Allied Specialty Foods started out as a small operation producing raw, thin-sliced steak for food­service customers. Over the past 50 years, however, the company has diversified to include chicken and sausage, sliced in a number of ways. Although the company has changed over the years, Vice President Darren Buseman says it still considers itself a niche company, and that doesn’t bother it one bit because it means there is one thing it’s better at than anyone else. “Whether you want to or not, you fall into a niche that you’re good at,” he says. 

Minnesota’s largest independent food service distributor is committed to helping its customers remain profitable. Upper Lakes Foods serves both as a broadline distributor and a distributor to national chains. The broadline distribution operation, based out of the company’s headquarters in Cloquet, Minn., carries more than 12,000 items and serves restaurants, schools, healthcare facilities and camping customers. The chain distribution operation, based in Northfield, Minn., offers 2,000 products to three major national retailers, COO Jim Bradshaw says.

Town & Country Foods may be modestly sized compared to some foodservice companies, but it has a guarantee of quality that even giants like Sysco can’t match, owner Janet Lapin says. “We’re USDA inspected every day,” she says. “That’s a little thing we have that no one else has.”

PrimeSource Foodservice Equipment is not in the business of selling equipment. Instead, it is in the business of solving its clients’ problems, President and COO Darren Anderson says. “Those solutions are what’s right for the client as opposed to what may give us the highest financial return,” Anderson explains. “We really do focus on becoming indispensable to our customer.”

Ever since the late Carl Scharffenberger and his wife, Mary Ellen, established Food Sales West in 1974, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based foodservice brokerage firm has consistently grown and attained its goal of being the most sought-after foodservice sales resource to top-tier manufacturers on the West Coast, President Dave Lyons says. 

Produce and specialty distributor B. Giambrone & Co. has been able to maintain a more personal relationship with its customers. “We have more one-on-one communications with our customers, that means a lot in our industry,” President and owner Ben Giambrone says. Based in Rochester, N.Y., B. Giambrone & Co. distributes produce within a 60-mile radius of its home city. The company’s history goes back to 1904, when Giambrone’s grandparents, Benedetto and Francesca Giambrone, started the company and sold fresh produce door-to-door from a pushcart.

One of the country’s largest foodservice distributors be­lieves it is successful in part through its dedication to offering service “be­yond the plate.” “To exist in today’s world, showing up to the party isn’t enough, you have to bring your ‘A’ game,” U.S. Foodservice says. “You have to have unquestionable products and service. You have to fuse strong and enduring connections – with business partners and the communities in which they live.”

Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc. – a second-generation family farm specialized in growing and shipping potatoes and onions year-round – is a category leader and key player in reshaping the way its industry operates. The company’s mission transcends the traditional farmer’s goal of providing high-quality, fresh products to a broad customer base offering best-in-class retail solutions to its partners and blazing new trails in category innovation.


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