We’ve heard it all before: Consumers lead busy lives. They want convenient packaging. Grab and go options are the way to go. Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. According to the report “Branded Refrigerated Meats and Meals: U.S. Market Trends” from Packaged Facts (packagedfacts.com), convenience, alongside health and creativity, is one of the top trends for branded refrigerated meals and meats. And these trends are showing up in all areas of the food industry.

So just what does that look like for food packagers? In what ways are consumers seeking convenience? One major convenience trend is single-serve packaging. These busy, on-the-go consumers want portioned, portable, packaged food for one. And they want that food to follow all the other major trends such as sustainable packaging, upscale look and ingredients, and creative solutions and flavors. In a poll on PackagingStrategies.com, readers voted “Single-serve snacking is growing in popularity” as the top food packaging trend here to stay, and it seems they are quite right.

Taking the plunge, solo

In 2014, Marine Harvest Group introduced the Rebel Fish product line. Each six-ounce fresh salmon fillet comes in a microwaveable tray with a seasoning packet. Consumers simply peel back the film, add the seasoning to the fish, then microwave for 90 seconds. Rebel Fish uses Cryovac Darfresh 10K vacuum skin packaging from Sealed Air (sealedair.com), which provides an extended shelf life and eye-catching presentation.

Rachel Aguirre, Rebel Fish brand manager says, “We brought the Rebel Fish line to market at the perfect time because it speaks to consumers trends that now go hand in hand. It’s no longer about choosing convenient, healthy or tasty. It’s about products that feature all three.”

Gourmet gets going

Packaging suppliers know what consumers want and, therefore, what packagers need. Planglow USA (planglow-usa.com) has launched a range of gourmet to-go packaging products to provide the foodservice industry with the upscale and sustainable packaging consumers expect. The Gastro Collection includes sandwich wedge boxes, wrap pack boxes, larger sandwiches boxes, pastry bags and salad boxes. The collection features the look of chalk on slate for an upscale gastro pub look. The packaging is made from compostable and biodegradable materials.

Rick Nelson, Planglow USA’s director of product development, says, “We have observed how chalk-on-slate has become increasingly synonymous with both deli produce and the fine dining movement. Simultaneously, many of our customers are now offering products made with ingredients of notable preparation and provenance. We felt the market lacked packaging and labeling choices reflecting a gourmet image. With this in mind, we developed a comprehensive, value-added and affordable artisan-style packaging with a labelling range aligned with this dynamic market.”

Teaming up to go solo

French manufacturer, Lucien Gerogelin, teamed up with RPC Bebo Bouxwiller (rpc-group.com) to offer a range of fruit compotes and desserts in to-go snack packs. The multilayer, thermoformed, polypropylene 68mm pots feature an EVOH barrier and are foil sealed. The lid includes a spoon to allow consumers to eat the product on the go without requiring additional utensils. The pots are also transparent, which allows consumers to see the fruit in the package.

It’s no surprise that single-serve is taking over given recent demographic shifts in the U.S. According to the United States Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data, almost half of adults age 18 and older do not live with a spouse. In 1967, that figure was less than 30%. A 2013 census report stated that single person households made up 27% of American households in 2012 compared to 17% in 19790. And the average number of people per household has reduced from 3.1 in 1970 to 2.6 in 1967. As adults continue to live in more diverse situations, their food needs begin to shift. Singletons and couples with no children or small children want meals designed for one or two people instead of the family sized portions for four to six people. Similarly, as older generations because empty nesters or live alongside adult children with their own schedules, meal times shift away from being family affairs. Single-serve foods allow consumers to eat how they want while on the go whether they are looking for a quick snack or an easy meal.

Sustainably single

Orca Bay Seafoods has added single-serve seafood to its product line. The new direct-printed vacuum package eliminates an outer packaging layer, and the packs give consumers the option to buy or consume only a single portion. The line includes 14 different varieties of fish.

Variety is the spice of (single) life

Primeizie Snacks has launched a new line of 1.5-ounce specialty chip snack packages along with the launch of the new flavor, Dolce Caramel & Italian Sweet Cream. The snack packages will come in five flavors including the new one in order to offer consumers on-the-go snack options.