How This Small Family Farm Is A Supplier To Big Corporations
In 2004, he launched Thompson Family Farms. That entrepreneurial shift is paying off for TFFâ€™s president and CEO. Thompsonâ€™s Pasco, Washington-based business is now a potato grower for some of the nationâ€™s largest food processing companies, including Burger King, the worldâ€™s second-largest fast food hamburger chain.
Thompson got planted into the business after some colleagues, who were second-generation potato growers, assured him that growing potatoes would be more profitable and scalable than growing lettuceâ€”a move Thompson first considered. Today, the family farm is run by Thompsonâ€™s wife, Clarissa, son, Stewart, and daughters Arielle and Athena.
The Thompson family farm has carved out a niche in an industry that has few minority-owned farm food suppliers. He has aspirations of boosting company revenues to $10 million by 2018 through increased business with existing and new customers.
Most of TFFâ€™s growth has occurred since 2007, when Thompson became a supplier to McCain Foods USA, a Lisle, Illinois-based supplier of frozen potato and snack food products. That relationship came about after Thompson approached Burger King about joining its system of growers. About 60% of the firmâ€™s revenue comes from providing potatoes that Burger King uses for its french fries.
Thompson says minority-owned companies, in their efforts to become suppliers to majority firms, make the mistake of misplacing their enthusiasm and asking what they can do for the customer.
â€œInstead, we researched their business needs and matched them up to our core competencies to offer a value proposition to McCain and a service we could deliver,â€ he says. For example, Thompsonâ€™s firm provided potato varieties that met McCainâ€™s quality specifications, affording it to produce the color, consistency, and quality McCain needs to deliver a better french fry.
With farms in Washington and Oregon, TFF also supplies potatoes to fast-food giant McDonaldâ€™s via McCain. â€œThompson Family Farmâ€™s potatoes are used by McCain to produce a number of top quality products, including Burger King french fries,â€ says John Sutton, who oversees supplier diversity at Restaurant Services Inc., the purchasing cooperative for the U.S. Burger King System.
During subsequent years, Thompson Family Farms has evolved as a key supplier to McCainâ€™s facility in Othello, Washington. Besides McCain, TFFâ€™s other primary customers include the J.R. Simplot Co., one of the nationâ€™s largest food and agribusiness companies based in Boise, Idaho, and Dallas-based Frito-Lay.
Thompson is set on growing his family farm business to meet the needs more big companies. â€œWe want to continue to show folks that the little guy can compete with quality,â€ Thompson says. â€œThus far, it has been a good plan and hopefully will help us continue to grow our business.â€