Prepared Foods talks with Bridget McManus-McCall, a Chef2Chef Business Development Manager at Nestlé Professional. The Solon, Ohio-based business manufactures and distributes a variety of bases, sauces, gravies, entrées and sides, sandwiches, snacks and desserts. Its foodservice brands include Minor’s, Stouffers, Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine, Chef-Mate, Maggi, Trio, Nestlé Carnation and Nestlé Toll House. Nestlé Professional also has a separate Beverages group.
McManus-McCall has degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. She joined Nestlé Professional in 2008 as a corporate chef. In addition to her past as a working chef, she has held posts in marketing, event planning, catering and on major national accounts involving commercial and non-commercial operations.
Chef2Chef Business Development
Manager, Nestl´ Professional
Prepared Foods: You have a unique title. What are your job responsibilities?
Bridget McManus: To support the acceleration of the Minor’s execution strategy, Nestlé Professional created a new role to complement the Chef2Chef Sales (C2C) organization. I started this position January 1, 2014.
In my new role, I serve as the primary liaison between business development and the C2C Team. My job is to provide valuable insight on culinary strategy with regional focus. I focus on innovative, on-trend menu concepts that are flavorful, profitable and well supported with the resources necessary to be relevant with foodservice chefs. By centralizing this new concept development work, we will deliver programs that expand the embellishment versatility of Minor’s ingredients and cater to operators’ evolving needs in the college and university, full-serve restaurant, healthcare and lodging segments.
In the past, our chefs needed to independently create, test and validate the menu concepts suggested to our operators. By leveraging my experience with menu merchandising creativity and operations, our C2C Team and entire sales organization will gain sales time by receiving proven, turn-key menu solutions, complete with profit calculation, nutritional detail and consumer insight.
Given the expansion of our chef services, I am also responsible for advancing our message through existing partnerships with the American Culinary Federation, as well as into new industry affiliations and events that showcase Minor’s product quality and chef-lead innovation.
PF: What have been a few key menu trends you’ve addressed with Nestlé Professional’s product line?
Chef Bridget: The biggest menu trends we’ve seen are authentic, ethnic flavors—especially Latin—which are still a growing category; gluten free; on-premises customization (at the restaurant) for guests; and the “farm-to-table” movement.
PF: What consumer interests and/or operator needs are driving these topics?
Chef Bridget: Consumers are looking for big, bold flavors. They are more adventurous and want to try new things. Their interest in fresh, made-to-order continues to expand as well.
Gluten free offerings and cleaner labels also are important to consumers. We believe this demand for transparency will continue to grow. Our operators need to develop menu selections to meet and exceed guest expectations with fresh, new menu items bursting with flavor and meeting their dietary preferences.
PF: What are one or two products you’ve been particularly proud of during the past year? Why?
Chef Bridget: First, our Minor’s Certified Gluten Free concentrates, bases, sauces and gravies. We are delivering a solution for our customers so they can use our products in their operations without compromising flavor. Our customers use the certified gluten free products with confidence they are providing a safe and flavorful product to their guest. We send samples to a third party for analysis to independently confirm the product is gluten-free.
A second area of focus involves Minor’s Latin Flavor Concentrates. They provide on- trend, authentic, ethnic flavors and address our customers’ nutrition, health and wellness initiatives. Our clean label Latin Flavor Concentrates offer bold flavors and are tested to be gluten free and vegetarian with no artificial colors and none of the big eight allergen ingredients.
PF: What’s been the most challenging trend or topic for you to address?
Chef Bridget: The farm-to-table initiative can be daunting for a large food manufacturer. We have done a tremendous job engaging our Minor’s chefs to provide culinary solutions that address the farm-to-table demands from customers and consumers. We have developed menu concepts and recipes using Minor’s products to provide great base flavors and enable operators to customize dishes with produce and protein from local farms.
One great example is the Nestlé Professional “Nutrition, Health and Wellness Action Station.” We provide customizable flatbread recipes that provide an operator with a variety of bold flavored hummus offerings made with our Minor’s Flavor Concentrates. Using this flatbread, the operator can feature their local produce as additional, healthy toppings. Again, this offers the operator convenience and ease with a consistent base and the customization and flexibility of using local produce.
PF: Can we look at your product development process? How and when do you interact with other Nestlé Professional food scientists and nutritionists?
Chef Bridget: We are always interacting with our internal team. Our chefs are involved in product development from the initial concept through development. We embrace a cross-functional approach for new product development—as this layered input is imperative to the success of new products. This approach engages culinary input, marketing contribution, nutrition expertise and our product development chefs.
We constantly validate matters of flavor, format, storage, shelf life, pack size and other parameters throughout the process. We use resources internally as well as from our customers to ensure we are solving their complex, unique issues. Attention to these details contributes to the success of a product. We demand great flavor and outstanding back-of-the-house functionality–including storage and operation. Without great flavor, you can’t sell a product; just as products that are difficult to use can’t succeed on flavor alone. We provide flavor and function with each product we create.
PF: In what ways have you improved your internal communication and/or integration? Can you share an example?
Chef Bridget: Communication is critical for a successful product launch. Recently, I participated in a culinary roundtable discussion to develop new product concepts. The group included a cross-functional selection of chefs, business development experts, product development technicians and nutritionists. The shared ideas from such a diverse group enable us to develop new product concepts with a 360-degree view. We use this approach to better understand all of the moving parts needed to create, produce and successfully launch a new item. The great thing about this approach is how chefs can share customer insight from an operations point of view.
PF: Any other comments about your role as a corporate chef?
Chef Bridget: Every day, I have a job to do. I must bring value–as a resource to our customers. All our chefs strive to build partnerships with our customers. We deeply understand operations and work across all segments to solve operator challenges. We pride ourselves on understanding how our customers provide menu selections and offering them ways to reduce labor, increase profitability, decrease waste and deliver great flavor.
We develop products and resources that bring this value to our customers. Our goal is to show our customers how to use one product with multiple applications. We take pride in the fact that our products are created by chefs for chefs. It is a great time to be a chef at Nestlé Professional. Every day offers the chance to be creative, get excited and challenge the status quo.
PF: How does Nestlé Professional address consumer and operator needs in university dining?
Chef Bridget: Students are looking for the “wow” factor. Customization is critical. Students are curious and want to try new foods and flavor. They also want an increased variety and availability of healthy fare on campus.
We, the chefs, work with our brand development team to develop tools for our operators. We collaborate to incorporate Minor’s products into culinary solutions that solve the pain points in their operation. Previously, I’ve mentioned our “action stations” and we use those here, too, to meet the demand for variety, convenience, flexibility and efficiency. Action stations allow operators to use local produce and protein and ingredients already on-hand.
Our goal is to create turn-key culinary solutions so the operator can inspire and expand offerings while increasing profitability and enticing guests with the unexpected. We have developed and launched several chef-inspired action stations. These are on-trend, turn-key concepts that provide culinary solutions.
One example would be our International Soup Station. Here, we highlight current trends with soups and broths such as Pho, Latin, Indian, Spanish Mediterranean and “healthy Californian” just to name a few. The soup station has been a huge success with the college and university segment. The action stations give operators ways to offer customizable selections to their guests that are easy to execute and profitable for their operations.
PF: How do you help hospital and nursing home feeders and address patient dining trends?
Chef Bridget: In the healthcare channel, feeders are looking for products with multiple applications. These are items that are low sodium, free of the big eight allergens and/or gluten free. Operators also need a consistent, finished product that keeps labor cost and training time to a minimum.
Healthcare has to address not only the needs of the patients, but also other consumers that dine in their retail operations. These consumers eat in cafeterias, employee dining areas and even catering services that provide food for staff meetings and fundraising galas.
PF: What would one or two product examples here?
Chef Bridget: Minor’s is able to deliver value across all these segments will all our products. We offer low sodium, certified gluten-free bases that can be used for both patients and health-conscious employees.
Chefs have the opportunity to work side by side with our customers in their kitchens. The benefit of having a team of chefs is to build products and solutions that come directly from our customers. Our Chef2Chef team has a tremendous amount of experience in operations. We understand the operational issues that our customers are face on a daily basis. This experience and insight not only is a critical resource to our customer, but it is translated into the products we develop internally.
For example, we work with the chefs in a healthcare account to share techniques for building flavor using Minor’s soup bases–without increasing sodium levels. We developed helpful “plus-one” applications for our low sodium, gluten-free bases. These applications use existing pantry ingredients, Minor’s Flavor Concentrates or Minor’s Ready-To-Use Sauces. All applications feature 200mg of sodium or less per cup.