The successful Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council school food services have made it their business to deliver great tasting food, made with quality ingredients, to its pupils every day. However, until recently, quality and consistency issues with potatoes and potato products have meant they have faced a battle to deliver pupil favourites, such as mash, chips and wedges, that meet their own, as well as their customers, exacting standards on a regular basis.
Jacquie Blake, Operations Manager for Nottingham City Council, explains: “We believe in sourcing the very best quality ingredients for our pupils, as that is key to driving and maintaining uptake, but we were experiencing some issues with the quality of our fresh potatoes and prepared potato products, not to mention the difficulty of managing seasonal price fluctuations. This had a knock-on effect for the service, increasing waste and prep time, and therefore overall cost, and it also meant that the food wasn’t meeting pupil expectations.
“While a bad potato crop cannot be avoided, letting our standards drop was never an option, which is when we turned to the McCain Chef Solutions Potato range. We’ve always sought to deliver smooth and lump free mash, despite the increasing time and difficulty that it was causing for our cooks, but now with Chef Solutions Simply Mash it’s quick and simple. We’re also now able to serve a wider variety of dishes, such as a Potato and Sweet Potato mash, which is proving really popular. In addition to the products, McCain support for promotions and with menu planning has also helped to drive uptake.”
Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council, who share a procurement contract, hold dedicated supplier days twice a year to ensure they are sourcing and using the best possible products and ingredients and have explored all potential solutions. Having sampled the McCain range and experienced the taste, quality and consistency of the products, along with the operational savings, Nottingham City introduced new McCain Chef Solutions Simply Mash, Original Choice Roasts, Chef Solutions Simply Wedges, and Signatures Traditional Chips.
Nottinghamshire have initially introduced McCain Menu Signatures Traditional Chips and McCain Onion Rings. Donna Baines, Food Development Manager for Nottinghamshire County Council, confirms that they’ve been well received: “McCain Menu Signatures have had a really positive reaction from the pupils, who demand appetising, hot and crispy chips. Our cooks love them too because they hold their temperature well and taste great every time, making service simple. We use them on the main menu and as part of our new Flame bar menu, which is a grill concept, but because of the guidelines we can only serve chips once a week so when they are on the menu it’s crucial that they are spot on.”
Donna, who has been invited to assist the Department of Education with the development of new guidelines as part of the School Food Plan, also emphasised that a good supplier was about much more than good products. “A good supplier relationship is crucial. While McCain have helped us find a solutions to some product specific issues that is helping to drive uptake they also offer a back up service and are happy to help with things like recipes and menu planning, which is key to keeping the menu fresh and moving forward.”