Wilkinson said many operators are reducing staff at restaurant and corporate levels to cut costs. One of its restaurant accounts recently laid off its payables and receivables staff.
“Many of our IT services fit their needs,” he said. “We created tools for them that automated many of their pricing functions.”
In its role as the marketing and sales representative for six grower-shippers, Fresh Connect, Chicago, evaluates foodservice trends and markets to those trends, helping develop new products as needed, said president Andrew Siegel.
As restaurants aim to reduce costs, they are lowering their protein costs by including two, rather than one, vegetables on the plate, he said.
Armed with the knowledge that corn is the favorite vegetable of consumers under age 30, but yet most corn sold in foodservice is frozen, Siegel saw an opportunity for Tracy, Calif.-based Prima Bella Produce Inc.’s GloriAnn corn.
He helped develop corn coins (cobs cut into about 1-inch slices, allowing them be eaten easier) and corncobs with part of the stem left on for a handle — both kid-friendly products. The new corn cuts have become popular in schools, and the corn with a handle is sold at Disneyland and Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. Siegel is helping to sell it into festivals as an easy-to-eat vegetable.
Each of Fresh Connect’s 15 sales representatives has been trained in the culinary field, and they know to speak to operators in foodservice language.
“What does $18 per case mean to them?” he asks. “Rather, 38 cents per portion means something,” he said.
Tim York, president and chief executive officer of Markon Cooperative Inc., a Salinas, Calif.-based produce procurement company for many of North America’s top independent foodservice distributors, also has identified the value of speaking to foodservice operators in terms of cost per serving and number of servings per package.
It’s a language he’s working on with the distributor sales representatives.
“(Distributor sales representatives) typically have 15,000 items they are selling,” York said. “We have to keep reminding them that fresh produce can be a high-margin, low-cost item. That is a real help to operators these days.”
This article was featured in The Packer's annual Foodservice section, published June 29. For more stories about the foodservice sector, visit www.thepacker.com/foodservice.