Some may not remember it but McCain Foods’ U.S. roots are literally in the frozen potato industry – a competitive commodity sector where sales were driven by pounds and pennies.

Yet that was more than 10 years ago. And whereas yesterday had everything to do with volume, today’s focus is on value. It begins with value-added products – everything from appetizers to specialty ingredients and bite-sized desserts to dough-enrobed products. Even the potato business has evolved to include award-winning potato pancakes and offerings with better nutritional value.

McCain also emphasizes value in sales and customer support. Chip Rowland is vice president for McCain’s Worldwide McDonald’s Business Unit. At the time of his interview with R&FF, Rowland was vice president of national accounts.

“We used to work with more of a ‘shotgun’ approach where – if you bought even one SKU from us, including the basic commodity French fry – we’d offer you all of our additional sales resources,” he says. “There are customers we want to do that with, but we realized that our [value-added service] capacity is limited and very valuable.”

In 2004, McCain began tracking and measuring its actual work in R&D, culinary solutions, chain marketing, consumer research and sales. Likewise, officials reviewed customer accounts and classified them – not so much on volume – but on opportunities for delivered value to both parties.

“We want to partner with good, strong chains where we can develop relationships and grow both companies’ businesses,” says Rowland. “We’ve developed a sales strategy we call ‘enterprise selling,’ which offers a multi-departmental approach to customer solutions and sales services. . . . This enables us to build horizontal, business-to-business customer relationships utilizing multiple McCain disciplines – from culinary expertise to quality assurance and even our logistics teams.”

One example of growing with a customer involves McCain and Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. (BWW), a Minneapolis-based sports bar and grill with a fast-casual format. In the early 1990s, BWW was a small 20-unit chain that purchased its onion rings and mozzarella sticks from McCain. More than a decade later, BWW is a 500-unit chain and one of McCain’s key national accounts. Although McCain’s product list seemingly doesn’t extend that much further (onion rings, garlic mushrooms, potatoes and breaded cheese items), it is providing much, much more.

“McCain makes available to us so much in the way of ‘behind-the-scenes’ support,” says Mark Lutz, BWW vice president of purchasing. “[They provide everything] from first - class, full service R&D support to freight studies, trend analysis and graphic assistance. “These areas of support are not only priceless, but an absolute necessity in today’s world. [McCain] has done a great job of developing touch points in all the pertinent departments within Buffalo Wild Wings in order to keep us in a position to capitalize on all of McCain’s intangible resources.”