KANSAS CITY, MO — The American diet has changed drastically over the past 50 years. Gone are the days when three square meals were the standard. With today’s active lifestyles and varied diet preferences, what the average person eats in a day is anything but one-size-fits-all. Perhaps that’s why portion sizes are no longer standard as bakers offer more diverse portion options to reflect this shift.

Single-portion and individually wrapped items are in greater demand as the trends toward higher-quality desserts and smaller sizes continue. Pillsbury recently introduced Single-Serve Brownies to help foodservice operators tap into that need. They come in Molten Chocolate Ganache and Molten Caramel varieties and are baked in craft paper liners that give a more premium “made-in-house” appearance.

According to the “2022 Life Through the Lens of Bakery” study from the American Bakers Association (ABA), 64% of shoppers make room in their budgets for an occasional baked treat. Betsy Kelly, consumer insights associate for the bakery channel at General Mills Foodservice, said indulgence is one of the key trends driving innovation.

“Everyone needs a moment of reprieve; a moment to indulge themselves,” Kelly said. “Baked goods are often a delicious and approachably priced way to indulge. Combine that with an individually portioned product, and you check the box for a balanced diet as well.”

Affordability, freshness and more adventurous eating are a few of the other factors sparking consumer desire for smaller or individually packaged bakery items, according to Kelly.


“An individually packaged item allows consumers to purchase just the amount they need,” she said. “It allows them to consume the product while it’s fresh. Individual items also allow consumers to try a greater variety of items, with a smaller commitment to one flavor or variety.”

Recent research from Rich Products confirms that line of thinking. A sentiment tracking survey found that smaller and more affordable products like cookies, cake slices and morning sweets can lower purchase barriers and encourage personal indulgence, exploration and more. A complementary shopper segmentation study from Rich’s identified a segment of consumers it calls “Special Treat Seekers,” people who look for value and find that fresh items from the bakery can feel special. For this group, there is increased interest in smaller-sized options in baked goods that emphasize value.

Los Angeles-based Otis Spunkmeyer, an Aspire Bakeries brand, is innovating similarly in this space. It recently debuted a 3-ounce individually wrapped brownie geared toward foodservice, in-store bakeries, c-stores and vending.

Paul Stippich, director of marketing for Otis Spunkmeyer, underscored the importance of quality when it comes to individually packaged products — especially those looking to capitalize on consumers looking to indulge.

“We see the willingness to spend on single-serve bakery items diminish when the options for impulse purchases are low-quality choices,” Stippich said.

“Everyone needs a moment of reprieve; a moment to indulge themselves. Baked goods are often a delicious and approachably priced way to indulge.” — Betsy Kelly | consumer insights associate, bakery channel | General Mills Foodservice


More active lifestyles, on-the-go eating occasions and the expanded role of snacking — or “snackification” of the American diet — are also key factors impacting innovation in portion sizes and what kinds of foods best lend themselves to smaller or single-serve iterations.

“Bakery products that have a sturdy structure, are handheld and leave minimal mess make for great single-serve items,” Kelly said. “Nobody wants their baked good to fall to crumbs in their lap or leave their fingers sticky. Brownies and bars fit all these requirements.”

Stippich echoed this notion, sharing that oftentimes, on-the-go consumers who want a sweet treat will look to single-serve bakery products such as cookies and brownies.

“For consumers who are looking for single-serve portions for other reasons — to pack in a lunchbox, to practice portion control, or to eat in a setting where a fork or spoon is handy or
where crumbs won’t matter — muffins, loaf cakes, pies, cakes, pastries and parfaits all have a place as a single-serve,” he said.

According to Mondelez International’s “2022 State of Snacking” report, 61% of consumers already take the time to portion treats before eating them, and 78% say they take time to savor indulgent snacks, suggesting plenty of opportunity to expand product offerings in this area of permissible indulgence.


“True indulgence continues to outpace the other snacking segments, particularly in better-for-you/wellness and permissible indulgence,” said Christine Cochran, SNAC International president and CEO, during an August 2023 webinar hosted by ABA and SNAC International. The webinar also cited Circana data indicating 62% of consumers want snacks to be fun and indulgent.

Multipacks and variety SKUs may also offer bakers a way to tap into the snacking behaviors of consumers. Per Circana data, 49% of shoppers seek multipacks, with 32% noting they like them for portion control and 29% reporting they prefer them for less food waste.

Although 100-calorie packs are nothing new — they were launched by Kraft in 2004 — bakers still innovate in the space with new SKUs that reflect this ongoing consumer demand. For example, Pasadena, CA-based Nature’s Bakery recently released Fig Bar Minis, a 100-calorie
snack-size version of its classic bar.

This story has been adapted from the April | Q2 2024 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.