Made in Waukesha County
East Shore Specialty Foods paved a new way for gourmet food
Pretzel and mustard business formed in Hartland, ships internationally

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman

Feb. 4, 2015

Jars are filled with mustard at East Shore Specialty Foods Tuesday morning.
The company is famous for its unique line of mustards.

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

HARTLAND - Recipients of gift boxes containing East Shore Specialty Foods mustards and pretzels may only be aware that the gourmet products are made with quality ingredients and taste delicious, but they may not be aware that the food items are made right here in Waukesha County.

Owner Jeri Mesching founded the company in 1986, a couple of decades before the “buy local” and “eat whole foods” movements swept the nation. She said she wanted East Shore to be a classic, which she believes it has become.

“The way I think about food is not as a trend. It is something to be enjoyed,” she said.

Her first product was Sweet and Tangy Mustard, with an intense taste and zesty burst of flavor. Initially she made the mustard in her kitchen from a recipe that produced one cup of mustard, Mesching said. After a positive reception, Mesching rented a small commercial kitchen and approached specialty food stores in the area to see if they would sell the finished and packaged product.

 Workers prepare to package mustard at East Shore Specialty Foods Tuesday morning.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

National growth for East Shore Specialty Foods came from Mesching attending food shows that reached an international clientele. To increase sales, Mesching said she placed an emphasis on finding distributors who could get her product to stores around the country, as well as to be placed in gift boxes. One large retailer that carries East Shore items is World Market. East Shore food items also are included in Usinger Sausage gift boxes.

In 1995, Mesching built the office and manufacturing building at 643 Cardinal Lane for East Shore Specialty Foods, which after an addition now measures 23,000 square feet and employs 10 people, many of whom have been with the company for at least 15 years.

Employees are encouraged to eat in the business’s employee kitchen, and Mesching has been known to bring in homemade soup to share. Before starting the business, Mesching was a kindergarten teacher who enjoyed gardening, making her own bread and preserving fruits and vegetables.

 Jeri Mesching stands with a display of East Shore Specialty Foods products.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Considering her food to be “classic,” Mesching has never changed her labeling to suit a fad, such as putting a salt-free label on the mustard even though there is no salt added to it. She does pay attention to what concerns people about food and said she is well aware of the current GMO or genetically modified organism discussion.

“The whole food environment is constantly changing. People are more aware of what they are eating,” Mesching said.

 East Shore Specialty Foods Sweet and Tangy Mustard was the product that got the company started when Jeri Mesching cooked up small batches in a rented commercial kitchen.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

While East Shore Specialty Foods has remained committed to its core values, it has introduced new flavors during the years, including the most recent Stone Ground Mustard for Cheese and Sweet and Hot Mustard for Cheese. The company has also produced Sugar & Spice Pretzels and a Sweet Celebration Gift Set with honey wheat pretzels and dipping caramel.