredients, they have only become certified organic this year. “Organic certification was driven by the Dr. Mercola account. Certification will help us grow our business and confirms our dedication to sustainable production. All of our labels have been redesigned and every product will be certified except for our Seasonal Ferment, which contains some uncertified wild-harvested crops.”
To make raw, cultured foods, Faith and her crew clean, cut and shred the vegetables into a large vat. Salt is then mixed into the vegetables which sit overnight, allowing the juices to be drawn out. The mixture is then packed into oak barrels, which are sealed to be airtight. Fermentation requires an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment and a stable, warm temperature of 64 degrees. The salt kills undesirable bacteria and fungi, and creates a perfect environment for the naturally occurring fermentation bacteria (Lactobacillus) to convert the sugars into lactic acid. “We never let plastic touch our product,” noted Faith. After one month of fermentation, the barrels are unpacked, the vegetables strained and packed into glass jars, and submerged in their own juice. “We make about 500 pounds of product each week, and we hope to at least double that by harvest time this fall. We just bought a new shredder from Latvia, which can shred 350 pounds of cabbage in a half hour.”
“We are always thinking of the future. Someday I want the employees to own the company. For now, we are looking to improve our workflow and efficiency while increasing sales. It is important that we do this without compromising our quality of life just for the sake of making money. Our goal is for no employee to work more than 30 hours per week, so we have time for food, art, and life. Helen and Scott Nearing’s book (Living the Good Life) inspired my life, and it inspires our business.”
To learn more about Fizzeology, visit them at: http://www.fizzeology.com/