Jordano’s distribution center houses a 22,000 sq. ft. freezer and an 18,000 sq. ft. cooler.
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A look inside Jordano’s Purchasing Department - Buying decisions, products that stick and insight into new items on the horizon

The products you order, the prices you pay and the support you get from Jordano’s account executives all begin with Jordano’s Purchasing Department. This experienced group of 10 maintains a keen eye on industry trends and constantly analyzes which products will deliver you and your customers the greatest satisfaction.

We met with department manager, Marsha Gomez, Director of Purchasing and Marketing, to dig deeper into the philosophies, people and products that shape this extremely important part of Jordano’s Foodservice.

Scoop: How frequently do you introduce new products into the Jordano’s market?

Marsha: Jordano’s is very proactive in introducing new products where we feel there is a potential market for our customers. Quite a few new items are introduced every month – throughout last year we’ve introduced more than 300 new products. Fortunately, the majority have been successful, and we continue to keep them as stock items for our customers.

Scoop: How do you make decisions on what will be brought in house, and what are the key traits that tell you that these items will have “sticking power?”

Marsha: The decision to introduce new items can be driven several ways: (a) a supplier introduces a brand new product, (b) a customer requests that we stock a specific item for them not currently in our inventory, (c) our category managers see where we have a product void and suggest we stock the item, or (d) our account executives identify products that they see in the market.

As far as key traits to identify “sticking power,” that’s a bit difficult to pin down, particularly when the products are fairly new to the market. How those products apply to our specific customer base, which is very diverse, is another consideration. We may think it’s a great new product, but unless our customers like it, our opinion may or may not be right. We also look at the ability of the supplier, in partnership with Jordano’s, to support the marketing of their products to our customers.

Scoop: Can you share some of the new products you are excited about that are coming this fall?

Marsha: We continue to focus our efforts on expanding our environmentally-friendly products, as well as the natural and organic category. Look for some additions to our dessert and beverage offerings – there are so many cutting-edge products developing in these growing market segments. Customers can also consistently expect our traditional holiday-type products in these fall and winter months.

Scoop: With Jordano’s expansion, how are you preparing for growth? In what ways do you see this growth affecting purchasing?

Marsha: As our company has grown, and with our expansion plans in the near future, we felt it was important to add staff to the Purchasing Department in order to keep up with our growing customer base and to continue to provide ongoing, top-notch support to our sales staff. In addition, we’re always looking for ways to further support the marketing of products to our customers and provide support to them, particularly through social media, so we have also added staff to our Marketing Department.

Scoop: With your team of buyers, what special skills do you look for to ensure that you maintain product relevance, stay on-trend and meet your customer’s needs?

Marsha: We have a great team of eight buyers and two Category Managers whom we have trained to become experts in their categories. For example, we have a produce buyer, an equipment buyer, and a frozen foods buyer, etc. – all specializing in certain categories and serving as a resource for our sales team.

Our team offers a range of experience, too. Several buyers have been in the business for over 25 years. We also have two relatively new buyers learning the business, and our hope is that they will have a long career in the department.

Cross training is essential for us. This ensures seamless service when a specific buyer is gone for vacation or illness. The important thing is to continue to provide a first class level of service to our customers; our team does just that.

Scoop: As specific markets are affected by the economy, our environment, disease, state policies, etc., how do your buyers prepare for these market swings?

Marsha: This is where the experience is crucial. We’ve certainly seen many different things over the years, but clearly the recent Avian influenza (Avian bird flu) was probably one of the most challenging.

Depending on the circumstance, we work collectively with our suppliers so that these types of challenging market-driven conditions are as seamless to our customers as possible. We try to minimize bumps in the road. Transparency is also important. We keep our sales staff informed on what’s going on – providing them as much information as possible so that they can share the information with their customers. In the end, we’re all in this together, and the more everyone understands the situation we can work together to weather the storms.

Scoop: Can you tell me more about each of the two Category Managers?

Marsha: We have two Category Managers. Larry Fiscalini has been with us for 11 years but has been in the foodservice business for over 20 years in several different capacities. He is our Center of the Plate Specialist, Assistant Director of Purchasing, and the Category Manager for meat, seafood, beverages, disposables, and chemicals.

Larry Bendinelli, a 23-year Jordano’s veteran with over 30 years in the foodservice business, manages the dry grocery, frozen, commodities, and imported categories. Larry is also responsible for managing the accounts of three large Jordano’s customers – customers that we have enjoyed a relationship with for over 20 years.

Both Category Managers balance a lot, but their experience, product knowledge and expertise in managing their categories (reviewing pricing, discovering new products, eliminating ineffective inventory, quality control, and managing broker and vendor relationships), helps Jordano’s stay competitive.

Sales experience is just as important and both have extensive resumes in this area. Their direct connections to customers help them better understand their needs so we can, in turn, deliver excellent customer service. We’re very proud of the job both of these guys do day in and day out.

Scoop: How do the buyers support the sales force? In what specific ways do they serve the customers?

Marsha: Our buyers support both the sales force and our customers in several ways. They source special order products for our customers – these are products that we don’t normally keep as regular stock on hand, and it represents almost six percent of our entire business. We have hundreds of cases of special order products flowing through the warehouse each week for our customers.

The buyers are also responsible for maintaining a good order “fill rate” for our customers (pieces ordered vs. pieces shipped). They play an essential role in daily inventory and quality control which ultimately benefits our customers by providing the products they want, when they want them, and knowing that these products are good quality.

Finally, they work very closely with our Marketing Department to keep them “in the know” on new products, industry trends and news of relevance to our customers. They also inform the marketing team of pack size changes and products that have been rebranded. Jordano’s Marketing Department relays this valuable information to our account executives and customers through a myriad of outlets, including our website, Facebook page, e-newsletter, various flyers and promotions, catalogs, and niche product guides.

We are extremely proud of our Purchasing Department and look forward to their continued success as we move into our next 100 years!

By Micholyn Fajen, PCG Marketing

Pictured from left to right: BACK ROW – Duane Rosendahl (Equipment Buyer); Marsha Gomez (Director of Purchasing & Marketing); Bibi Mahieu (Produce Buyer); Mark Litwack (Buyer); Josette Rehak (Beverage Buyer). CENTER ROW – Tiffny Allen (Dairy Buyer); Kim Hall (Center of the Plate Buyer); Larry Bendinelli (Category Manager); John Hufford (Center of the Plate Buyer). FRONT ROW – Richard Olivera (Dairy Buyer); Va Vue (Disposables Buyer); Larry Fiscalini (Category Manager and Assistant Director of Purchasing).