April 7, 2021
Industry Spotlight: Luke Olin, Director of Transportation, Upper Lakes Foods
Luke Olin is a people person.
A native Minnesotan whose career trajectory includes a stint as a college baseball coach, he landed “closer to home” when he started seven years ago as the Director of Transportation at Upper Lakes Foods in Cloquet, Minnesota.
Luke’s expertise in transportation logistics is driven by his love of people and his deep appreciation for personal connections, those between him and the drivers that are an integral part of Upper Lakes Foods—and those between the drivers and the clients who are on the receiving end of deliveries.
“In foodservice, it all comes down to the driver. The last leg of the trip always touches a client. Our driving team does more than just operate a vehicle; they transport a de facto big billboard down the road, advertising our company. Whether its other vehicles encountered on the road or interactions with the end-of-the-line customers, they are an embodiment of Upper Lakes Foods.” In an industry where relationships take time to build, the careful attention paid to every employee and every customer sets Upper Lakes apart from those operating in the big distribution networks.
With a midwestern humbleness, Luke is more comfortable showcasing the exceptional employees in the foodservice distribution industry than highlighting his own achievements and experiences. He proudly details how Upper Lakes Foods’ drivers stay in their jobs for decades, forming close friendships with others along the supply chain, relationships that lead to invitations to weddings, graduation parties, and birthday celebrations.
“We’re a family,” he says with confidence. “Our family-owned and operated company has been around for more than 50 years. It’s not just a tagline on a sign or piece of equipment. In total, we have 400 or so employees, and everyone knows each other, knows names, knows about one another’s family. The owners cultivate this atmosphere.”
Luke brings to the job vast expertise in intermodal transportation and an eye for the industry's challenges, including the impending driver shortage. He’s passionate about meeting people looking to join the foodservice distribution industry, which allows him to express firsthand the true value of the opportunity. “We offer more than a job and a paycheck,” he says. “It’s a way of life. If you’re someone who takes pride in what you do, this is a career for you.” Highlighting regular routes, consistent schedules, job security and always, the people-side of the delivery business, he adds, “We make sure new hires feel welcome—and we want them to stay with us for 20-30 years.”
“Our drivers are proud of their jobs,” Luke says. “Proud of this company.”
And clearly, the company is proud of Luke. In the words of Upper Lakes Foods President Sue Ryan, “Since starting his career in 2014 at Upper Lakes Foods, Luke has brought his compassion and passion for the industry to our company and employees. He has been a key factor in growing a great team across companies and starting our OTR freight company. We are fortunate to have him on staff with all of #TEAMULF!”
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