Featured Column: Straight from the Source – Part 1

For the next two months, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry.

A Conversation with Diane Sutton, Product Manager, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.

I wanted to let you hear from someone working for Nelson-Jameson to see how they perceive the company and its role in the food and beverage industries, from their point of view. I will do this for a couple of posts, and then give the owner, and top management  a chance to chime in as well.

So Diane and I arranged to “sit down” over the internet, and have a chat. What follows are excerpts, in no particular order, of Diane’s perspectives on Nelson-Jameson:

“We service small, medium and large customers, and try to provide the same service to all. New customers usually call for a specific need. You have to respect their situation at the time, but we also take the opportunity to send the buyer’s guide, ask questions, let them learn about us, and get a taste of how Nelson-Jameson is unique.

Of course, you will always have people who cherry pick: using the internet to look for the lowest cost of an item. We gladly serve them, but try then to point out the total cost of procurement including the cost of purchase order, transportation, multiple shipments, paperwork, receiving, paying separate bills versus having only one purchase order, one delivery, and one payment.  We let them know how we reduce total costs. Often buyers look at the cost per item, but not with the cost of freight in mind.  Often this can be someone else’s department; they may not even see it.

A significant percentage of customers get it, if not right away, then in time. They then take advantage of the full offering. It’s hard to put a number on it, but if you get the time with them to explain, people are grateful. Of course, how quickly depends on their organization, as, naturally, they all want to do a good job for their company, and we respect that. To get not only the buyer, but their company to look at things as a whole can take some time. We are patient, as we are proud of what we provide, and for us, the investment in getting them to buy into the concept is worth it. Once in their system, there might be other buyers who look at what we do…who find the catalog, or who are working at cost savings for the whole company. It is building relationships, not pushing a hard sell, and they appreciate that.

Solutions

Nelson-Jameson doesn’t sell products alone, we provide solutions. [I hear this a lot as I speak to people at Nelson Jameson. –Dan].  We are solution and service oriented. We like to “partner” with the people who buy from us, big or small, as well as our suppliers.

Solutions count and we have the staff to get the job done. Take food safety: in the food chain, safety is important to everyone. We can help them keep the chain intact. Smaller companies may need technical help, sometimes more so than the larger ones. We provide training, with technical people on staff, people that can help them with labs and testing for instance. We have someone on staff to help them keep up to date with their audits. We are currently working towards SQF certification [at the inspection phase, as of this article’s publication], as well. We provide solutions and the expertise, tailored to their needs, leaving them to be able to focus on making and selling terrific products. That is why we say we are a solutions and service provider, not just a product supplier.

Our catalog is an example. It has six sections. Some of the sections may be serviced by our different internal departments, but we design the catalog for the end user, based on working with them and their input. The idea is to make it easy for them, not us.

At this time the catalog is broken up into:

Safety and Personnel

Production and Material Handling

Sanitation and Janitorial

Processing and Flow Control

Laboratory and QA/QC

Packaging and Ingredients

And that can change, based on market conditions and customer needs. To keep up with changes in our customers’ needs, we go to a lot of trade shows; we read all of the trade magazines. We work with our manufacturers; we see their new products and even sometimes help create new products to fill growing needs.

Because of our unique position, we are talking to people in the industry all the time including: buyers, officers, and people from around the world. It can come in waves, and you have to be careful that the products are meeting the required industry standards such as USDA, FDA, and 3-A standards. No matter how innovative, they may not be useful unless they meet those industry standards; we ensure this for our customers, and are able to share data and insight with them.

Next week we will continue the discussion with Diane, changing the focus from product to exploring the full spectrum of unique support services Nelson Jameson provides for the people they work with, and how this fits in with their vision of themselves as providers of solutions, not just products. We will finish up with an insider’s view on how and why the flow is maintained to ensure products and services are available when you, the client, need them.

In closing, I need your help! To help me with these posts, if you could take two minutes and fill out a survey on how well Nelson-Jameson is living up to its mission, and what areas of their overall offerings you are currently buying from. Each question refers to one of the items in their mission, which you will find worth a read, if you never paid attention to it before. You don’t have to leave your name, company, just the facts; however, you will only be allowed to complete it once.


A Picture of Dan Strongin

About Dan Strongin

Dan Strongin is a well-known name in the food industry. Strongin began his career in the food industry on the front lines as a chef. For two decades he worked as a five-star chef, including seven years with the Ritz Carlton Corporation. His passion for food and excellence was then put to work as the corporate chef and director of delicatessen operations for Andronico’s Markets, San Francisco. From 1995 to 1996 he served as the president of the American Cheese Society. He then became a managing partner and owner of Edible Solutions, a consulting company, and currently is a columnist for the Cheese Reporter. As a mentor for companies through Deming Collaboration, Strongin focuses on working with companies on effective management, strategic planning and marketing, and production systems.
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