Single-serve bakery packaging is on the rise as consumer snacking has increased. Eighty percent of consumers snack at least once a day, and 44% snack while traveling between activities. Additionally, over half of consumers say the packaging of products influences their snacking decisions, with on-the-go lifestyles prioritizing packs that are easy open and resealable.
And while many bakeries are moving into single-serve packaging to meet this demand, it’s critical they define their objectives in the space beforehand, explained Josh Becker, product manager, Harpak-ULMA, at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech, held March 1-3.
“What are you venturing down the path of single-serve for? Are you looking for new outlets for your products? Or do you want to extend the shelf life of your shelf bakery product so that it can withstand being wrapped? Whatever objective you determine is going to drive your packaging materials (and) the equipment required.”
The first consideration bakers should make is their product’s formulation and how they can extend its shelf life. To do this and prevent their product from staling, bakers need to ensure their single-serve packaged goods don’t lose their moisture or undergo starch recrystallization. They can do this through humectants, which increase moisture content, emulsifiers, which prevent starch crystallization, enzymes, which are anti-staling agents, crumb softeners, mold inhibitors and protein ingredients like whey.
“There’s no smoking gun that can solve all problems, it’s going to be dependent on what your product is, the moisture content you need and how you need those ingredients to react through the shelf life of your product,” Mr. Becker said.
A well-formulated product is important, but it won’t matter if the product isn’t packaged properly. The right packaging, including barrier films and modified atmosphere, will prevent moisture loss and extend shelf life.
“Packaging quality and the packaging experience is becoming more and more important to the consumer,” Mr. Becker explained. “And you can’t just think of your primary packaging as you’re going to a single-serve bakery product. The change to a single-serve pack type is going to require possibly a reevaluation of your secondary and/or tertiary packaging methods.”
Bakers must consider a variety of factors in choosing the right packaging material, including the package’s composition, film thickness, tensile strength, mechanical stress tolerance and whether the product is sustainable, which is increasingly important to consumers.
Lastly, a switch to single-serve packaging may change a baker’s equipment needs. Single-serve packaging typically runs at higher speeds, meaning bakers will need to automate their system. In fact, full automation of single-serve packaging is both feasible and desirable, Mr. Becker said, as back-end labor requirements without automation is high and poses safety concerns.
“Your automation return on investment has to be greater than your hard labor costs, but also don’t forget the soft costs such as safety, recruiting and training employees over and over again,” Mr. Becker said.
Bakers that can define their single-serve packaging objective and make these key considerations are well-positioned to succeed.