We’ve all heard the old stereotypes about the quality of hospital foods. It’s been the punchline of jokes for years but, in reality, many healthcare foodservice providers have been stepping up their game and offering improved dining experiences for patients and employees. For Land O’Lakes, Inc.’s Foodservice business, this presented an opportunity to get more involved and explore channels outside of traditional restaurants.
That’s where Strong Memorial Hospital came in.
Land O’Lakes first got into healthcare foodservice after acquiring Kozy Shack in 2012, delicious dairy products such as pudding and gelatin, that are nutritious and easy to swallow. Senior Marketing Manager for Strategic Channels in Foodservice, Cheryl Isberner, knew that part of the journey to expanding our offerings would be to understand how Land O’Lakes’ core business competencies can transfer to a non-restaurant environments.
“As we tried to learn more about what the future might be for us, we conducted an operator panel session that provided insights that allow us to align our products with the needs of the operators,” says Cheryl. “One of the panel members happened to be Al Caldiero.”
From that panel, a partnership between Strong Memorial Hospital located in Rochester, New York, and Land O’Lakes Foodservice was born. Al Caldiero, the director of food and nutrition at Strong Memorial, knew Land O’Lakes would be a great partner in the food business because the Foodservice team took time to understand the hospital’s operation, challenges and needs.
“They came in and showed how Land O’Lakes products could fit those needs and work with me,” says Al. “They didn’t try to fit a square peg to a round hole.”
For Land O’Lakes Foodservice, customers fall into two categories: commercial and noncommercial. Commercial is any place where consumers go to deliberately spend money on food, such as restaurants. In that category Land O’Lakes has recently focused on both Mexican operator chains and Mixed American/Bars and Grills.
“When you think about Mexican and mixed American cuisines, they provide products with a lot of cheese, such as queso or macaroni and cheese dishes,” says Cheryl.
The noncommercial segment is a location where the primary focus is service or places of employment, such as healthcare facilities, educational institutions and businesses that provide food options to employees. It’s the variety of this segment, numerous menu options, peak periods of demand and serving locations, that make the noncommercial segment a unique challenge. Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods products add value here because they are easy to prepare and can be used multiple ways.
“As we continue to grow our presence in new channels and segments, we will continue to do what has made us successful in other areas by understanding the customer needs and then understanding how our products benefit the customer’s goals and objectives,” says Cheryl.
To help meet the goals and objectives of Foodservice customers, whether commercial or non-commercial, the Land O’Lakes Foodservice marketing and sales teams, along with the test kitchens and supply chain teams come together to discuss how to make the customer most successful by developing offerings and solutions that fit the needs of customers.
After visiting Strong Memorial Hospital and touring their production kitchen, the team came back to Land O’Lakes with the hospital’s recipes and began making modifications to show how Land O’Lakes cream and butter sauces would better meet the needs of the hospital.
“I could just go down a list of vendors and pick their cheese, their butter, whatever, but what else do you bring?” says Al. “And I think that is the difference that Land O’Lakes has proven. Providing not only the product, but support behind it, to stand behind the product and show you the best way to use it for your operation.”
This collaboration between the team and customers is not unusual for Foodservice. When taking on new customers, often you’ll find the Land O’Lakes test kitchen staff working with customers’ chefs to adapt recipes and make certain Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods products work in their operations.
The ability to adapt operators’ recipes to incorporate Land O’Lakes products makes offerings like our Extra Melt Cheese Sauce or cream and butter sauce bases an invaluable resource for continued growth in Foodservice and Dairy Foods overall. So even though you may not always see these product offerings in the dairy case of your local store, Foodservice’s expansion into commercial and noncommercial customers continues to maximize the value of our member milk production and drive business success.
“We take our competencies, which are better developed on the commercial side and apply them to the non-commercial side,” says Cheryl. “We take what we are really good at and continue to add value back to our farmer members by expanding our channels.”