Last updated on April 14th, 2015 at 03:46 pm
Company stays on trend with egg traceability technology
It all started in 1987 in the basement of Brian Boomsma’s house in Highland, Indiana, where Dutch Farms’ first office was set up. Initially, the company offered only eggs, which is worthy of note, considering a revolutionary technology regarding eggs debuted at the Dutch Farms buying show this Feb. 18 in Tinley Park, Illinois.
Karen Van Prooyen, marketing director, spoke to The Shelby Report’s VP-Midwest Geoff Welch at this year’s show about the Chicago-based company’s history and growth as well as the unique egg offering at the Naturally Smart Eggs booth.
“They have a new technology, True Grade, that’s going to allow the average consumer to buy an average egg—not a specialty egg, the average commodity egg—and trace when and where that egg was produced,” Van Prooyen said. “That’s amazing. Naturally Smart is exclusively being launched at the Dutch Farms Food Show, not anywhere else.”
Van Prooyen said the technology is spot-on with current trends, including the consumers’ need to know where food products originate and the growing popularity of locally sourced products. That information is particularly popular with Millennial shoppers.
“Without question the biggest trend and the biggest thing that we’re seeing our customers ask for are local products,” she said. “Retailers are aggressively promoting locally sourced products because that is what consumers are demanding.
“If you’re looking for your local cheese brand, your local dairy brand, your local egg brand in Chicago, you need not look any further than Dutch Farms,” Van Prooyen said. “Dutch Farms is very proud to say that we got our humble beginnings in Highland, Indiana, that we’re a local company, that we have over 250 SKUs and items, that we are the Midwest dairy company.”
Another Millennial essential: unusual, exotic flavors. So Dutch Farms has a new horseradish cheese.
“I don’t think that would have been so popular years ago,” she said. “People are looking for bolder, more robust ethnic flavors. They want to be authentic. The advent of ‘Food Network’ television has brought items that wouldn’t have been available in grocery stores 10 years ago to being commonplace.”
Dutch Farms quickly outgrew the basement and by 1989 had moved into a 30,000-s.f. facility in Lansing, Illinois. It operated just two trucks then. Soon cheeses were introduced to the company’s product lineup, then cottage cheese, yogurt, muffins and bagels.
“Then we joined forces and merged companies with a couple of other local distributors, like Joliet Foods and Belica as well as Midstate Distributors, to bring new items and programs to Dutch Farms’ customers,” Van Prooyen said.
As it grew, the company again needed more space, and that is when Dutch Farms moved into its current home, a 400,000-s.f. campus in the Pullman District of Chicago. It now operates a fleet of 55 trucks.
Van Prooyen said the annual buying event seems to get bigger and better every year and has become a “destination show.”
“We pride ourselves on being the first show of the year among shows that are similar, hopefully a first stop and a must stop for all of our customers,” she said. “That’s really what this show is about—our customers.”
More than 100 vendors were in attendance to highlight their products as well. As customers and vendors arrived, the setup at the show illustrated what Dutch Farms has become over time. There was signage recognizing its best and longest-standing customers and the year each began doing business with Dutch Farms. There also was a wall of product photographs.
“It’s like our family tree,” Van Prooyen said. “Other people list their CEOs. You’re going to see on our walls the fact that we have shredded cheese and singles and cream cheese and sour cream. That’s our family tree.”
In 2010, Dutch Farms completed a brand overhaul, which included a fresh logo and redesigned packaging for the entire product lineup. That year it also launched a “Speaking Dutch” advertising campaign. In 2011, Dutch Farms posted for the first time on Facebook.
“We really took off from there in terms of brand awareness and marketing,” Van Prooyen said. “You’re going to see that we have entered the social media world in a big way. We’ve grown our Facebook ‘likes’ from under 500 in mid-2014 to over 15,000 six months later.”
Dutch Farms also has had an in-store shelf-talker program as well as a Chicagoland-market-wide billboard program that ran for more than eight weeks and reached more than 30 million people. That campaign received a national award in 2013 from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
The Dutch Farms show also featured a timeline display that took attendees from where the company started through to its place in the industry today. From the company’s first customer, Walt’s Food Centers—a business relationship that continues to this day—to developing Walmart’s first egg program, to the new traceable egg, Dutch Farms continues to build its offerings and stay on trend.
In the U.S., Dutch Farms distributes in 30 states. It became an exporter in 2001 when it began shipping products to Puerto Rico. Today, Dutch Farms exports products to Mexico, Colombia, Panama, China, South Korea and South Africa, among other countries. In 2013, then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recognized Dutch Farms with an award as a new exporter.
“Dutch Farms’ reach continues to expand each and every year,” Van Prooyen said. “In attendance (at the show) we had customers from as close as Tinley Park to Chicagoland to the Midwest to the U.S. as well as all the way from China. When I say this is becoming a destination show, that really is the truth, and we gain momentum each and every year.”
Dutch Farms has ownership and partnership with farms responsible for more than 25 million egg-laying hens and delivers more than 240 million pounds of product annually.
“That’s a long way to come from the humble beginnings of a basement in Highland, Indiana,” Van Prooyen said.