CHICAGO — The evolution of work and home life has altered the way people move from place to place. With new eating patterns and preferences emerging in response, on-the-go snacks and meals are ever-present — raising the question: What is the “go” in on-the-go these days?

Traditionally, on-the-go foods have been marketed for convenience — full stop. They were intended for people commuting and refueling between activities and on traditional 9-to-5 schedules. With today’s schedules revolving around smaller geographic footprints, on-the-go has transformed from a physical reality into a psychological state. Now, busy consumers are looking for convenient products that nourish their bodies, function as a quick mental escape, and that can easily complement spontaneous plans at home and around town.

To meet these needs, new on-the-go foods should be convenient at every step of the process, from purchase through disposal. ReHarvest Provisions’ smoothie-in-a-pouch does just that and slots perfectly into the flexible snack or meal space. Founder and chief executive officer Kathryn Bernell developed the product as a way to get more fruits and vegetables into her busy day.

“Smoothies became an AM hack to get all the good stuff in (but) quickly devolved into a 20-minute process,” she said.

Her goal was to cut the clutter and make consumers’ lives easier, whether they were running out the door or switching gears at home. In addition to the brand’s “freeze-and-squeeze” format, the product is shelf-stable and ships straight to consumers. It successfully bypasses the logistical complexity of fresh food delivery and saves consumers from the portable pain points of having to purchase, transport and immediately store their frozen goods.

ReHarvest Provisions also incorporates functional ingredients like goji berries and baobab, plus upcycled fruits and vegetables from its re-harvest platform. The product provides convenient nutrition for consumers who have traded mindless snacking for more intentional eating habits.

Clean ingredients are integral for Canadian brand Riverside Natural Foods and its Good To Go product line. The family-run operation developed a minimally processed, high-fiber and gluten-free bar that brings customers a neatly wrapped, tangible and visible whole food experience with prominent pieces of fruits, seeds and nuts.

“Most bars lacked a pleasant texture,” said Nima Fotovat, co-founder and president.

Compared to the homogenous one-size-fits-all snack bar, Good To Go cake bars’ baked-in grooves make them easy to split into portions and customize as a quick bite, meal or shareable treat. People want their food to look and feel whole and nourishing, no matter how quickly it’s consumed. Ultimately, while the pandemic has hurt sales in the overall bar category, Good To Go outperformed with increased distribution, market share and basket penetration.

As the on-the-go space continues to evolve, brands should keep raising the bar with products that help people rest, refuel and reset. In this dynamic and unpredictable space, on-the-go has expanded to include a wider range of needs and entirely new occasions. Consumers want a multi-sensorial interaction with their food, wrapped in a quick and easy package. The in-between is a powerful space for brands to play in. On-the-go creators that want to join this category should meet their consumers where they’re going — whether it’s miles away or just a few feet ahead.

Natalie Shmulik is the chief executive officer of The Hatchery Chicago, a food and beverage incubator.