Inside Orion Food Systems' New Growth Strategy

By 
Aimee Harvey, Managing Editor, Technomic

Orion Foodservice

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Orion Food Systems, a longtime provider of customizable foodservice solutions to convenience stores, supermarkets and noncommercial operators, has unveiled its strategy for extended growth in the industry. Its multipronged approach to expanding its presence—particularly in the c-store arena—calls for new distribution partnerships, turnkey pizza programs and the debut of new foodservice brands.

First, the company has partnered with South San Francisco, Calif.-based Core-Mark on a private-label pizza program for the next five years. Also, Orion has secured a distribution deal with Dot Foods, Mount Sterling, Ill., in a move that the company said will allow it to reach 150,000 c-stores. It also is partnering with Atlanta-based UniPro Foodservice Inc. on a turnkey pizza program.

Finally, in addition to its signature Hot Stuff Pizza program, Orion is promoting three distinctly different concepts: Chix Chicken, Chopz and Gourmet Grub. Bundled together, the three contemporary brands create a visually appealing, food-court-style look that is designed to capture the frequent c-store customer, according to the company.

Read on to walk through the latest initiatives that, according to Orion's foodservice executive vice president, Bob Littlefield, will carry the company "from growth to growth" ...

Basilio's Pizza

Orion Foodservice

Orion has worked with Core-Mark, a provider of retail programs for coffee and food to go, over the past year from an individual category perspective on coffee and baked goods. However, the companies wanted to work together to roll out pizza to c-stores. The result is Basilio's Pizza, a private-label product that the partnership will introduce into more than 30 divisions in the United States and Canada starting in 2018.

Basilio's Italian Style Pizza products are made from scratch with 100% California vine-ripened tomatoes for its pizza sauce and real mozzarella cheese for toppings. Notably, Orion, which has its own bakery for pizza crusts, worked with Core-Mark specifically on a signature pizza crust for the product.

Dot Foods

Orion Foodservice

Papa Primo's Italian Kitchen is Orion's pizzeria-style platform anchored by high-quality, fully assembled pizzas, Cheesy Garlic Bread and breadsticks paired with with the company's own array of dipping sauces. The success of Papa Primo's led Orion to seek additional distribution opportunities.

"After expanding Papa Primo's to wholesalers in the U.S., we realized we needed to secure distribution," said Littlefield. The new deal led to its deliveries through Dot beginning in October. "This is the culmination of three years of legwork, wondering if we could execute it," he said. " But we can, and we'll execute it well."

UniPro

Orion Foodservice

Orion is also working with UniPro on a turnkey pizza program. To refine the program, Orion leverages its own in-house innovation center with in-house chefs to develop and test new recipes. The company seeks to hit on several of the latest pizza ingredient trends, including:

  • All-natural flavors for pizza dough (olive oil, herb, honey wheat, etc.)
  • Sauce varieties, from creamy, cheesy or gravy-style sauces for breakfast pizzas, to Asian, barbecue and other sauce options suitable for limited-time pizza products
  • Crust differentiations, with varying thicknesses, from traditional to thin and rising crusts

Chix Chicken

Orion Foodservice

New to Orion's portfolio, Chix Chicken is a homestyle-positioned brand focused on breaded, fried, bone-in chicken. Paired with the menu's signature deep-fried biscuit and traditional sides, Chix Chicken is intended to appeals to families with its larger-sized meal options and bundled offerings.

Chopz

Orion Foodservice

Another new brand under Orion's umbrella, Chopz features a fully customizable format similar to the Chipotle-style assembly model. Chopz features "elevated, more upscale ingredients," according to the company, with components such as Tex Mex-style toasted corn, whole-muscle chicken and unique dressings for salads, wraps and sandwiches.

Orion points to the potential cross-utilization of ingredients across menu items, as well as the overarching high demand for made-to-order foodservice in c-stores, as major selling points for Chopz.

Gourmet Grub

Orion Foodservice

Gourmet Grub is Orion's grab-and-go concept, featuring specialty burgers and chicken sandwiches. Bigger, bolder flavors are the cornerstone of the menu, which features chipotle, Buffalo, barbecue and teriyaki among its signature burger offerings.