Behind the Scenes of Your Food Service Program

Do you know the difference?

Many people don’t know the difference between a manufacturer, a broker and a distributor when it comes to K-12 foodservice.  Sitting down with 20 different manufacturers and brokers these past few weeks reinforced the valuable resources that these companies and representatives hold when it comes to K-12 foodservice.  As I began to explain the food solicitation process to an interested school district, I thought to myself, do I need to start at the beginning and explain all of the parties involed with a food service program?  The answer was YES!

The Food Systemmanufacturer is a company that transforms livestock and agricultural products into products for final consumption.  In other words, they are the group that takes the cow and turns it into a beef patty served in your lunch lines.  They’re the starting point for many of the products you serve to your students on a daily basis.  Depending on their size, some manufacturers have K-12 representatives that you may have spoken with at an SNA food show or even had a visit from at your district.  Typically the manufacturers who have the direct representative are very large and do a lot of business across the United States.  Those who are not that large, or choose to sell through a non-direct representative, work through brokers.

K-12 food brokers are sales agents that negotiate sales for manufacturers of food products.  Brokers provide a service to both the manufacturers and distributors who are buying the product to deliver to your district.  Brokers can represent multiple manufacturers at the same time, covering most aspects of K-12 food service.  Some of you have met brokers at SNA conferences, mini food shows or have had a visit directly from one, or many, of them.  However, when it comes to actually purchasing a product most school districts purchase from a distributor.

distributor is a company that provides food and non-food products to K-12 foodservice.  They also distribute product to larger markets such as restaurants, hospitals and nursing homes.  Distributors in the current market include, but are not limited to: Cash-Way Distributing, Food Services of America, Indianhead Food Distributors, Martin Brothers, Reinhart Foodservice, Sysco, Upper Lakes Foods and US Foods.

So there you have it, that’s the basics of how most of you receive the core staple groceries you serve on a daily basis.  As we move into the solicitation process, it’s extremely important for us to make sure that all parties involved in K-12 foodservice are aware of the competitive opportunity that will be available to them.

Here are some of the manufacturers and brokers that we’ve spoken with so far in this journey:  Bernard Food Industries, Bix Produce, Acosta, Bakes Sales Company, GVM Marketing, Heinz, JTM Food Group, KeyImpact, Lakeland, The Core Group, Apple and Eve, Cavendish Farms, Cloverdale Meats, ConAgra, Domino’s Smart Slice, Foster Farms, General Mills, Notables, Red Gold, Schwan’s Food Company, Advance Pierre, and MixMi.