With consumers and retailers looking for ways to make on-the-go easier, portable packaging fills a big need.

“Our society is now built around an ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle. Between work, family and personal interests, consumers are constantly on the move,” says Cindy Blish, associated brand and communications manager for Shelton, Connecticut-based Inline Plastics. “This means the demand for food options that are convenient, healthy and portable continues to increase.”

That convenient, portable packaging makes life easier for time-starved, active and nutrition-conscious consumers by offering safe food options with portion control and food waste reduction in mind.

No matter what the day might bring, convenience packaging makes quick meals and snacks easy and accessible. The need for convenient options across multiple dayparts continues to grow as consumers seek consumption hacks to combat work demands and increasing commitments. But catching the attention of busy consumers might be the most difficult part. Standing out from the crowd requires packaging with a range of easy-to-use attributes and branding and graphics that improve the messaging.

“Single-serve and portable packaging meets this demand,” Blish says. “It allows consumers to purchase only what they need, including healthier options like fresh-cut fruits and veggies, and they cleanly and easily eat from and then dispose of the container when finished.”

The desire for packaged convenience is not just a US phenomenon. Demand for convenience products is increasing around the world. In 2017, the business of snacking grew a phenomenal $3.4 billion globally. In the snacking arena, convenient protein options remain in high demand. Fifty-five percent of US households cite high protein as an important attribute with meat, eggs and dairy being the primary sources, according to Nielsen. In the ready-to-eat protein segment the emphasis is on snack meats, but packaging isn’t just about a quick bite. It also must meet needs for portability, portion control, food safety and address the ongoing problem of food waste.

“The throwaway culture of today will evolve into one that understands and embraces the role of packaging as a primary means to reduce global food and product waste,” says David Luttenburger, global packaging director, Mintel, Chicago.

Quest for convenience

Reclosability continues to resonate with consumers looking for convenience, extended shelf life and portion control.

Inline uses its new SureGrip technology to achieve reliable reclosability.

“This wide grab tab includes a textured grip that provides a positive, easy-to-open, and user-friendly experience,” Blish says. “Our Snackers line all include a sturdy beveled corner design that increases container strength, with our patented Safe-T-Fresh tamper evident tear-strip and lead resistant, reclosable seal.”

Grocery and club stores known for offering large-volume packages geared to the cost-conscious consumer are now rethinking package sizing. Single-person and smaller family sizes mean the club-size is no longer the best option for everyone.

“Food waste is caused by multiple reasons, but an important one is the mismatch between the amounts of food inside the pack compared to the actual need of the consumer,” says Irene Buzzoni, marketing and communications coordinator, Sealpac, headquartered in the US in Richmond, Virginia. “Especially with the number of single-person households growing around the globe, this issue has become more evident.”

St. Louis-based Anchor Packaging bills its line of Incredi-Bowls as affordable, upscale-to-go packaging. The microwavable bowls and lids include a smaller footprint that is more cost effective than larger diameters and are leak-resistant to eliminate spills.

In addition to hot cases, the Incredi-Bowls and lids can be used in refrigerated or ambient displays.  All are dishwasher safe providing consumer-convenient reusability and are recyclable curbside.

Kansas City, Missouri-based Multivac Inc. is finding packages built for consumer convenience are surging across all styles as consumers short on time prefer options with a multitude of pre-portioned components.

“Previously, in order to have a balanced grouping of processed meats, cheese, nuts, dried fruits, crackers, etc., consumers would purchase separate bulk packs of each, open them at home and portion them into zip-top bags,” says Cem Yildirim, strategic market development manager, Multivac. “Brand names would be left in the kitchen at home as snacks became anonymous.”

The company offers single-portion, multi, medley, snack, reclosable, microwave, sous-vide and oven-ready packaging. Understanding the increasing importance of sustainability in packaging choices, the company offers its customers an immediate 10% to 20% savings on material and packaging costs by switching from pre-formed snack trays to thermoformed, filled on-line, sealed snack trays.

Bemis Co., Neenah, Wisconsin, offers total packaging solutions for flex/flex and flex/rigid formats with the manufacture of lidding films, non-forming films, forming films and trays. Smaller, single-serve packages that incorporate a peelable lidding film and a flexible or rigid forming film are popular as they fit the snacking trend seen in beef jerky sticks and other meat options.

The company is observing many of its customers extending their product lines with smaller pack sizes, portion control and multi-serve packages. Its SmartTack Peel Reseal options are available in Peel Reseal films or Peelable Resealable labels, taking a five-component package to a two-to-three-component package. Peel reseal and peelable label packages that incorporate films and/or labels that peel and reseal have been popular in the lunchmeat category, according to Pete Bruehl, marketing manager-protein for Bemis. Combined with different print styles (natural, paper-like, back room finish and clean labeling) these attributes become an additional attraction for the packages.

Snacking segment

Snacking will continue to increase in importance as the “fourth” meal occasion becomes more mainstream. Trends of convenience and portion control will be realized across a broader consumer base with the popularity of meat snacks at the center of those trends, Hunstad predicts.

Sealed Air Food Care, Charlotte, North Carolina, offers convenience packs including thermoformed and pre-made trays with easy-open, reclosable, ovenable and microwavable options. The company’s Cryovac Simple Steps, Cryovac OvenEase, Cryovac Multi-Seal FlexLOK resealable packaging, and small, single-serve protein packs are popular packaging options in the convenience segment.

“There’s a growing emphasis on sustainable packaging that effectively preserves and markets the product but also uses resources wisely and contributes to a circular economy,” says Mike Rosinski, marketing director of smoked and processed meats, Sealed Air Food Care.

Blish says the market was lacking a variety of small, portable tamper resistant containers that could be ideal for the snacking segment. In response, Inline recently launched its SquareWare Snackers.

“They’re the newest addition to the Safe-T-Fresh family,” Blish says. “These cute, miniature containers are available in four leak-resistant sizes. They’re perfect for meal kits and those small, individually portion-controlled grab-and-go snacks.”