Land O’Lakes says its Reduced Cream Base—an “unbreakable” replacement for cream in soups and sauces—already appears to be a strong favorite among foodservice operators since its August 2012 introduction.
As a division of the dairy foods and agricultural co-op Land O’Lakes Inc., Land O’Lakes Foodservice develops, manufactures and distributes cheeses (process and natural), butter, spreads, sauces, prepared foods and on-the-go snacks to schools (K-12), restaurants and non-commercial operations.
Behind the scenes, Land O’Lakes Foodservice says its two executive chefs work directly with restaurants and other foodservice customers to enhance their menus with creative and flavorful solutions. Land O’Lakes also offers a professional foodservice test-kitchen and culinary staff to assist with product application and recipe development. Foodservice also draws upon shared resources at this $13 billion food and ag co-op, which has more than 100 R&D scientists and an on-site dairy pilot plant at its Arden Hills, Minn., headquarters.
Of course, customers are critical to the process. John Schmitz, vice president and general manager-foodservice, says Land O’Lakes relies on operator advisory boards, groups of either K-12 foodservice managers and/or restaurant operators, to help flesh out market needs.
“Typically, we will present product concepts to them for their review, as well as go-to-market tools for their assessment and evaluation,” he says. “We also engage in conversations to get their opinions on trends, issues and the on-going problems they may face, which can help lead to future innovation. These boards are critical to gather insights, discover unknown opportunities and share new product ideas. We need these forums to share and receive information, which is critical for innovation efforts.”
Land O’Lakes says operator insights led to a new Italian cheese sauce, a versatile, shelf-stable product for K-12 entrees, sides, dips and toppers. Operator insights also helped in the development of new, individually wrapped natural cheese portions and cubes that give school foodservice directors more nutritious options for breakfast, lunch and on-the-go snacking, and that appeal to students of all ages.
Land O’Lakes officials say they also are excited about the Reduced Cream Base. The product resists breaking, burning or scorching; maintains its consistency without separating (even under long hold times); and withstands multiple heat-chill cycles.
“The product is already reduced, using 50% less cream to deliver the same rich flavor of regular cream, when preparing high-quality soups and sauces quickly, easily and consistently,” says Schmitz. “Not only does Reduced Cream Base save time, but it also allows operators to standardize their menus across their operations. One operator, in particular, was happy that he could now serve many of his patrons’ menu favorites across all his other locations with the same consistency.”
Schmitz says Land O’Lakes appreciates its involvement with the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) and IFMA’s Center of Innovation Excellence (CIE) project.
“IFMA’s CIE learnings have helped us benchmark our efforts against best practices in the industry around areas such as ‘customer intimacy’ and a disciplined Stage-Gate [International] process,” he says. “We, along with the entire industry, have benefited from outside perspectives on how important new products are to our overall mix and the industry-leading processes that our peers are putting into place to win with new products.”