“Convenience is the basis of mercantile law,” said British barrister Lord Mansfield in the 1782 court case Medcalf v. Hall. While the words are dated, the sentiment remains true in 2019, as the ways of merchandising often go back to the buyer’s interest in making things easier for their own use and lifestyle.

A modern industry observer, packaging consultant Huston Keith of Keymark Associates, supports that notion.

“My belief is that convenience is still eminent for most consumers,” he said.

Consumer insights back up the perennial factor of convenience in purchase decision, including bakery and snack products. In its recently-released report, Global Food & Drink Trends 2019, research firm Mintel called out “Elevated Convenience” as a trend, noting that discerning consumers are spurring manufacturers to ratchet up the kind of convenience-oriented products.

“A new generation of modern convenience food and drink is emerging as manufacturers respond to rising healthy eating priorities, quests for foodie-inspired flavors, interests in personalization and competition from speedy delivery services,” the report stated. “Interest in premium convenience will not be limited to dinnertime, creating opportunities for every meal, snack, and beverage break.”

The marketplace bears out elevated convenience as a trend. Recent product launches include convenience-oriented premium items, like a new line of snack kits from Conagra Brands’ Duke brand that include smoked sausages paired with cheese crisps. On the heels of its popular full-sized bar line, Kind Health Snacks recently unveiled Kind Minis for on-the-go consumption.

While convenience is and likely will remain a top driver, the growing consumer demand for sustainability is another parallel trend and may impact some convenience-driven features — at least those that involve perceived excess materials. In a recent interview with Supermarket Perimeter, Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, observed that those dueling trends are on a “collision course” that will cause manufacturers to find ways to meet interest in convenient food delivery with items packaged in a manner that’s viewed as less wasteful.

For now, Mr. Keith said that while some consumers are willing to make sacrifices in convenience for greener packaging, it’s not yet a widespread day-to-day behavior.

“Concerns about sustainability get into bigger changes in things like plastic bottles versus pouch drinks for example, or plastic bags versus paper bags in coastal areas,” he said.

Convenience and sustainability are among the key characteristics in food packaging, facilitated by development of design elements such as easy-to-use closures, single-portion packages to prevent food waste and compostable bio-plastics for food packaging. According to Innova Market Insights, amidst the aversion to plastic packaging, innovation is mainly focused on resource efficiency and plastic reduction. In the quest to achieve a circular economy, the use of vegetable inks for labelling and post-consumer recycled packaging materials are gaining traction, along with the development of packaging formats that are recyclable by design.