“Never in a million years was I going to MSOE thinking I’d come out making french fries.”
But Blair Hanberg ’08 learned just about everything you need to know about fried potatoes working from the ground up at Lamb Weston in Kennewick, Washington, one of the leading potato suppliers to fast food and supermarket chains around the world. Right out of college, Hanberg started in the plants, learning how things worked. That evolved into different quality assurance roles and then ultimately to his position managing the international business development for Lamb Weston’s global McDonald’s business.
Hanberg’s stomping ground is Asia. “In markets like Hong Kong, they’ll run a different french fry or onion product on their menu every quarter,” he says. “So, it requires a lot of supply chain and logistical support domestically to get the correct amount of product in the time frame they request for the market.”
No matter which McDonald’s you go to in the world, you’ll always find the regular shoestring Mc-fry. The Asian markets, however, like to put their own twist on fried potatoes.
“In Malaysia, they like a real strong flavor profile, something that’s got a lot more pepper, or a little more heat, or a different texture,” Hanberg says. “So, we’ll try to make different products to cater to those markets.”
Fast food delivery through mobile apps such as Uber Eats is popular in China, says Hanberg. So, Lamb Weston is working on a new Thin CrissCut (his personal favorite) that holds up better during deliveries.
Many Asian markets also like to put a different topping on traditional fries, he says. “Japan, for example, did a pumpkin-chocolate sauce for Halloween.”
Washington was always home for Hanberg. He grew up in the Seattle area and found his way to MSOE through hockey. A couple of friends were already playing for the Raiders, and he was sold on MSOE’s facilities and academics.
“We were fortunate to have known an amazing coaching staff with Coach Ostapina and Coach Nichols and the athletic director at the time, Dan Harris,” says Hanberg. “They did a great job building the athletic experience to support the academic experience.”
Raider hockey also produced lifelong friends. “There’s really nothing like it,” he says. “You go through all those experiences with such a good group of guys. You kind of grow together for the rest of your life.”
As a business major, Hanberg says he received a good foundation for working in international business. “A lot of classes I took, especially junior and senior year, were more like grad school classes. You had a lot of interaction, discussion and debate on a daily basis that pushed your limits.”
Learning to balance academics and athletics at MSOE was a life lesson Hanberg says he continues to draw from today. He has a wife, Corey, and a 4-month-old son, Tatum. “You always have to make time for family.”
Hanberg also finds time for golf, and after a nine-year hiatus, started playing hockey again. “It’s a lot harder than it used to be,” he admits.
Even with all his work-related travels, Hanberg gets back to Milwaukee once or twice a year for a wedding or alumni events and is impressed by the changes he sees. “The way the school is utilizing and transforming that area of Milwaukee is pretty amazing.” MSOE is definitely a place, he says, he would steer a prospective student.