US Foods Launches New Products: Not Just Commodities

US Foods:  Chuck Patty

Think back to 5th grade American History, and the lessons learned by early colonial entrepreneurs: sell raw materials and make money, sell processed materials, and make more.

US Foods, the giant distributor, is following that example. Super Chef attended a tasting of new products in the company’s Chicago headquarters. The message is that the distributor of commodity goods is turning into a distributor of high-quality semi-finished products that aim to be “as good as a chef would create.” Buy US Foods new line of 30 products from their new Chef’s Line, launch in March, and save time, money, and waste, while offering restaurant customers (or catering customers) trendy, innovative, all natural ingredients. The idea is that you can use their products to make countless “unique” dishes at your restaurant by adding your own spices, sauces, or preparation. That way, menus can be kept regional or international, and still use the shortcuts available through US Foods.

US Foods’ Chief Merchandising Officer, Pietro Satriano, along with corporate chef Bill Brooks, and director of innovation Stacie Sopinka, introduced the new products to a group of journalists. They aim to market them across their customer base – from independent restaurants to chains and caterers. “I don’t expect to walk into Mario Batali‘s restaurant and see our products, but I want to have a conversation about products we can bring to the market,” said Chef Bill.

The company has reached out to customers through its sales force, as well as Facebook and other social media, to get feedback on what they need and want. With a team of sixty chefs working on new products, US Foods is positioning itself as a powerhouse of innovation and research that can be used by restaurants, chains, and caterers, without building their own research ability.

The new products, introduced in a company magazine, Scoop, are all about the summer grilling season – which for most restaurants lasts all year long. Scoop features “Global Grilling” products such as burgers, buns, salads, sauces, and desserts that introduce international flavors, while also continuing the trend of comfort foods. The feature product is CHEF’S LINE Pat LaFrieda Angus Chopped Beef Burger – an exclusive burger made from chuck and short rib. Pat LaFrieda has been busy – he has a new Food Network show in the spring as well.

Super Chef tried Crispy Mexican Adobo Back Ribs that feature Chef’s Line Naturally Applewood & Hickory Pit Smoked BBQ Pork Loin Back Ribs and Chef’s Line Mexican Adobo & Beer Sauce. The rib was deeply flavored, meaty, and sticky good. So were Churrasco Chicken Wings that included Chef’s Line Portuguese Churrasco Sauce. Chef Bill pointed out that everyone makes Buffalo Chicken Wings. This sauce gives another profile to chicken wings, not increasing the heat, just the flavor.

The Veggie Burger on a 9-Grain Sprouted Bun with Avocado Cream has a firm yet cream texture – a crust gives it a meat-like bite, yet its full of good-for-you ingredients like quinoa and black beans. The veggie burger is vegan and pairs especially well with the grainy bun.

Pat LaFrieda’s chopped burger is terrific – meaty, juicy, and not mushy. The company touts it as closer to a steak than a burger – and it does have amazing taste – more like steak haché served in France then the regular grind. US Foods served it on a Grilled Chef’s Line Croissant Bun that added even butterier flavor, but it also goes well with the 9-grain bun. Super Chef tried it cooked over charcoal with capers, tomatoes, and slice avocado. The patty doesn’t fall apart and tasted moist even well done.

For dessert, Bill and Stacie served mini Bacon Jam Brownies made from Chef’s Line Melting Cake Batter and Wild Blueberry & Lemon Croissant Pudding with Meyer Lemon Anglaise made from Chef’s Line All-Butter Wild Blueberry Croissant Pudding. The bacon is fun and surprising, and pairs well with the deep chocolate brownies. The Croissant pudding is dense and buttery. Super Chef tried a molten chocolate cake with the Melting Batter – cooking it for a shorter period of time at a slightly higher temperature. Served with a dusting of powdered sugar, and a spoonful of coffee ice cream, it was deeply chocolaty and a big hit. It tasted homemade not boxed – with a fresh, creamy taste and dense texture.

US Foods will be launching a score of new products each season along with new recipes and videos to show what to do with them.

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