Keith Schroeder will tell you, “Our business tends to struggle a bit when times are good and thrive when times are bad.”
“Folks have become so reliant on the grocery store for their everyday food items and foodservice is obviously taking a pretty significant beating. It’s good to see the restaurant world finally coming back from the challenges of COVID-19.”
CEO + Founder of High Road Craft Brands, Keith Schroeder launched his company a mere ten years ago. It has become one of America’s fastest growing ice cream manufacturers with multiple brands including the original High Road Craft Ice Cream line and has expanded into new categories: Ciao Bella Gelato, Wallops (novelty products) and a brand inspired by regional Mexican cuisine called Helados La Neta.
The company’s intention of only being a foodservice company, with all ingredients made in-house, has clearly grown to become an active manufacturer of premium private label products, growing into mainstream retail, even mass retailers like Walmart with a very complex supply chain. “I would give Walmart credit for making us a much more mature company particularly on the logistics side. Working with a huge company with 44 distribution centers, navigating that world, comes with quite a learning curve. It made us a far more sophisticated company,” explains Schroeder.
Their pecan-inspired flavors include Brown Butter Praline, Nuez (La Neta), Caramel Pecan (their top seller) and a new foodservice flavor, Fire Roasted Pecan (flavors from low roasted to high intensity with the flavor of roasting over an open flame).
Schroeder announced, “We’ve got a number of pecan focused products coming to market for 2020-2021. One is the ‘cookie dough’ category. Focused in on having a very pronounced pecan flavor profile in the nutty version of that cookie (along with almonds which makes a really cool blend).”
“We are also reintroducing a High Road original flavor that we released in 2010 and decided to bring it back by popular demand, Brown Butter Praline. They toss pecan pieces in a little egg white, tossing in sugar and salt, then roast it until it’s candied and fold that into the finished ice cream.”
“Most of the Latin(x) and Mexico-inspired brands on the grocery shelves have been historically geared to the value end of the market, and not much was offered at the premium or specialty level. Mexican cuisine, from casual to fine dining, is beloved in the United States. It was our observation that the marketplace was ready for more sophisticated Mexican flavors in the freezer section. We are very passionate about Mexican cuisine and flavors as a culinary team. It allows us to be very vibrant about the range of ingredients and techniques, which is a departure from the classic French style we were all trained in. The line currently has seven flavors and ‘Nuez’, which literally means pecan in Spanish, will be launching this coming season.”
The company uses a LOT of pecans, anywhere from many hundreds of pounds up to about a pallet, depending on the flavors being produced at the time. Their flavors are perennial, not seasonal as you might expect. The pecan flavors are a “go-to” with their customers, partly because they have Southern roots and they are going to “get it right” by not using artificial products.
High Road primarily sources from Front Porch Pecans. Their R&D team works diligently on finding the right quality and size for consistency of their applications. Their consumers expect consistency, “they will tell you in a New York minute if you’ve changed something.”
The company is unique by blending both the foodservice and the retail side, helping them stay perpetually innovative. They have a constantly flowing product development pipeline because they can quickly introduce new flavors to the restaurant world versus readying a consumer product with its limitations.
Schroeder loved attending the Pecan Chefs Summit in 2015, an experiential educational event, getting the chance to work with other professional chefs, stretching their imaginations on what could be done with pecans as an ingredient. They came up with a recipe for a Pecan Slider, a meatless slider version using pecans as the protein, and it is now more relevant than ever with the new meatless trends.
So what’s next for High Road Craft Brands? They plan to expand into new product lines to manufacture more kinds of foods in the future. With aspirations to do more, we look forward to seeing their innovative products on the grocery store shelves and on restaurant menus soon!