As eating habits continue to shift from the typical three-meal schedule, portion-controlled snack and bakery products may be small bites, but they’re also becoming a big part of the overall marketplace.

Portion-controlled snacks and baked goods aren’t just about dieting or eating right, they’re now serving the purposes of portability for on-the-go eating.

“Interestingly, when consumers are asked about their snacking needs, almost 50% now include portability as a necessary attribute,” says Tom Ingram, senior brand director of Snyder’s-Lance Inc. “Consumer eating habits are shifting away from the typical three-meal schedule toward more snacking throughout the day. This shift means that manufacturers need to work on positioning snacks as solutions to bridge between meals and give consumers choices that fit their lifestyle.”

Portable, single-serve packaging has been part of the Charlotte, NC-based company’s heritage for more than 100 years. In trying to capture a millennial market, Lance has recently introduced its new Lance Bolds, a highly-flavored line of sandwich crackers “Bolds are exciting combinations of bold fillings between crunchable crackers,” states Ingram. Available in Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese, Pizza and Bacon Cheddar, the new Bolds line contains up to 3 g. of protein per serving.

“Bolds cracker sandwiches stay true to the Lance brand, made with quality ingredients, such as real cheese and no added preservatives,” Ingram adds.

Factoring in sustainable and healthy

Yet creating a portion-controlled product can pose some issues for manufacturers in terms of packaging, as single-serve often requires more packaging than regular or family-sized products. This can be challenging for manufacturers, in terms of sustainability.

“Lance is currently undergoing a major packaging transition,” explains Ingram. “By fall 2014, all Lance cracker sandwiches will be available in more eco-friendly, closed-carton packaging made from 100%-recycled paper, significantly reducing the use of plastic.”

Portion-controlled products aren’t just about convenience, however. Many are about producing a healthy snack option sized perfectly for dieters…and making the word “diet” synonymous with “flavor.”

“A recent Hartman Group study found that snacking represents 53% of all eating occasions, and more than half of those people consider health when choosing what to eat,” says Erika Cottrell, vice president of marketing for Sahale Snacks. “But what we’ve found to ring true for our core customers is that they don’t want to sacrifice flavor. Aside from the tremendous category growth overall, we see a great opportunity in offering a single-serving snack that lands at the intersection of great tasting and better-for-you [or a healthy option].”

The Seattle-based company’s latest Nut + Fruit Mixes were introduced in March in 1.5-oz. snack sizes along with standard 7- or 8-oz. packages. “With this line and our previously released varieties, we’ve found our 1.5-oz. products to be a great way to introduce consumers to Sahale Snacks,” says Cottrell.

The new Nut + Fruit Mixes come in three options: Berry Macaroon Almond Mix, made with toasted coconut, lemon-infused apples, dried blueberries, cashews and almonds; Mango Tango Almond Mix, which contains lime-infused mangos, banana chips, peanuts, almonds and chipotle chili; and Raspberry Crumble Cashew Mix. “We captured the flavors of a favorite raspberry dessert with Raspberry Crumble Cashew Mix: Naturally dried raspberries; banana chips; naturally dried cranberries; whole roasted peanuts and whole roasted cashews,” says Cottrell.

Like most companies producing portion-controlled products, Sahale Snacks’ main target is the health-conscious consumer. “Health-conscious shoppers are a growing segment, as consumers want to know more and more about the quality, nutritional value and sourcing of the foods they eat, and they also want snack sizes that are perfect for one-time snacking,” asserts Cottrell. “People are snacking on more occasions than they eat meals, and they aren’t satisfied with the tired, unhealthy snack choices they have had for years. In response to this shift, we created a great-tasting product that fits easily into an on-the-go lifestyle.”

Beyond the snack segment, bakeries, too, are getting in on the portion-controlled trend.

“At Donsuemor, we definitely see a consumer preference for portion-controlled and individual servings in baked goods,” says Susan Davis, CEO. “Portion-control packaging helps prevent over indulgence and provides great convenience. It helps keep baked goods fresh and makes it easy to pack or save for an on-the-go sweet snack.”

The Alameda, CA, company already offers its Madeleines and French Almond Cakes in individually-wrapped sizes, but recently introduced several new portion-controlled products for 2014. “Donsuemor’s new Meyers lemon Nonettes are three delicious, bite-sized morsels of delight,” states Davis. “They deliver a Meyer lemon taste sensation so big it’s hard to believe it fits into such a small treat.”

The company also offers new L’Orange Petite Gateau, little cakes with a light orange glaze, available in two-packs.

“At Donsuemor, we have always believed that indulgence is about quality, not quantity,” says Davis.

Sometimes that quality comes at a price, especially when it’s portion-controlled. “Individual serving-size packaging and small-batch, high-quality production can cost more than mass-produced, bulk baked goods, but we feel that our consumers value the quality, care and thought we put into Donsuemor’s premium European baked goods,” states Davis.

Quality trumps quick

Providing a quality baked product is important in the portion-controlled arena. “We see a larger trend where consumers are valuing quality experiences over just getting a quick, sweet fix,” says Terry Watson, executive chef and vice president of culinary innovation of Just Desserts, Oakland, CA. “The way that Just Desserts is delivering on this consumer desire is by baking satisfying and indulgent bites that use premium, kitchen pantry ingredients.”

Just Desserts recently launched its first certified-organic line of portion-controlled baked goods, which includes Organic Salted Caramel Brownie Bites and Organic Brownie Bites. The company also added a Caramel Blondie Brownie Bite to its main Bite line, which consists of Brownie Bites, Sour Cream Coffee Cake Bites and Lemon Bites.

“At no more than 70 calories per bite, these new Just Desserts Bites deliver satisfying taste experiences, but up to 25% fewer calories [in comparison to] other bites,” says Watson. “As we began to produce more decadent and fun flavors of bites about two years ago, we also found a way to use [healthy] whole grains. It’s an example of the extra steps that we take to bake it right, which means more taste without the regrets.”

Just Desserts also produces a line of Single Serve Cakes in Chocolate, Lemon, Carrot, Chocolate Bundt, Carrot Bundt and Lemon Bundt.

“We pride ourselves on being responsive to the desires of our customers and retail partners,” says Watson. “This means listening to customers and spending countless hours in the kitchen perfecting new recipe ideas. As a result, Just Desserts was an early entrant into the portion-controlled market for baked goods.”

Of course, the company also produces the original portion-controlled cake: The cupcake. Served in individual clamshell packages, the cupcakes are available in Black Tie, Lemon Drop, White Tie, Strawberry Patch, Caramel Blast, Carrot with Cream Cheese Frosting, Red Velvet, Chocolate Fudge, Classic Vanilla, Key Lime, Pumpkin Patch and Sour Cherry Pomegranate.

“Just Desserts will continue to take popular, American classic desserts and put a modern, portion-controlled spin on them,” states Watson. “In addition, we are also working hard to deliver on larger food trends, which will result in new Organic and Vegan bite options.”

Baked goods bites are a good way to satiate a craving for sweets without the guilt of over indulging. Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, NY, recognizes and responds to consumer demand for this.

“Research tells us that 28% of Americans snack because they want an indulgent, impulsive treat,” says Mariah Kerwin, associate marketing manager. “For that special personal indulgence, or to share a treat with a friend, our smaller portioned desserts offer shoppers the dessert size they are craving.”

Rich recently introduced Mini Brownie Extreme, Mini Blondie Extreme two-packs and Bar Cakes in Red Velvet, Carrot and Triple Chocolate. “Dessert is no longer limited to the final course of the evening meal,” says Kerwin. “It has become an all-day, any-day phenomenon. In fact, 40% of consumers now eat dessert twice a week or more, making our portion[ed] desserts the perfect treat.”

Portion control in the dessert arena is nothing new for Dawn Foods of Jackson, MI, producer of Weight Watchers’ Sweet Baked Goods. In January, the company added a Mint Chocolate option to its Weight Watchers Brownie Bliss offerings, a line of individually-wrapped, 80-calorie brownies.

“Each rich chocolate brownie is layered with velvety, mint chocolate ganache and covered in a chocolaty coating,” describes Jamie Dittenber, brand manager. Other Brownie Bliss options include Triple Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

Other portion-controlled Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods produced by Dawn Foods include Coffee Cake, Chocolate Brownie, Red Velvet Crème Cake, Chocolate Crème Cake, Carrot Crème Cake, Lemon Crème Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, Blueberry Muffin and Double Chocolate Muffin.

“Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Good products are portion-controlled to help consumers feel good about the food choice they are making, allowing them to enjoy the sweet treat they crave and stay on track with their weight management goals,” adds Dittenber.

Whether it’s a sweet treat or a quick snack on the run, portion-control sizes may be small, but they’re a big part of the snack and bakery markets.



Packaging for portion control

Clear Lam Packaging Inc., Elk Grove Village, IL, is playing a large role in the manufacture of portion-controlled packaging. Its latest solution is its multipack, pull-apart packaging.

“The multipack solutions are ideal for portion-controlled cookies, crackers, cheese, proteins, fruit, vegetables, nuts, candy, etc.” says Roman Forowycz, chief marketing officer. “Forming the multipack snap-apart packaging in-line offers processors the ability to efficiently streamline their production and offer consumers an easy-to-use, snap-apart package for ready-to-eat consumption.”

What consumers like most about these packs is that they come in four-packs that are connected and scored, so they snap apart for easy sharing and portioning.

Beyond portion-controlled packaging, the company is also concerned with providing eco-friendly packaging to manufacturers.

“Clear Lam has developed a program called Project EarthClear,” explains Forowycz. “We strive to develop new packaging that incorporates at least some element of sustainability. Project EarthClear is an initiative that encompasses our sustainable internal procedures and our product lines.”

The company focuses on three main categories: Packaging made from renewable raw materials; packaging that incorporates recycled plastic or paper; and lightweighting initiatives, like creating thinner materials.