5 Tips for Choosing the Best Frozen Food Distributor for Your Restaurant

Published on: September 30, 2020

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The foodservice distribution industry, delivering refrigerated and frozen foods to hotels, fast-food chains, and restaurants, is massive. There are about 16,500 foodservice distribution companies in the United States alone. And in 2017, these companies saw about $280 billion in annual sales.

Frozen food in the refrigeratorWith so many options, restaurants should do their research and put a lot of thought into which frozen food distributor best suits their business needs. There’s a lot to consider as you make this decision.

Mediocre production can lead to poor-tasting food with a texture that’s off. Your diners won’t be happy with this – and neither will you if you need to return your order or lose money.

How do you know if you’re making the right choice, though? The best thing you can do is be informed and be prepared to ask frozen food distributors the right questions. As you make your decision on frozen food distribution for your restaurant, here are five questions to ask yourself along the way.

1. What Are Your Business Needs?

The first thing you should do is consider your business needs and ask yourself how frozen food suppliers can help you meet them. Each distributor will have different products available. So, look over your menu to determine which items you need to purchase.

If a supplier doesn’t offer the majority of the ingredients you need, then you likely won’t want to purchase through them. Odds are you won’t find one single distributor who offers everything you need. But your goal should use fewer distributors, not more, to streamline your weekly ordering and delivery process.

Also, pay attention to the quantities in which they sell food items. Do they come in amounts larger than what you might use before it expires? Or maybe they sell food in smaller quantities than you need, meaning you need to purchase more units, increasing your costs.

2. What Technique Do These Suppliers Use to Freeze Foods?

How a food distributor freezes foods will have an impact on quality and taste, so it’s important to inquire about their freezing process. There are different ways to freeze fruits, vegetables, meats, and other food items.

One of the most common – and best – techniques is flash freezing, also known as individually quick freezing (IQF.) This process of quickly freezing food at extremely low temperatures as cold air circulates has been around since the 1900s. Each item is frozen individually. IQF reduces the formation of ice crystals on food and helps better retain nutrients and flavor.

Slower freezing techniques tend to ruin the flavor of food. And because more ice crystals are likely to form, as food thaws it tends to be mushy.

Some foodservice distributors might use cryogenic systems to freeze foods. This cryogenic process offers fast freezing by applying a refrigerant, such as carbon dioxide or liquid nitrogen, to foods within an enclosed space. There are two ways to apply this refrigerant, spraying or immersion.

Cryogenic set-ups have a smaller footprint and are less complex compared to flash freezing systems. But cryogenic systems require more maintenance and clean-up. Also, the cryogenic process tends to create more ice crystals than IQF.

3. What Is Their Cold Chain System Like?

It’s important to consider any frozen food supplier’s cold chain system. This temperature-controlled process produces, stores, and distributes food to buyers, keeping these items refrigerated along the way.

Ask a supplier what systems, tools, and technologies they use at each step of the way. The equipment they use should keep your order at a low temperature throughout the entire process – from the moment it’s produced to the second it reaches your door.

Does the supplier you’re considering properly store products before they’re shipped? How do they get loaded? And how is the temperature maintained while on a truck, cargo ship, or other methods of transportation? If it’s brought to a distribution center before being delivered to you, how is the food stored and handled there?

4. Are There Any Social, Environmental, or Sustainability Concerns About the Company?

Fruit and food distribution.It’s important to consider the practices of your frozen food supplier as well. Do they have a negative social or environmental impact on the world?

This is a big concern of customers across many industries, these days. In fact, 92% of consumers are more likely to trust companies that support social and environmental issues. Additionally, 88% of consumers are more loyal to businesses that embrace these causes.

In food distribution, there are several factors to consider when it comes to social and environmental concerns. First, where is your food item sourced from and who is doing the work? Are workers paid and treated fairly? Is food being produced in a way that damages the environment?

And food wastage is both an environmental and social issue, especially in a world where so many are homeless and hungry.  In general, people waste $1 trillion in food each year. This includes food producers and distributors, who often see spoilage of food during the process.

5. Have You Considered Multiple Frozen Food Distributors?

It’s crucial that you consider several frozen food distributors before placing an order. The more you review and consider, the more likely you’ll find the best company to suit your restaurant’s needs.

Also, you might find that different distributors are ideal for different ingredients. If you order top-of-the-line meat from one company, that might be their specialization, while their seafood is subpar.

Use High-Quality IQF Produce in Your Restaurant

If you’re seeking a frozen food distributor that offers high-quality IQF fruits and vegetables, contact our team at SunLeaf. We offer exceptional plant-based foods for all budgets.

Sourced from global and domestic partners, our full product line offers everything you might need to create dishes that will impress your diners and keep them coming back.

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