Nation Pizza and Foods not only produces a wide variety of pizzas, but also a plethora of frozen snacks, appetizers, sandwiches and more for both retail and foodservice customers.

Some organizations build their teams around power. Others focus on speed. For Nation Pizza and Foods, the winning approach relies on both to adapt nimbly to a constantly changing market.

What gives the Schaumburg, IL, company its bench strength is not only its position as a co-manufacturer but also its role as a co-developer of pizzas, sandwiches, frozen snacks, handheld appetizers, cookies, sweet goods and various other frozen doughs for many of the nation’s largest consumer packaged food companies and foodservice chains. “We partner closely with our customers to create the best product possible for them and the end user,” noted Vince Nasti, a 14-year veteran of the company who now serves as vice-­president of operations.

As a co-developer, he explained, the team-like partnership goes a lot deeper than traditional co-packing or contract manufacturing. “Building long-lasting relationships is what we are all about,” Mr. Nasti said. “We work with our customers and listen to what they are looking for as opposed to telling them what we think they need. We spend a lot of time during the early stages to ensure that our company puts its best foot forward with a heavy focus on innovation, quality and value.”

Nation Pizza and Foods — or Nation for short — also prides itself on speed to market. But how fast is fast? The manufacturer’s cross-functional commercialization team recently developed a handheld breakfast item from concept to full-scale production at its 192,000-sq-ft facility in less than six weeks. “We have our weekly project meetings with key individuals from several different departments to make sure everyone is involved,” Mr. Nasti said. “We review every project in detail so we don’t miss anything.

“What makes us successful is that our operations and R&D teams work together,” he added. “As a result, the commercialization of a product is much smoother, and it’s done much more quickly. You can dream up anything in R&D, but the next part is how to run it successfully in the plant. There you have to mirror what you made on the bench, and you have to do it well. That’s the challenge that we constantly face.”