by Angela Anderson
Counting on foodservice distributors to help put more pork on menus across the country is nothing new. But with continued large pork supplies, their link to the foodservice segment is more valuable than ever to the pork industry.
The Pork Checkoff’s foodservice marketing and innovation team is working closely with four of the top 10 U.S. foodservice distributors – SYSCO, US Foods, Reinhart Foods and the Performance Food Group – and those efforts are paying off. Combined, the top 10 distributors represent nearly 65 percent of U.S. foodservice sales, according to the Hale Group.
“The distributors are great partners in the link between processing pork products and consumer consumption, especially now when we are asking them to help move ample pork supplies in the marketplace,” said Neel Sahni, foodservice marketing and innovation manager for the Pork Checkoff. “They are driving customer sales at a crucial time.”
The distributors maintain large, dedicated sales and resource teams to help meet the needs and demands of foodservice operators. Their clients include independent restaurants, multi-chain restaurants, hospitals, colleges and universities and large national accounts.
Answering the Question of “Why Pork?”
From providing trend reports to demonstrating how to break down a carcass into various cuts, the Pork Checkoff’s foodservice marketing team creates individual approaches to working with each distributor.
“We train distributors to be pork ambassadors with their clients to encourage them to increase pork menuing,” said Jim Murray, foodservice marketing and innovation manager for the Pork Checkoff. “We share pork consumer insights and research to answer the question of ‘Why pork?’”
With Performance Food Group, David Bottagaro, also a foodservice marketing and innovation manager for the Checkoff, has conducted a Center-of-the-Plate summit and spent one-on-one time with the company’s protein and sales managers.
“It’s all about helping them become comfortable featuring and selling pork to their clients across the country,” Bottagaro said.
Strategic promotional Checkoff funding can help distributors promote pork across numerous platforms, Murray added.
“Most distributors offer signature house-branded pork products, as well as regional/national branded pork products,” Murray said. “By working strategically with Pork Checkoff to leverage resources, we can cooperatively and efficiently move substantial quantities of pork in a short period of time.”
For example, SYSCO – the largest U.S. foodservice distributor – can influence a large number of customers by offering a pork promotion,” Sahni said. “SYSCO tracks markets and customer needs and can make decisions about promotions and product pushes quickly.”