Is portion control the key to stopping the obesity epidemic? Many bakers think so, and are launching new products designed to satisfy the two most dominant trends in the food industry: health and convenience.
And it’s not just bakers putting an emphasis on portion control. Last year, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to request comments on whether to amend certain provisions of labeling regulations concerning serving size. Among the questions asked in the ANPRM is whether to "require food packages that can reasonably be consumed at one eating occasion to declare the whole package as a single serving." The answer to this question could have a severe impact on many bakery foods. Many of the industry’s products, such as muffins and bagels, would be forced to change serving sizes, which may negatively impact consumers’ perceptions of the healthfulness of the products.
The debate over serving size and portion control has been detailed thoroughly in numerous surveys and studies too. A recent study from Cornell University found that portion size influences intake just as much as taste. As part of the study, participants were given varying sizes of stale popcorn. Study results showed that consumers ate 34% more stale popcorn in big buckets compared to stale popcorn in medium-size containers.
One of the biggest success stories of the portion-control debate has been the slew of 100 calorie packs launched by cookie and cracker manufacturers. Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., was one of the first bakers out of the gate with bite-sized versions of its traditional products. Shortly after Kraft Foods’ 100 calorie pack debuted, other bakeries launched similar products.
Although these products are boosting sagging cookie and cracker sales, manufacturing modifications are necessary. To produce bite-size cookies and crackers, bakers need to make few changes to the front end of the production line. However, the packaging of these morsels requires innovative technology often used in the salted snack industry. Instead of tray and carton packaging systems, bite-size cookies and crackers are packaged mainly using horizontal-motion conveyors and vertical form/fill/ seal machines.
One equipment manufacturer’s horizontal motion conveyor uses servo drives to give bakers more control over the motion of their products. Programmable logic controllers allow bakers to set specific transfer speeds and eliminate product damage caused by excessive movement.
Horizontal motion conveyors transfer bite-size cookies to vertical form/fill/seal machines for packaging. When installing this type of packaging system, bakers must install a system that keeps up with production speeds and is flexible enough to accommodate changing consumer trends. One equipment manufacturer’s system attains speeds as great as 220 bags per minute. The system accommodates an assortment of packages, including pillow, gusseted, quattropak, block bottom, string, satchet, Euroslot/round hole and multi-packs.
Although manufacturing portion-controlled cookies and crackers will require packaging investments, these products are reversing declining sales trends and bringing innovation back to the cookie and cracker categories. Portion control is on the front lines of the obesity fight, and bakers can take advantage of this trend by turning small products into big profits.
Problem Solver Quick Tip
Although manufacturing portion-controlled cookies and crackers will require packaging investments, these products are reversing declining sales trends and bringing innovation back to the cookie and cracker category.