Funky Fresh Spring Rolls expands through partnership with Palermo

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TrueMan McGee, the founder of Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, met Palermo CEO Giacomo Fallucca at a panel of food and beverage entrepreneurs in 2017. Afterwards, McGee said to himself, ” I will do business with him one day.”

He was right.

Frozen pizza maker Palermo Villa Inc. said this week that it has become the majority partner in a new venture between the two companies that will distribute Funky Fresh’s frozen buns more widely. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The creation of Funky Villa means shoppers will be able to find the frozen spring rolls, which have a suggested retail price of $11.99 for a pack of four, at more stores and food outlets in the area and beyond. of the.

“I believe the Funky Fresh Spring Rolls brand can be a household name in America, just like Lean Cuisine or Pizza Rolls or Hot Pockets,” McGee said, “for people who want healthy ingredients in a crispy package.”

Shoppers can now find frozen Funky Fresh spring rolls — stuffed with healthy, bake-at-home fillings — at 20 Milwaukee metro grocers, including Sendik’s, Outpost Natural Foods and Festival Foods.

They are also sold at Sherman Phoenix on the north side of Milwaukee, the site of the Funky Fresh restaurant and its production kitchen.

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TrueMan McGee whips up fresh and funky spring rolls at his Sherman Phoenix location in Milwaukee.  The rolls are baked, not fried and stuffed with healthy fillings.  McGee started making the rolls for himself when he wanted to eat healthier, then for his clients when he was a personal trainer.

McGee remains the sole owner of the catering and catering business.

He stayed in touch with Fallucca after the FaB Wisconsin event in 2017 where they met. McGee got advice to test the market for his company and chose Fallucca’s mastermind over frozen food. Fallucca would visit Sherman Phoenix while mentoring Sauce and Spice, the pizzeria that was one of the businesses that opened there in late 2018.

“He’s just a great guy. I love his energy and his creativity. When we first met, we really connected,” Fallucca said of McGee, adding, “He’s developed a excellent product. What I like is its creativity in its variety of spring rolls.”

McGee also has “a great presence and a great brand. Those are the things that drew us to him,” Fallucca said.

Frozen spring rolls can easily be scaled up in larger quantities, Fallucca observed, making the brand a natural for growth. For its part, Palermo brings its experience in the distribution of frozen pizzas on a national scale. “We understand the supply chain, from ideation to commercialization,” he said.

Although McGee said he always intended to branch out into selling the frozen buns in grocery stores, the pandemic forced him to accelerate those plans. His restaurant’s revenue dropped sharply due to COVID-19, but he started selling frozen rolls wholesale and through his restaurant, and they more than filled the void.

“It’s helped us increase our revenue by 26% this year,” McGee said.

“It was a perfect storm to be innovative at the right time,” he added.

McGee in the pandemic also sold rolls to Palermo employees in the Menomonee Valley. In March 2021, he said, the company floated the idea of ​​partnering with the Funky Fresh frozen food line.

It was a chance to speed up sales and distribution.

For now, production will remain in Funky Fresh’s 800-square-foot kitchen at Sherman Phoenix, 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave., where it makes 2,000 rolls a week.

Production of Funky Fresh rolls will eventually move to a larger USDA-approved site to process the meat or contract with a third-party producer with USDA approval.

“Once that happens, it’s really going to take this to the next level.” McGee said.

Funky Fresh will then be able to sell its most popular roll, Chicken Buffalo with Kale, as frozen rolls, along with other varieties of meat.

Rolls sold frozen in stores are now all meatless – black bean sweet potato, chickpea curry, Buffalo cauliflower and a brunch roll with vegan chorizo, hash browns and spinach. (The restaurant serves all ready-to-eat varieties; most of the 25 varieties are listed and removed from the menu.)

Four meatless varieties of Funky Fresh Frozen Spring Rolls are now sold at Milwaukee-area grocers, but the varieties will expand to include meat as part of the new partnership.  Sherman Phoenix's Funky Fresh restaurant on the north side of Milwaukee sells the hot rolls, with or without meat.

McGee will be involved in Funky Villa’s marketing, sales and product development. The restaurant at the Sherman Phoenix will remain open, he said.

“For me, it’s important that businesses of color be elevated and taken to the next level, and show other minority-owned businesses that there are ways to scale up,” McGee said. “There are people who want to help elevate and take our businesses to the next level.” And owners can “also sit at the table,” he said.

Contact food critic Carol Deptolla at [email protected] or (414) 224-2841, or via the Journal Sentinel Food & Home page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @mkediner or Instagram at @mke_diner.

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