Mike Potter, Simek’s Inc.
Title: Vice president of operations and product development
Food industry veteran Mike Potter is cooking up ideas for new recipes and growth as the new vice president of operations and product development at frozen food maker Simek’s Inc.
The position is a new one for Simek’s, Potter said, and reflects the company’s focus on growth under president and owner Lindsey Bruber. Bruber grew up in the family-owned Simek’s before buying the company in 2010. Simek’s, founded in 1972, is based in St. Paul Park.
Potter said he will look closely at consumer data in working with the Simek’s team to develop new products.
“It’s reacting to the data and reacting to the customer as they call in with questions or comments and using our website to engage with people and say, ‘What can we do to make the product better?’ ” Potter said.
He will look to build on the success of Simek’s market-leading frozen lasagna, which ranked as the top-selling frozen Italian entree last year in the Twin Cities, topping historical category leader, Stouffer’s, according to Nielsen data. Simek’s frozen meatball products hold a 64 percent market share.
Potter has more than three decades of industry experience. He previously worked as director of operations for the Second Harvest Heartland food bank and as division president of U.S. Foods. At Second Harvest, he was instrumental in doubling the volume of food distributed over the last four years and brought in a third-party food safety company to inspect operations.
Q: How did you double volume and bring other efficiencies to Second Harvest and what will that experience mean at Simek’s?
A: We reconfigured the warehouse with new racking to double the volume without having to add any more space. We were able to lower costs in distribution by using a new computerized truck routing system. I’ll bring those same things to Simek’s to make sure we have the same commitment to food safety and operational efficiencies.
Q: What appealed to you about the opportunity to join Simek’s?
A: I’ve known some of the ownership of the company for 15 or 20 years and I’ve respected them from a distance. I’ve found them to be very good businesspeople. They’re committed to extremely high expectations on quality, focus on creating really delicious products and have a mentality of collecting very good data on how they make decisions.
Q: What does beating Stouffer’s in frozen lasagna sales mean to Simek’s?
A: It gives us some confidence to say that if you come up with the right product and make it the right way at the right cost and then listen to the consumer to fine-tune the product, that you can market a product locally and that it can outsell a national brand.