Oak State Products' business is driven by individually wrapped products.

When it comes to meeting consumer trends in an ever-increasing mobile society, “It’s all about the packaging,” said Byron Goulding, president, Oak State Products, a Wenona, Ill.-based contract bakery that produces bars and a variety of cookies.

For Oak State, individually wrapped products are driving the business as more Americans eat in their cars and fewer eat together at the breakfast table. Individual wrap has grown into one of the company’s core competencies as a co-manufacturer for some of the nation’s largest snack and food companies.

“Our investment in on-the-go snacking has matured,” Mr. Goulding explained. “Years ago, we invested in individual wrap capabilities, and we’ve expanded it to all our lines.”

On one of its cookie lines, Oak State invested in a custom-designed system that begins with auto blowoffs that detect the size and space between cookies to improve production efficiency. If there isn’t space between the cookies, they are automatically blown off the line in order to keep the wrappers from gumming up. 

A four-leg plowed line plows cookies into the legs that feed into an individual wrapper. Afterward, they are manually placed six at a time into a sideload cartoner.

While big-box stores and c-stores typically require 36- and 12-count packaging, respectively, 5- and 6-count cartons are the standard in grocery stores, said Mr. Goulding.

“Case sizes are getting smaller; a 6-count case size really isn’t unusual, anymore,” he noted.

With individually wrapped products, consumers can eat in the car or even throw a snack into a child’s lunchbox. Oak State’s strategic planning and investment in designing a straightforward system allowed the bakery to streamline its packaging process, increase throughput and eventually simplify life for hurried and hungry consumers.