Wholey Cheese crackers, Snyder's-Lance
New flavors combined with portion-controlled packaging drive interest in product lines.

Accelerating portability

Adding to the appeal of portion control, variations of snacks that might not have been portable before are now being packaged for convenience.

“Portable snacks are being reimagined with benefits from old and new trends,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader for market research company IRI, at SNAXPO 2017, held April 1-4 in Savannah, GA.

“Portable formats are really excelling in the market; we’ve seen strong growth from smaller pack sizes in savory snacks,” said Jared Koerten, senior food analyst for Euromonitor International. “The push for portability is not limited to snacks, as staple foods are innovating in this area as well.”

Snacks and staple foods are all pushing into the portion control arena. Of the 91% of consumers who report snacking multiple times throughout the day, 8% forgo meals altogether in favor of all-day snacking, according to The Hartman Group. Meanwhile, 49% of snacking occasions reflect some need for pleasure or fulfilling a desire for a craving, comfort, indulgence or reward.

Chocolate and candy, baked goods, ice cream, chips, popcorn and carbonated soft drinks often fill these snacking needs. The need for nourishment or a snack that addresses hunger and provides sustained energy makes up 56% of all snacking occasions. Key attributes of these snacks include whole grains, fiber, protein, fat, probiotics and minimal sugar.

Similarly, 34% of snacking occasions reflect some need for optimization or snacking that provides quick energy, recovery, mental focus or stress management.

Across packaged food categories, brands are repackaging products in single-serve and snack-sized portions. So what critical things do bakery and snack producers need to deliver in this smaller format?

“The first is always taste in the snack world,” Mr. Troni said. “The second thing that has become very important is some level of better-for-you, wellness or health. A third thing is now portion control.”

Snyder’s-Lance introduced a “Wholey Cheese!” line of products this year with a focus on portion control and convenience. The baked 3-D pillow-shaped cheese crackers provide a crunchy, crispy texture that offers substantial mouthfeel but isn’t filling. They are offered in Smoked Gouda, Mild Cheddar and Swiss & Black Pepper varieties and have 50% less fat than the leading brand of cheese crackers. One 1-oz serving contains 28 crackers and 120 calories.

“You can eat the bag and feel less guilty; that’s what we call positive satiety,” Mr. Troni said.

Portion control has evolved over the past 20 years. From the early days of 100-calorie packs to today’s various forms, the emphasis has shifted away from changing products to meet smaller calorie counts toward emphasizing and maintaining quality in a shrunken portion.

Busy schedules, as well as the decline of meal planning and traditional sit-down meals, have upended daily food rituals and are increasing opportunities for portion-controlled and portable foods.