PARTNERS! The SNA Partnership panel included (l. to r.) Susan Reimer-Sifford (Sunshine Solutions Consulting), Rosemary Dederichs (Minneapolis Public Schools), Stephen Hull (US Foodservice), Arthur Dunham (PInellas Cty. School District), Helene Clark (ConAgra Foodservice), Matt Musgrave (US Foodservice) and Sue Tatum (Vinca Marketing/Communications).
A general session at the recent Child Nutrition Industry Conference of the School Nutrition Association (SNA) in Orlando featured a panel of representatives from different sectors that all impact child nutrition.
Participants included Helene Clarke of ConAgra Foodservice, Rosemary Dederichs of Minneapolis Public Schools, Arthur Dunham of Pinellas (FL) County School District, Susan Reimer-Sifford of Sunshine Solutions Consulting, Stephen Hull and Matt Musgrave of US Foodservice and Sue Tatum and Susan Valenti-DeVito of Vinca Marketing & Communications.
Here are some of their comments on issues ranging fromtasting new products to woring with suppliers.
Dunham on how new products are selected: "Our challenge is getting products students like. There are lots of new products out there so we started taste-testing products using the culinary arts students to do the preparation and set up a course.
"We showed them how to taste everything, how to clean their palate and they think this is the greatest thing. So the culinary arts students are basically selecting the menu items we use each week."
Tatum on student focus groups: "I've done a lot of focus groups in a lot of different areas. The number one issue is broken trust. They want to see what you say they are going to eat and it needs to taste the same every time they eat it, and to look the same, and it needs to be available.
"Believe it or not, if I were to ask you when students decide to eat in the cafè, they decide in the first two weeks of school, which are the absolute worst weeks. In the first two weeks of school they are going to decide whether they trust the cafè.
"The second issue, which is kind of incorporated in the first is temperature: things are not hot! And the third big issue students tell me is the flavor profile. The flavor profile they get in the cafè is not the same they get in the home or that they eat on the street.
"They taste the fact that school pizzas have less fat than pizza in restaurants, they taste the fact that your hamburgers are 80% fat rather than 90% fat."
Clarke on developing new products: "As a publicly traded company with reporting and disclosure obligations to stockholders, we have to look carefully at where we are going to spend limited resources and whether or not we going to get a return on that investment.
"A second consideration is the length of the communication channel. If you're a manufacturer, you know you have to go through your corporation to get to your salespeople, who then have to go to distributors who work with the operators—who then work with the final consumer.
"So when you have a new product and wonder, 'Gee, willl this work?' you have to determine everything you need to make a product work at each level, following it all the way through the channel."
Musgrave on supplier partnerships: "Here's a story that illustrates the communications barriers that can hamper partnership between distributors like ourselves and our customers.
"One day I got word that a refrigeration unit—a 'reefer,' in a distributor's terminology— wasn't working on a delivery truck. So I called the school where it was scheduled to make a delivery and told them, 'We have a reefer problem, so our driver will be there late.'
"There was a silence on the other end of the line, so I repeated, 'Don't worry, we just have a little reefer problem but we sent someone out to check it out and the driver should be on his way very soon.'
"Well, it soon became apparent where the miscommunication was and we cleared it up pretty quickly, but the point is that it benefits both parties to know a little more about the other.
"So I encourage our people to visit schools and learn about how they operate, and I would encourage people in schools to send your staffers to our warehouses for a tour so they learn a little bit about what we do and how we operate."