Smaller households, time-starved consumers and a desire to prevent food waste are among the factors driving demand for single-serve packaging in the grocery fresh perimeter.
The use of single-serve food is definitely increasing, says Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. “Consumers are increasingly interested in more convenient prepared food and beverage options,” she says. “Folks are on the go and they want convenient choices to fit into their busy lifestyles.”
And, she adds, the trend should continue to gain steam as both retailers and traditional foodservice outlets, like restaurants and cafes, try to meet consumer demands.
Baxter, Minnesota-based Lindar Corp. also continues to see big growth in the single-serve category, says Dave Fosse, the company’s marketing director for key accounts. “Convenience is the main reason,” he says. “It also reduces food waste.”
Lindar introduced its first single-serve packs eight years ago for specific bakery items, Fosse says. Cupcakes, bars, sandwiches, cake, desserts and vegetables are a few of the perimeter items that are currently a good fit for single-serve.
“We have single-serve containers for cupcakes, desserts, bars and cakes,” he says. One item that’s been particularly hot lately, Fosse says, is a single-serve “cake bomb” pack.
Beverages, sandwiches and salads are some of the most popular single-serve items, Dyer says. They’re the types of items that consumers can grab while they’re out and about and can easily be transported to their office or home or for eating on-the-go.
“Single-serve snacks are also growing in popularity as consumers increasingly snack throughout the day instead of having three square meals,” Dyer adds.
When it comes to new products, Dyer says the most exciting thing about the increase in single-serve food packaging is seeing the many ways in which the industry responds with its innovative product designs.
“We’ve seen everything from plastic cups that stack inside each other for things like yogurt parfaits — allowing consumers to enjoy their parfait without soggy granola — to products that are sealed with tamper-evident packaging with indicators for time and temperature.”
Fitchburg, Wisconsin-based thermoformed plastic packaging specialist Placon Corp. has adapted its lines to shrinking household sizes, and single-serve packaging is one manifestation of that.
Two Placon lines in particular — Fresh ‘N Clear GoCubes and Crystal Seal reFresh and Tamper Evident —translate well to grab ‘n go applications, a centerpiece of the company’s single-serving strategy, according to Placon.
Single-serve and grab ‘n go are also a growing category for Shelton, Connecticut-based Inline Plastics Corp. Inline now offers a kit to its customers that contains a variety of packs perfect for smaller applications.
The kit contains more than a dozen Inline Safe-T-Fresh tamper-evident containers, including SnackCups, sandwich containers, Hangables (perfect for impulse buys), smaller bowls for salads and other applications and a variety of SnackWare brand containers.
Environmental sustainability, cutting food waste
More and more, packaging runs up against concerns that too much packaging is bad for the environment. While packaging is sometimes seen as wasteful, people should consider not just the package but also the food it holds, Dyer says.
For example, she says, single-serve packaging is both convenient for the consumer and it can also help to reduce food waste. Fosse agrees.
“It’s equally important (as environmental concerns) to have the correct portion for a specific need,” he says.
And regarding those concerns, technology and innovation have already provided many answers, Dyer says. “Ways to mitigate concerns about the packaging specifically is to use containers made with renewal or recycled materials and to encourage consumers to recycle or compost the items when finished,” she says.
Lindar uses RPET materials in its packaging and has a joint venture with Good Natured Products in which product is made from two materials that don’t contain what the company calls “chemicals of concern,” Fosse says.
Placon containers, meanwhile, are made from the company’s EcoStar-branded, United States Food and Drug Administration-approved, food grade-recycled PET material. And after they’re used, according to the company, they’re 100 percent recyclable.
Inline’s single-serve packs are also 100 percent recyclable, according to the company.
From a practical standpoint, there aren’t any major hurdles perimeter store departments face when it comes to stocking more single-serve items, Dyer says. But store managers do need to pay attention to the unique opportunities single-serve provides.
“Retailers are experienced with shelf presence, and stocking items to attract consumers,” she says. “But they should think about where they’re positioning their single-serve items. Prepared foods and beverages are for busy customers who prefer to dash in, grab and go.”
Moving such items from the perimeter and other parts of the store to the front of the store — near entrances and cashiers — will help to drive sales, she says.
One thing that separates Lindar from the pack when it comes to single-serve, Fosse says, is food safety. Lindar packs feature the company’s Simply Secure tamper-obvious closure to help ensure that retailers and consumers know that their food is safe from tampering.
Fosse also doesn’t see any hurdles to retailers stocking more and more single-serve items — as long as it’s done with forethought and planning. “Allocation of the proper amount is the key for any case set,” he says.