Rosemont, Illinois-based foodservice distributor US Foods generates about $24 billion in annual revenue, making it one of the country’s top companies —regardless of industry.
Known as U.S. Foodservice until 1993, the firm that got its start in the mid-19th century (one of its precursor companies sold provisions to travelers headed for the California Gold Rush) offers more than 350,000 national brand products as well as its own exclusive-brand items.
The restaurant industry has always been the company’s bread and butter. But as everyone in the food business knows, “foodservice” no longer applies to just restaurants. As the line between restaurant and grocery continues to blur, and more and more retail grocers bring restaurant-quality food and experiences to their shoppers, US Foods is adapting.
Take a company like Kowalski’s Markets. The 11-store Woodbury, Minnesota-based retailer prides itself on the quality of its service deli and prepared foods selections.
And every day, Kowalski’s deli departments receive shipments from US Foods.
US Foods is also expanding its reach in instore bakeries. Maryland Heights, Missouri-based Companion Bakery, which produces 30,000 pounds of fresh, frozen and par-baked artisan breads and baked goods daily, partners on distribution of its product with US Foods.
The foodservice giant also has broadened its grocery footprint in recent years through acquisitions. In 2016 it purchased Sidney, Ohio-based fresh fruit and vegetable processor, repacker and distributor Freshway Foods, which supplies both retail and foodservice customers.
And one of several distributors US Foods has purchased in the past two years, TOBA Inc., also counts many grocery and c-store store chains among its clients.
Fresh for fall
US Foods also continues to roll out new products that are a great fit for all versions of foodservice — including retail foodservice.
The company’s new Fall Scoop line includes 27 innovative, versatile and “fashion-forward” products. Inspired by the intersection between food and fashion, US Foods created Fall Scoop under the banner of “Food Runway.” Part of the company’s “Great Food. Made Easy.” strategy, these products will, according to US Foods, ensure restaurant operators “stay on the leading edge of dining trends and diner interests.”
“Culinary trends are moving faster than ever, driven by social media, online reviews and diner feedback. When operators aren’t moving forward with the right trends at the right time, it’s easy to fall behind,” says Stacie Sopinka, senior vice president of product development and innovation for US Foods. “At US Foods, we make it easy for our operators to stay on trend and take the right steps forward with confidence.”
International foods are in ever-higher demand, and Fall Scoop features several new items inspired by ethnic flavors, including:
- Monarch Creamy Miso-Ginger Dressing: Made with miso paste imported from Japan, this dressing packs exotic, subtly spicy ginger notes and a wealth of versatility with the rich umami flavor. It’s easily used as a salad dressing, dipping sauce, marinade or glaze.
- Chef’s Line All Natural* Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder in Achiote Sauce: Helping operators serve a traditionally labor-intensive Mexican classic, this slow-cooked pork shoulder features an achiote sauce made with traditional Mexican-style spices, including annatto seeds. It’s ideal for a torta ahogada sandwich or pork shoulder tacos.
- Chef’s Line Artisan Chia Ficelle Roll: Made using French bread-making techniques, the ficelle, (“string” in French) is known for its thin profile and is flecked with flavorful chia seeds throughout. It can be used as a unique sandwich carrier, table bread and more.
Another focus of Fall Scoop is color. New foods on the US Foods roster that feature bright, vibrant colors include:
- Devonshire Premium Black Raspberry Ombre Cake with Vanilla Icing: Featuring four layers of progressively darker-hued black raspberry cake framed by sweet vanilla icing and gem-like sugar beads, this cake serves on-trend flavor in a stunningly sculpted dessert that catches your eye.
- Molly’s Kitchen Flamin’ Battered Onion Ring: With the heat of the sriracha outside and sweet onion inside, this vibrant red onion ring features no artificial colors and is the first flamin’ battered onion ring on the market.
- Cross Valley Farms Tropical Fruit Blend: This bright and colorful tropical fruit blend serves up luscious and sweet dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, oranges and honeydew, with no prep work needed. Use it as a tropical salsa or spoon it over yogurt in a breakfast bowl for a pop of color and sweetness.
With foodie-tending millennials driving more and more menu selections, specialty meats are in higher and higher demand. Fall Scoop options include:
- Chef’s Line All Natural* Bison and Pork Smoked Sausage Raised Without Antibiotics: Juicy and meaty with a rich, smoky flavor, this sausage is seasoned with a custom spice blend and smoked natural pork casing and contains no artificial ingredients.
- Metro Deli All Natural* Soppressata Raised Without Antibiotics: Fermented and dry-aged, this artisan-made soppressata delivers mild and sweet authentic flavor and texture of southern-Italian style salami with no artificial ingredients.
- Stock Yards All Natural* Pork Burger Raised Without Antibiotics: This take on the classic burger combines the rising popularity of nontraditional burgers and proteins raised without antibiotics for a new, versatile and cost-effective menu option with endless seasoning and flavor combinations.
Stacey Kinkaid, senior director of product development at US Foods, provided insights on key menu development trends in the near future.
Q: What is the driving force behind the introduction of the Fall Scoop product line?
US Foods is committed to helping chefs and operators “Make It,” and Scoop is a key component of our “Great Food. Made Easy.” strategy. It’s really important for operators to stay current with the latest and greatest food trends if they want to keep customers coming in. The culinary world is constantly evolving, and we are always looking for new ways to help our customers succeed. In Fall Scoop, it’s about making sure chefs have access to the hottest trends to offer on their menus. US Foods identified five trends that we see really driving innovation on menus. These are products that are forward-thinking, yet functional, so our customers can move forward with adding the latest trends to their menus but can also feel confident while doing so.
Q: What are the inspirations?
Our inspiration for Fall Scoop centered around two key themes. One was the idea of introducing the right trends, at the right time. Food trends are part art, part science. Identifying trends is definitely about what dishes and ingredients are getting a lot of buzz, but it’s also about timing, availability and knowing our operators’ business needs. At US Foods we use a mixture of data, expertise and understanding our customer base to decide when a trend is ready for restaurants.
We were also inspired by the intersection between food and fashion, which is why we created Fall Scoop under the banner of “Food Runway.” Fashion and food trends have a lot of similarities. They both have significant impact on society and move through similar life cycles. Food and fashion have also inspired one another. Because of this constant collision, we thought connecting the two would be a fun comparison to make in Fall Scoop. These 27 new products are fashion-forward because they’re on-trend and buzzworthy and diners everywhere are looking to try them.
Q: Why is it more important than ever for independent foodservice operators to be distinctive with their menus?
Consumers have endless options at their fingertips – menus are readily available on websites, and almost half of consumers check online reviews before deciding to go to a new restaurant (Touch Bistro). Simply put, if you’re not distinctive with your menus, you might not even get that new customer through the door. Fall Scoop brings an assortment of versatile, on-trend products that helps ensure operators stay on the leading edge of dining trends and diner interests.
Q: How does US Foods make their ability to be distinctive on menus all the easier?
We take all the hard work and guessing games out of introducing trends to restaurant menus. The products we develop for Scoop are backed by extensive research to ensure we’re introducing the right trends at the right time. For example, our Devonshire Premium Black Raspberry Ombre Cake with Vanilla Icing is actually four separate cakes that are hand-assembled and decorated. Instead of the operator having to bake four separate cakes, on top of assembling and decorating it, our cake arrives baked, assembled and sliced to help reduce labor and time costs.
Q. What are the hottest ingredients that today’s consumers are really clamoring for?
We’ve seen a trend towards functional ingredients and protein. For example, seeds are on 31 percent of US menus and have grown at +19 percent over the past four years. Chia seed is showing exceptional growth of +244% (Datassential). This is one of the reasons we decided to add chia seeds to our Chef’s Line Artisan Chia Ficelle Roll. Our ficelle is also a great example of the movement towards traditional baking techniques. Since traditional baking techniques are more time consuming, some food manufacturers favored additives to speed up processing times. However, our ficelle, and many of our Chef’s Line breads, include two pre-ferments that are aged for 7-9 hours prior to use, providing superior flavor and premium quality.
Q. What’s been the response to the new line?
We’ve had great response to the line and the Chef’s Line Cookie Butter Tart has really been one of the stars. We were really excited about these products and designed them to help operator stay on-trend and save the time and labor costs – we’re happy that our customers see this value and are excited about them too! They continue to surprise us with their creative application uses and feedback. For example, one of our chefs caramelizes the cookie butter tart and tops it with caramel sauce and smoked salt! Their creativity continues to inspire us for our future Scoop editions.