About “Bergsteiger” and traditional flavors – a visit to Wiesbauer
“Wiesbauer gets very busy before Christmas – our customers want to have something traditional on their tables for the festivities” – I am told when I try to fix a date for a visit to the Wiesbauer headquarters in the south of Vienna.
Despite this, there is a little time available for an interview and so I meet a friendly man from the company’s Communications Department in December, who tells me more about this traditional firm.
“We have been here for generations,” I am told. “Everything began with Franz Wiesbauer in Fünfhaus — Vienna’s 15th District — in 1931. Shortly afterwards, the company moved to the 16th District (Ottakring), where the still popular “Bergsteigerwurst” (a type of smoked summer sausage) was invented.”
However, even that location became too small very quickly and so a larger plot of land was bought in Hietzing – Vienna’s 13th District – in 1940, where a new facility was built. After Franz Wiesbauer passed away, his wife Maria took over the company and led it into a new era.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the present factory, which is now a family business in its third generation and which combines both tradition with innovation and artisan craftsmanship with automation perfectly, was held in Vienna’s 23rd District in 1990/91.
I am interested whether Austrian tastes for meats have changed over the decades and what the most popular type of cut meat produced by Wiesbauer is.
“Nothing has really changed when it comes to taste,” I am told. Traditional products, such as the “Bergsteiger” (mountaineer sausage) and delicacies such as the “Polnische Spezial” (sausage smoked over beech wood) or roast products such as the “Wiener Kümmelbraten” (Viennese-style caraway roast pork) are still top sellers.” The double-smoked “Wurzelspeck” (bacon marinated in garlic and herbs) still has many fans, despite the trend toward diet products often cited by the media. Gourmets prefer ham delicacies with special flavors, such as the “Prosecco Ham,” “Butter Ham” or “Birkenrauchschinken,” a ham smoked over birch wood.
“As a Wien Products member, you are renowned for tradition, quality, artisan craftsmanship and that special unique touch. How much manual skill can still be found in your products given modern production methods and what are you most proud of?” I ask the expert.
“Artisan skill is still a core element in the making of our products, even though Wiesbauer is considered a model producer from a technological point of view. These skills are not only important when it comes to our ham delicacies. We are always proud that we can highlight traditional, manual production skills paired together with cutting-edge technology in innovation development.”
This sounds exciting – I am curious about the next generations in this traditional craft at Wiesbauer and am surprised when I am told that the new generation of the management of the family business is following the classic training route.
Benjamin Uher is already the next generation at Wiesbauer. He is the grandson of Karl Schmiedbauer and nephew of Thomas Schmiedbauer, the current manager. He graduated from a Handelsakademie (a vocational high school with commercial focus) in 2018, before starting an apprenticeship as a butcher at Wiesbauer. He will work in every department and branch of the group over the next few years to learn as much as possible. The future of the family business is guaranteed.
Otherwise it is not easy to get young, well-skilled employees. This is why Wiesbauer initiated a big campaign to actively recruit new apprentices. The company offers young people a broad range of training options. Candidates can train as food technologists, butcher’s shop assistants, administrative assistants and – in the near future – cooks, in addition to the classic butcher’s apprenticeship scheme. Many of those who started an apprenticeship at Wiesbauer after finishing school are now working in leading roles in production.
Finally, I would like to know whether companies such as Wiesbauer still have secrets, such as special family recipes, and how they react to modern customers’ new quality awareness.
My question is met with laughter and I am told: “The recipe of our “Bergsteiger” has been a well-kept secret and has not been changed in 90 years. The so-called “Bergsteiger Junior” was introduced in October 2019, as a snack to attract younger customers.”
The slogan is top quality and top flavor! Many of Wiesbauer’s specialties have been awarded the AMA quality seal, used to label foods that exceed legal quality standards and the origins of which can be traced clearly.
This sounds pretty convincing and I take my leave. Learning about the production processes here makes one thing crystal clear – the quality of Wiesbauer products is definitely worth a stroll to the next Wiesbauer butcher’s shop.