For more than 90 years, the Hanni family has been involved in Wisconsin food production. In 1931, Gottfried Hanni, a Swiss immigrant whose heritage informed his sausage and cheese-making skills, opened the Blue Ribbon Cheese Factory. His son Harold was born that same year. Gottfried taught Harold everything he knew about the craft; in turn, Harold taught his five sons.
Harold was passionate about making and smoking sausages and fabricated a smoker from an old chest freezer. In 1976, the jerry-rigged smoker caught fire and almost burned down the house, so Harold went about devising a safer one. Before long, the Pro Smoker ’N Roaster was born, with Harold and his sons selling them to grocery stores and meat markets. It made good sense to sell customers spice and seasoning blends as well.
Harold’s son Ken, along with his wife Kate, expanded the business in 1986 when they incorporated PS Seasoning, introducing numerous spice blends to the marketplace. Their son, Joe, grew up working summers at the company, and after high school he jumped in full-time, skipping college. Within 10 years, he was named its president, in 2006, and has overseen even greater expansion.
The Iron Ridge, Wisconsin-based company now has 155 employees and more than 3,000 seasoning blends. It produces 30 million units annually, selling to wholesale and retail markets globally. The spices are designed to enhance sausages, of course, but also barbecue, tacos, soups, pizza, chili, and Bloody Marys.
“They’re sourced from all over the world,” Hanni says of the spices. “Part of our growth and success is the continuation and development of fun flavor profiles.” For instance, there’s a pulled pork seasoning called The Notorious P.I.G. Rub, General Tso’s bratwurst seasoning, and jars of Bacon Bomb spiked with jalapeño and hickory that’s great sprinkled on burgers, chicken wings, popcorn, and loaded potatoes.
What the Hannis are also known for is philanthropy and community service. Both Ken and Joe were volunteer firefighters and contributed life-saving equipment to first responders.
“About eight years ago, we started partnering with nonprofits to feed those less fortunate in Africa,” Joe says. “We donated blends to fortify plain rice and beans, giving them more nutritional value and adding other ingredients to provide flavor.”
Through working with an organization called The Outreach, which combats hunger at food pantries around the country, PS Seasoning has donated 470,000 meals since 2017. They also stepped up when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, donating 20,000 soup, pancake, and oatmeal mixes to a nonprofit called Feeding America. Last year alone, the company contributed to 1,000 not-for-profit events, schools, and hospitals nationwide.
In 2021, Hanni provided funds for a community park renovation in Iron Ridge, including a state-of-the-art playground, in honor of his father Ken, who died in 2019. Joe and his wife have three children of their own, two of whom are old enough now to work summers at the family company. “The goal is to move it to the next generation,” he says.