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Target's Food Team Aims To Fill Pantries, Feed Families

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A team of food lovers in downtown Minneapolis is bringing culinary ideas to life for Target, and they recently shared some of their passion and secrets.

Target's Test Kitchen team develops hundreds of new products annually under the labels Market Pantry and Archer Farms. But the process behind developing the foods isn't simple or easy.

It takes time, talent, and dedicated professionals like Paula Zuhlsdorf.

"I know what it's like to feed your family well and have them leave the table with good food for them," she said.

She's a mom who develops product directions for Archer Farms pizzas and some of the other 3,000 food products that Target sells. At the moment, she's re-testing pizza quality several months after Target started selling specialty pizzas.

Just developing the topping-mix for the spinach feta pizza took significant time, and it all comes down to research.

Amanda Irish, Target's senior director of owned brands, said inspiration plays large role in what foods the retailer rolls out.

"It starts with our guests and what they expect from Target," Irish said. "It's about inspiration. And that's the fun part about the job. It's about shopping all across the country, seeing what's happening in the food scene, from food truck to restaurants."

Irish's team also travels. They'll study what's happening in Europe before trends make their way to the United States. In fact, each flavor of Target pizza is prepared and evaluated more than a dozen times before hitting store shelves.

"You come up with a great idea, but consistently executing it is a different thing," Irish said.

Pizza is a good example of how Archer Farms and Market Pantry products are developed. Market Pantry is Target's value brand. The company says these products are 10 to 30 percent cheaper than popular national brands.

But how does Target keep prices low?

"I think it comes down to working with the right vendor partners and manufacturers who make these products for us," Irish said.

The most popular Market Pantry items are household staples: bread, milk and eggs. Target's premium products hold the Archer Farms label. They're specialty products. The most popular are the wood-fired pizzas and frozen appetizers.

Each year, employees test all of Target's food products. They taste them and cook with them.

The team tests food in 20 different microwaves and in 16 different ovens.

"We have a lot of guests with a lot of different products or microwaves in their home, so we want to be sure that every product performs up to our expectation across those variables," Irish said.

The team launches 800 new products annually. Market Pantry Sparkling Chill Water Beverages started selling recently. Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are some of the latest products, too.

From Target's test table to yours, the company believes it's found the recipe for success when it comes to feeding families.


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