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Manufacturer develops a taste for Janesville

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 1, 2007
— Looking for someone to blame for your Thanksgiving overeating?

Go ahead and point the finger at Fontana Flavors, a Janesville manufacturer that probably had a hand in making the food so fabulous.


Particularly the gravy, the stuffing and perhaps even the turkey soup that’s been in the refrigerator for the last several days.


Fontana Flavors makes savory flavorings that find their way into a variety of different seasonings. Look at an ingredient label, and Fontana’s products typically fall under the “natural and artificial flavors” category.


Fontana has about 100 base products, which general manager Adam Sromovsky said makes beef, chicken, pork and seafood flavorings taste more like, well, beef, chicken, pork and seafood.


The company’s customers include companies that specialize in seasoning mixes. For a consumer product such as a gravy or soup base, Fontana’s flavoring might only amount to a tiny percentage of the overall ingredients.


Fontana uses a reaction of amino acids and reducing sugars to make products that, when mixed with common commodities, form a seasoning base that its customers use in a variety of consumer applications.


The company was born in 2003 when its owners—Chicago-area brokers who were representing another flavor company—decided to start their own business. Fontana sought a site in Madison, but eventually settled on Janesville and a 32,000-square-foot building on Fulton Street that used to be a Coca-Cola distribution center.


“At that time, Janesville was aggressively seeking new businesses, and they were very good to us,” Sromovsky said. “The city did a great job in helping us with all our permits and licenses.”


As a full-line manufacturer of custom-made savory flavors, Fontana hangs its hat on quality products, technological innovation and top-notch customer service.


The company has about 15 employees, the majority of whom are in Janesville. A research and development lab complements its manufacturing operation.


In addition to developing its own products, the lab routinely works with customers to meet their seasoning requirements. Kosher, vegetarian and low-sodium flavors are an important part of Fontana’s operation.


“Our policy, and it’s not everybody’s, is to tell people exactly what’s in the product we’re trying to selling them,” Sromovsky said. “To our customers, we say we can punch up whatever base they’re using.


“We can manufacture whatever the customer wants.”


And Fontana can do it in any quantity, whether it’s a 10,000-pound daily production run or a five-pound shipment, Sromovsky said.


“We’re smaller, so we can tailor-make products with a much shorter lead-time,” he said.


The company, which doesn’t handle raw meat, ships products daily, primarily to customers in the Midwest.


It’s been growing since its arrival in Janesville because it can play both sides of the economy, said Sromovsky, a UW-Madison graduate who has been in the flavor industry for 15 years.


“When the economy is doing well, people eat out more, and that’s good for the restaurants,” he said. “When the economy turns, people eat in more, eat more packaged and boxed products.


“Either way, we do OK.”



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