LOS ANGELES – When the pandemic flipped the world upside down and brought foodservice to a screeching halt, Otis Spunkmeyer took on the challenges and ran with them.

The company, a Los Angeles-based Aspire Bakeries brand, knew it had to switch gears as the world around them was rapidly shifting. As individual packaging dominated in the COVID landscape, foodservice changes drove innovation.

Daniele Bianchini, director of marketing at Otis Spunkmeyer, noted that the biggest changes she has seen in the space, in addition to last year’s shutdowns, have included the increases in drive-through, carryout/curbside and third-party delivery services.

“Our food has to be compatible with the shift in how consumers purchase and indulge in our foods,” Bianchini said, noting implications for packaging in this area, specifically with individually wrapped items. In fact, this has been pivotal for products like muffins under the Otis Spunkmeyer brand.

In foodservice channels such as hotels, travel and leisure, and — or especially — healthcare, individually wrapped muffins have become a highly sought-after product. This comes with big operational implications, including enhancements to packaging lines to automate wrapping for muffins through robotic technology.

In general, consumers want to be assured that their food is safe, and individual wrapping provides that. Even in post-pandemic times, those needs are not going to revert.

That means these types of packaging demands will require operational efficiencies for all Aspire Bakeries’ brands — La Brea Bakery, Otis Spunkmeyer and Ontario-based Oakrun Farm.

“Consumers are looking for safety,” said Chris Prociv, Aspire Bakeries senior VP of marketing. “They’re looking for sealed packaging, but they still want to enjoy fresh-baked products. While we see those trends continuing in the bakery segments, it’s really the area of packaging that’s changing. This means we are making all our bakery lines as efficient as possible.”

Aspire Bakeries also recently announced the expansion of its Newark, CA, bakery with the addition of a new frozen cookie line for Otis Spunkmeyer cookies.  The brand has continued to be a top seller in the cookie category in foodservice, convenience and retail channels.

The bakery expansion follows a surge in demand for Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, according to Aspire Bakeries.

The new cookie line increases Aspire Bakeries’ capacity for Otis Spunkmeyer branded and custom frozen cookie dough. This boost in capacity will enable Aspire Bakeries to increase the company’s frozen cookie dough supply to meet its increasing customer demand. Production will start in the fall, and in preparation, the Newark bakery is hiring new employees from the community to start in late July.

Work is also underway to build the Sweet Baked Goods Innovation Lab at the Newark bakery. The facility will contain commercial equipment including a variety of oven types and analytical instruments to create new cookies, muffins, bars and cakes.

“Aspire Bakeries is committed to the expansion of its cookie business and responding to increased customer demand for our popular Otis Spunkmeyer cookies,” said Beau Netzer, president of foodservice for Aspire Bakeries. “We continue to invest in our bakeries to prioritize and support our growth, innovation capabilities, and supply capacity, with the ultimate goal of ensuring our customers gain competitive advantage and achieve success.”