The product engenders trust with customers while boosting operational efficiency.

With spring in full bloom and the percentage of Americans who have been vaccinated ticking up each day, it might be easy to lose sight of the fact that the pandemic likely changed various customer behaviors for good. For example, the National Restaurant Association reports that off-premises sales have remained at all-time highs despite a downswing in COVID cases, and that operators do not see things returning to pre-pandemic norms for at least another six months.

That means awareness of sanitary practices remains sky high, and touchless practices are going to be an important driver of consumer trust for months, if not years, to come.

“We’re seeing that many consumers are still afraid to dine out, even at quick-service restaurants,” says Bob Fisher, vice president of marketing at Knouse Foods. “They are very concerned when it comes to food safety, and it becomes important to find products that are first and foremost safe, but also convenient for restaurant staff and internal operations. We really believe touchless products are the future, and something that is never going away.”

One such product that Fisher says is a hit at the drive thru is Musselman’s Apple Sauce, which comes in shelf-stable packaging that ensures nobody touches the food product until the diner is ready to eat it. The product comes in cups, or a Squeezables line that is ideal for the on-the-go diner and requires zero utensils.

In comparing the handling of Musselman’s Apple Sauce to that of an alternative side like french fries, Todd Michael, senior director of the foodservice division of Knouse Foods, notes that touchpoints are dramatically reduced, increasing food safety sanctity while massively boosting back-of-house efficiency. 

“Apple sauce requires one employee to grab the shelf-stable item and place it into a bag and hand it out the drive-thru window to the customer,” Michael says. “Whereas with french fries, you need somebody to tear the bag and dump the fries in a staging area. Then you have an employee who will cook the product. Then maybe another member of the staff takes the cooked fries and packages them up—that’s a lot of touchpoints in the mix. It’s a more complex process.”

Musselman’s Apple Sauce is also a fan favorite across different demographics. It’s a better-for-you menu item that kids still love and parents love their kids to eat. Fisher notes that the brand sees great success with adults, too, who are trying to stick to a diet without compromising on taste. Allowing for the substitution of fruit for a fried food side is a great way for operators to connect with the increasing number of health conscious consumers—and they can do it using packaging that consumers will trust.

 “Knouse is a grower-owned co-op and our products exclusively feature American-grown apples,” Fisher says. “The significance of us being a grower-owned co-op is that our farmers care a little bit more about the product and our success, and that makes our apple sauce that much better. It’s a brand consumers and operators alike can, and do, trust. And that trust, especially right now, is exactly what consumers expect from their restaurant experiences.”

For more information on adding this touchless product to your menu, visit the Knouse Foods website.

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