Port firm scores Luxembourg beer deal

Ansay International, which has imported goods from the European country since 2014, signs exclusive agreement with its national brewery

IT MAY BE headquartered in Port Washington, but Ansay International is making a name for itself importing, marketing and selling food products from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Holding the current lineup of products the firm offers were (from left) Regional Distribution and Sales Manager Kevin Mazza, Marketing Director Rob Ebert, Operations Manager Kate Ansay and Chief Executive Officer Mike Ansay. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Ansay International is the newest, and perhaps most unique and unexpected member of the Ansay family of businesses. 

The company, which imports food and beverage products from Luxembourg to the United States, recently marked a milestone by signing an agreement with the National Brewery of Luxembourg to be the sole importer of beer to the U.S.

That’s the most recent accomplishment for the company, which was started in 2014 and has been growing ever since.

“The niche we have is pretty powerful,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Ansay said. “We deal in family-owned businesses and the high-quality products typical of Luxembourg.”

Ansay International currently imports, markets and distributes four product lines: Bofferding beers, Ramborn ciders, Domaines Vinsmosell wines and Moutarde de Luxembourg mustards, each offering multiple products.

The products are sold throughout much of Wisconsin as well as Ohio, and this year it is moving into Illinois and Minnesota to serve what is currently a niche audience.

The company has built its base of support on a group of people well known in Ozaukee County — Luxembourgers — but is growing beyond that target audience.

“We look for the pockets of Luxembourgers in the country,” Marketing Director Rob Ebert said, noting they are the only company that imports food products from the grand duchy.

There are more people of Luxembourg heritage in the U.S. than there are in Luxembourg, Ansay noted. 

Family is a theme for Ansay International, which is headed by Operations Manager Kate Ansay, Ansay’s daughter, and specializes in importing food products made by small, family-run businesses in Luxembourg.

That focus is key, said Regional Distribution and Sales Manager Kevin Mazza, who spent much of his career working for PepsiCo.

“People resonate with a story,” he said, adding that these small family stories are key in their marketing. “That stays with you and helps build our credibility.”
Family is also a big part of Ansay International’s history. 

The firm, which has about six staff members, is a part of the Ansay family’s business family — the other companies are the long-established Ansay and Associates insurance company and Ansay Development, the firm’s real estate branch — companies founded on the family’s Luxembourg roots.

Ansay International was forged in large part by Ansay’s relationship to the Luxembourg community, not just in Ozaukee County but in the grand duchy itself.

It all started when George Lentz, the ninth generation owner of Bofferding and a Miami University graduate, came to visit the Luxembourg American Cultural Center in Belgium, Mike Ansay said.

“He was blown away when he came here and saw what we had,” Ansay said. 

But Lentz was frustrated when he went to dine at Cafe Benelux in Milwaukee and his beer wasn’t on the menu, he added.

“That started the journey,” Kate Ansay said.

Kevin Wester, then director of the cultural center, put Lentz in touch with Mike Ansay and they brought a limited amount of Bofferding in for Luxembourg Festival in 2013.

“It sold out almost instantly,” Mike Ansay said.

They put Lentz in touch with an importer, but when the relationship didn’t work out, the Ansays stepped in and Ansay International was born.

The learning curve was steep, Kate Ansay said, involving everything from obtaining an import license to convincing stores, restaurants and taverns to sell the product.

Ansay International is unique in that it does all the importing, marketing and distribution itself, Ebert said.

“There is no other company, to my knowledge, that does all three things in the United States,” he said. “That really sets us apart.”

It also means everyone on the staff gets to take a turn at various jobs.

“You never know when you might need to load up your car and drop product off,” Ebert said. “We go in and can shake hands with the managers. They get to know us and our products.”

“It’s the best way to appreciate and understand what we do,” Kate Ansay said. “Everyone pitches in when needed.”

Company representatives are on site when its products are sold at festivals and special events, she said, including dinners hosted by Lentz four times annually.  

“When people meet him, they see the connection he has with his product and the pride he has in it,” Kate Ansay said. “That makes you like the beer even more.”

Through Lentz, Ansay made connections with Domaines Vinsmosell, a cooperative of about 300 winemakers, and then with Ramborn, which produces dry, hard ciders from heritage apples grown on trees that date back centuries.

“Luxembourg has a wonderful selection of wines,” Ebert said, noting the vineyards are geographically near those of France and Germany. “Everything we have is very drinkable.”

Ramborn has created a market for apples that farmers were no longer tending, Mike Ansay said.

“There’s a whole culture built around cider,” he added. 

“It’s really a budding industry,” his daughter added.

The most recent addition to the Ansay International portfolio is Moutarde de Luxembourg mustard.

The mustard made its debut on Amazon, and quickly became the Internet retailer’s No. 2 food item, said Kate Ansay, who described herself as a mustard lover.

“It (the mustard) is awesome. It’s a lot nicer than deli mustard,” she said.

Ansay International has big plans for its future. 

“There’s so much potential out there,” Mazza said. 

The company plans to add more products in the existing lines imported by the firm and adding a new one, a honey schnapps.

Kate Ansay, who said the company is doing well financially, said the firm is growing.

“We’re going to see big growth this year,” she predicted.

But the company’s goals go beyond food, Kate Ansay added.

“I want people to think of Luxembourg as a place to visit, not a place to drive through,” she said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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