KANSAS CITY — Today’s automation allows snack producers to roll out a new generation of variety packs. Consumers can now satisfy the whole family with 12-, 18-, 24- or 36-count boxes of their favorite chips or an assortment of limited-time offers.

In the past, snack makers often needed an assembly line of a dozen people or more spending hours repetitively picking and placing individual bags to create variety packs. Now there are options that make the process much less laborious and offer consumers single-serve bags at a much more affordable price per unit.

With one popular system, snack makers initially fill large containers of individual bags and store them until they’re ready to create variety packs. Operators simply need to dump the small packages from the entire container into a feeder system that singulates those bags into a single-file line. It then conveys them to a robot, a gatekeeper or a simple drop gate to load multiple flavors into a larger box or bag to create the variety pack.

Setting up a system often requires significant planning, coordination and project management upfront before any investments are made. In other operations, snack producers need to ensure that primary bagmakers can maintain the same output as each other on the line so that there is a steady stream of different product flavors heading to the secondary system, which may be creating variety packs with up to eight different products or more.

Despite the labor crunch, potato chip, pretzel and other snack producers can now provide consumers the variety they want in one convenient box and at a lower price.