Many CPG companies are looking for ways to answer the question; who are our customers?

In the foodservice space, data is abundant but fragmented. Bringing all of your data together to leverage insights and identify white space may feel like the start of a never-ending story. And while these projects can be big, ugly and messy, Jim Levi [Team Lead, Business Solutions] at Land O’Lakes reports that it is well worth the effort.



If you’ve been thinking about it, your list of necessary inputs may look something like this:

  1. Internal Shipments
  2. Rebates
  3. Operator location detail
  4. FMC/GPO Payments
  5. Billbacks
  6. Broker activities

It’s critical to pull all information sources together to generate a 360-view of the customer. Land O’Lakes combined these inputs to yield an internal database that manifests actionable insight for the sales team and feeds their CRM, Salesforce.

Critical contributions for Jim’s team include location level data for 1.3 million foodservice establishments across:

  1. Restaurants (QSR, Fast-Casual, Midscale, Casual Dining & Fine Dining)
  2. On-Site FS (C&U, K-12, Hospitality, Acute Care, Long Term Care & Corporate Dining)

Land O’Lakes credits the firefly universal operator database from Datassential as a key factor in their data richness.

Blacksmith’s TPM data is also essential when assembling a complete customer story. The application captures a wealth of billback information at the sku level. Other geographic sales data and detailed customer program inputs – including accurate margin information –  flow through the application.

The process isn’t perfect. The data isn’t perfect. It’s likely that the effort will never be 100% complete, but the insights gained are 100% better than what Land O’Lakes had before they undertook the project.

Now, Jim and his colleagues can identify operator details by geography and segment. They can identify contracted accounts and those with promotions and rebates, and they can connect multiple sources of data to see who currently purchases what products.

The Land O’Lakes database provides details on purchase history, including total and average payouts, total and average cases, and more. The team can drill down to the operator level to see which account the operator belongs to, the operation type and even meals per day in some cases. Transactions can be identified at the operator level across product lines.

Why is this important work?

Land O’Lakes gained visibility into who is purchasing what. And almost more importantly – who isn’t purchasing. Jim’s team can identify who the broker is calling on and which accounts present opportunities for penetration. The Land O’Lakes organization is using this data to extend reach via digital, print and other marketing channels.

If your company is about to get started on such a project, Jim advises to keep the following points in mind:

  1. This is a data project more than a CRM project
  2. Resourcing is critical
  3. Find partners who can help
  4. It will never be perfect, but it will be worth the effort

Now go ahead and reach for that energy drink, because you’ve got some work to do.

This article is based on Jim Levi’s keynote presentation at Smoke Jumpers XV.