Prepared Foods talks new product selling with Teri Trullinger, group vice president field sales for Cargill Foodservice, Wayzata, Minn. Cargill Foodservice manufactures and markets a broad line including meat and poultry products, shortenings and oils, tortillas, eggs and substitutes and even chocolate. 

Trullinger also is chair of IFMA’s New Go-To-Market Strike Team.


Prepared Foods: In his introduction here, IFMA President Larry Oberkfell mentions “Food Future 2025.” Can you tell us more about it? 

Teri Trullinger: In 2017, IFMA’s Board of Directors decided the foodservice industry needed one source for all information and insights related to consumers, operators, and go-to-market. IFMA created three strike teams, one for each area of focus, from member companies. Strike teams were tasked to guide the development and implementation of the three areas. A research partner, Datassential, was selected to collect all the necessary data and build a new online portal where the industry could access all the Food Future 2025 information.


PF: Why the need for a new “go-to-market” model?

Trullinger: The Board realized the traditional supply chain in foodservice was evolving and needed to be re-mapped to fully understand all the channels that a foodservice operator uses to purchase their products. This new look at go-to-market would allow manufacturers to better align their strategic planning and their new product development. The status quo was no longer an option.


PF: It looks as thought the Board intentionally decided to leave the word “distribution” out of the initiative’s name. Why is that?

Trullinger: The word “distribution” typically implies a traditional broadline supply chain where trucks are the primary vehicle for getting product to a foodservice operator. But, with the growth of channels like cash ‘n carry and even farmer’s markets, the word “distribution” seemed too narrow if you wanted to fully understand the marketplace. 

Operators are open to using non-traditional channels to get their products, and foodservice manufacturers need to adapt to that changing dynamic.


PF: What’s been an important learning from this new initiative?

Trullinger: It’s hard to choose just one, since the breadth of new insights is truly extraordinary. But if I have to choose, I would say it’s the fact that e-commerce has become the primary ordering channel for foodservice, replacing the DSR as the order taker. But, just to be clear, when I say “e-commerce” I am referring to a distributor’s web portal. Although we do see operators interested in using a consumer e-commerce portal, like Amazon, it’s still a very small part of the overall market.


PF: How does this impact how Cargill brings new products to market?

Trullinger: As e-commerce becomes more mainstream in foodservice, we recognize that operators are doing their own research and making product decisions at all hours. For this reason, we need to ensure that our products are well represented in the digital format. This starts with complete specifications—but must include appealing photography and cooking suggestions, as well clearly defined details on allergens. Operators will make product decisions based on what they feel meets their needs, and if we aren’t “in the room” to influence the sale, we need to ensure our digital presence delivers our best possible message.


PF: Despite growth in e-commerce, the distributor sales rep (DSR) still is important, especially for independent restaurants. How does Cargill help influence a DSR’s selling approach?

Trullinger: The DSR’s role is becoming more complex, with escalating demands on their time and resources. We can influence a DSR’s selling approach by making their job easier. This starts with providing quality products that deliver consistent and profitable benefits to the operator. Once a DSR has a reason to believe in our brands and products, they are more confident in promoting and selling them, and in turn, are delivering more value to their customers. 

We can further support this with product and sales training, both in-person as well as online, and by ensuring that the DSR has easy access to product specs and other information key to the consultative selling approach they aspire to.