Piling systems must be flexible enough to accommodate wide ranges of portions as single-serve packaging demands smaller counts per package. Source: Bosch Packaging Systems

The idea of it is nothing new. Baked foods like cookies and bars have long been individually packaged for convenience and consumer appeal. While the format hasn’t changed over the years, so much about single-serve packaging has. And most of it is happening because of what’s going inside the wrapper.

In the past, someone might stop by a c-store to pick up a piece of coffee cake or a donut for a quick indulgence for breakfast. Today, they may stop by to grab an individually wrapped dessert for later in the day. Eli’s Cheesecake, Chicago, for example, has been at the forefront of the changing tastes and consumer preferences. The company entered the c-store market more than 15 years ago with Eli’s Single Serve Cheesecakes packed in a custom plastic wedge container sealed with film. The following year, Eli’s introduced flowwrapped dessert bars in a carton sleeve.

“In the beginning, we faced two challenges,” said Debbie Marchok, Eli’s vice-president of marketing. “The first was the case pack size since smaller pack sizes are more costly to produce but more desirable by the c-store channel. The second was the shelf life for the ambient dessert bars since we bake without preservatives, and the c-store market demands a longer shelf life.”

Eli’s overcame those challenges by flowwrapping its products to protect them and provide maximum visibility on the shelf or in the c-store refrigerators. In many ways, Eli’s was ahead of its time. Today, packaging suppliers say they are getting increasing requests for ¬single-serve flowwrapped items far and beyond indulgent snacks like cheesecake. Consumers are craving better-for-you (BFY) desserts and baked goods like cookies, breakfast biscuits, crackers and bars, and they are seeking them out in c-stores.

“It used to be you stopped in a c-store to grab something indulgent and didn’t worry about it,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president of sales and marketing, Formost Fuji. “Now, people are going into the c-store and reading the labels and looking at a row of six snacks and asking themselves which one is still going to be within a taste level that they’ll accept but also be better for them.”

As package sizes shrink, food manufacturers must find ways to adjust their production and accommodate smaller items with different texture and flavor characteristics. Many new BFY products have limited shelf life and can be delicate to handle in processing. Therefore, they need better seals on packaging and often new and gentler ways to package them.

“As the market evolves, we see more applications for gluten-free products such as granola bars, meal replacement snack items and unique new cookies and pastries that cater to a more health-conscious consumer market,” said Mark Evangelista, brand manager, SleekWrapper.

Fifty to 60% of the company’s flowwrapper sales come from the bakery and confectionery industry. Flowwrappers have the ability to wrap a variety of fresh and frozen foods, including breakfast bars, banana bread and oatmeal cookies.

The increasing variety of baked foods and snacks appearing in c-stores, along with the influence of clean label and BFY trends, means reexamining the flowwrapping process on high-speed packaging lines.