Horizontal packaging lines saw innovations this year to make them faster and more flexible. Source: Formost Fuji

Just the beginning
The innovations in packaging will keep coming in 2018 as suppliers sprint to stay ahead of trends and begin preparations for the next International Baking Industry Expo in Las Vegas in 2019. The cycle of designing new equipment to reveal at the big show — and others before then — is already underway.

For bakers, that means a lot of solutions are on the horizon for meeting packaging needs. Mr. Thompson said he expects to see growing demand for shelf-ready and pallet display packaging.

“As online retailing continues to grow in popularity this will certainly continue to have a large impact on packaging trends,” Mr. Thompson said.

TNA plans to reveal the new robag 5 at SNAXPO 2018, March 12-14, in Atlanta. The bagger will be part of a new system called performance 5.0 that offers snack manufacturers the ability to double output with high-speed equipment and self-learning technology. The system is capable of speeds up to 300 bags per minute.

Packaging is what ultimately sells a product, but more often than not, the packaging line is the last thing considered when designing a bakery or snack line. Mr. Kehrli said that’s why suppliers are coming up with so many small-footprint technological advances.

“Packaging is always an afterthought,” he said. “There is never enough space, so we have to innovate by space saving.”

In addition to the limited real estate at the end of the processing line, packaging also requires significant manual labor.

“That’s still the No. 1 thing we hear. ‘How do I reduce headcount in the packaging area but keep quality control, flexibility?’ ” Mr. Gunnell observed. “We’ll continue to see innovations coming in those areas.”

With all of the advances in packaging and more on the horizon, the baking and snack industries are looking at a period of incredible change.