Knouse Foods on Apple Butter and Identifying Fads vs. Trends

Consumers today are constantly evolving in terms of how and where they want to engage with food. The Food Leaders podcast aims to highlight the innovative companies that are working to meet those changing needs while simultaneously exploring how to improve the food system on a global scale.

The podcast’s opening episode features Todd Michael, the director of sales for the food service division of Knouse Foods. With 150 growers, six processing plants in two states, and over fifty years of service, Knouse Foods is a grower-owned co-op that prioritizes high quality, nutritious ingredients. Some of the brands that have partnered with the co-op include household names like Musselman’s and Lucky Leaf.

“We’ve looked at trends in data as well as our customer needs and wants, and we wanted to look at what the future could hold as far as apple butter and unique flavors,” says Michael. “We’re beyond the millennials. We’re tapping into the future generation as well as the current base.”

Knouse Foods is adding a number of new flavors to its product line, and the company has a particularly unique approach when it comes to crafting and understanding apple butter. “Apple butter is made by slow simmering of our grower apples, and we add a little sugar and spice to it,” says Michael. “It’s more than just a spread—it’s also a delicious and versatile ingredient.”

While Knouse Foods is tapping into current trends, Michael advises new or emerging businesses to be careful about investing in a recently popular concept or type of product. Trends can transform into a forgotten fad in the span of a year, and product development typically requires nine to eighteen months before launch. Gather as much market data as possible regarding packaging, flavors, and consumer wants and needs first.

“We want to yield the best results for our growers,” adds Michael. “We’re successful on our side, and they’re successful on their side. That’s our largest differentiators from our competitors.”

This episode is sponsored by IFMA. Check out the podcast above to learn more about the company’s conservation efforts, multimillion water treatment facility, and its solar power innovations in Pennsylvania!

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer


How Tyson Foods and Lyons Magnus Cater to Foodservice Professionals and Consumers

How Tyson Foods and Lyons Magnus Cater to Foodservice Professionals and Consumers

How are some of the top food manufacturers addressing the shift happening in the food world today?

Our host, Paul Barron, sat down with Kristen Bird from Tyson Foods and Brad Kirk from Lyons Magnus, both members of the IFMA board, to discuss how their respective companies are adapting to the changing trends in order to meet consumer demand.

There’s clearly a huge move towards cleaner labels and both companies have been working towards cleaning up their ingredient list and transparency.

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IFMA's Prestigious Gold Plate Award Goes to Leadership Legend

IFMA's Prestigious Gold Plate Award Goes to Leadership Legend

Every year, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) holds their Gold & Silver Plate awards ceremony; a celebration of some of our industry’s most influential and successful minds. From chain restaurants to retail, to schools, the foodservice industry puts forth its best and brightest with up to 9 professionals receiving a Silver Plate award.

This year’s winners are an inspirational bunch:

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'The Academy Awards of Foodservice' — The IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards 2017

IFMA'S Gold & Silver Plate Awards

As the Oscars are for the film industry and as the James Beard Awards are for culinary, the Gold & Silver Plate Awards are the academy awards of foodservice. The celebration, which honors the nation's most prestigious operator talent, is hosted by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) every year in Chicago.

The 63rd Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards night was held on May 20th at Revel Fulton Market and highlighted eight Silver Plate Award winners, all from different foodservice categories. All of which were chosen through a painstaking, thorough jury process of the most innovative foodservice icons of the industry. From that elite group, one winner is honored with the Gold Plate Award.

The Class of 2017: Silver Plate Winners

This year's winners within eight different categories, were all nominated by the industry's leading companies. From those candidates, the Gold Plate Winner was voted on through a secret ballot by the previous Silver Plate Award winners, national trade press editors, and a group of foodservice experts.  

The Class of 2017 Silver Plate Award Winners include:

  • Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept: Wolfgang Puck, chef and owner, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (nominated by Nestlé Professional)
  • Chain Full Service: G.J. Hart, executive chairman and CEO, California Pizza Kitchen (nominated by Wayne Farms)
  • Chain Limited Service: Chris Newcomb, co-founder and president & CEO, Newk’s Eatery (nominated by Wenner Bakery)
  • Health Care: Patti Oliver, director of nutrition, UCLA Health (nominated by Hobart Corporation & Basic American Foods)
  • Elementary & Secondary Schools: Betti Wiggins, executive director, Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools (nominated by Schwan’s Food Service)
  • Colleges & Universities: Ted Faulkner, director of dining services, Virginia Tech (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Business & Industry/Foodservice Management: Jeff Metz, president & CEO, Metz Culinary Management (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Retail & Specialty Foodservice: Chris Gheysens, president & CEO, Wawa Inc. (nominated by Nestlé Professional)

Meet the 2017 Gold Plate Winner: Wolfgang Puck

"I'm really appreciative, and on behalf of all my partners, all my associates all the people out there who work so hard day in and day out, who make a big difference... Thank you! " said Wolfgang Puck, owner and chef of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, proudly as he received his award.

Puck has more than 40 years of experience in the foodservice industry. He began cooking at a young age by his mother's side, but it was his perseverance that helped him forge a culinary, and then, leadership career. Through his flagship restaurant, Spago, first opened in West Hollywood and now in Beverly Hills, Puck was able to propel his business to a whole new level by creating a friendly and inviting environment through his open kitchen. This then led to his continued success in the foodservice industry.

"When I built Spago, normally the chefs at the time are hidden somewhere in the kitchen. I said: 'Okay, I'm going to build a kitchen in the middle of the dinning room so I can see every guest and they can see me...'," said Wolfgang Puck. "Everybody used to come by, if it was John Collins, Billy Waldo, Michael Douglas, they used to come by and say hello and everything... So this is really a great thing!"

Puck's message to future operators and chefs at the 2017 Gold and Silver Plate Awards ceremony was very clear, "If you're passionate and you can dream... You can do it!"

Consumer Planning Program: How to Better Understand Your Customer

On this episode of On Foodable Weekly, we talk to some of the instrumental players in creating IFMA’s Consumer Planning Program. The Consumer Planning Program, or CPP, was a collaboration between IFMA and Datassential to dive deeper into the consumer mindset and find out why consumers pick a food-service venue, how those decisions are made and what manufacturers (and operators) can do to influence those decisions.

CPP began in 2012 when IFMA realized they were not as in touch with the consumer as they wanted to be and so the association dedicated resources to really building that understanding and relationship. This began their research into consumer needs and purchase motivations.

As Coca-Cola’s Ben Shanley put it, “At the end of the day from a manufacturing perspective, we’re trying to create consumer demand for our products and with all the changes that are going on right now in the industry it still all has to start with consumers.”

This initiative has been aimed at reaching consumers and helping brands understand their customers better. The team conducts qualitative research like focus groups with consumers to gather information and understand the language consumers use when they talk about their ‘away-from-home’ meals. That data is then validated through thousands of survey interviews– providing a lot of insight on what consumers are looking for.

Foodservice professionals can join the Consumer Planning Program and be a part of the committee that drives study topics and receives annual reports. Find out more about CPP here.