Sanet Yelland
Sanet Yelland

Single servings: Consumption behaviour opportunity

by Sanet Yelland. The different usage and target market opportunities that exist in single-serves linked to lifestyle occasions and shifting life-stage preferences in consumers

by Sanet Yelland. Single-serve formats for smaller consumption opportunities is not a new thing. Marketers have always sought to bring about innovation and trial in innovative formats to attract new shopper segments and engage trial in categories based on consumption new need states.

What has, however, become of increasing importance and focus is the different usage and target market opportunities that exist in single-serves linked to lifestyle occasions and shifting life-stage preferences in consumers. Many consumers are actively choosing portion control and limiting the amount of consumption in various categories, like the less alcohol versus no alcohol drinking trend. With so many new post-pandemic behaviour shifts in play, we explore the role that single-serve formats and smaller portions can re-stimulate product categories and shape even further shopper demand for products across various market segments.

Owning new trial micro-occasions

With an impetus on finding mini moments or non-traditional micro-moments that brands can play a role in, small format and single-serve products allow a seamless tap into this world. Consider the example of how self-care has taken centre stage across many beauty care brands and the rise of single curated subscription boxes. The goal is to combine various single product items into a thematic experience and allow consumers to explore the products to provide an overall end benefit.

The beauty with small curated boxes is that they allow new products and formats into play for richer experimentation and trial without the full commitment or risk in purchasing a larger format, but also goes a long way to keeping these categories fresh and exciting with new product introductions seasonally.

New convenience target audience reach

While on-the-go (OTG) formats in breakfast cereals are not new, the opportunity to capitalise on this single-serve OTG convenience lies in adding more benefits and product innovation into smaller offerings. Think product infused with vitamins and minerals, plant infused benefits and even mood-enhancing flavours. The compelling trigger for shoppers is the size appeal for trial; and marketers a great way to test innovation in flavours/variants/added benefits.

Limited edition collectable sets

Who doesn’t love a good spoil with an advent calendar from leading brands? From mini fragrances, gin flavours and even jewellery accessories, advent calendars are great examples of smaller formats packaged incredibly well as seasonal gifting drives to stimulate trial and awareness across various products ranges. In this case, small carries the appeal of perceived ‘getting more’ value by exposing shoppers to the broader range, and allowing retailers and brands to bring more sensory cues to categories and shopping experiences overall. These mini calendar solutions also represent higher margins for retailers, given impulse shopping behaviour.

Competitor differentiation

Benefit Cosmetics has developed a unique smaller range called Benefit Mini’s to differentiate products in small and compact uniqueness. Barring the opportunity to become perfect OTG and travel size convenience must-haves for all occasions, it allows the brand to own Mini’s as the go-to destination for product trials and innovations.

Product safety in small formats

Evielab CBD-supplement maker in Los Angeles designed those characteristics into the ‘doser stick’ packaging for its new solid, sublingual CBD micro-pearls, which launched during Covid. Xavier Suid, Evielab’s owner, said, “The doser stick distributes pearl by pearl. You just need to twist [the dispenser end] a quarter, and the pearl arrives, avoiding finger contact. We were ready before the context of the virus.” The pocket-sized package is made from transparent pharmaceutical-grade plastic. Evielab colour-codes the doser sticks and accompanying blister cards by the desired effect to differentiate the eight SKUs, including Immunity, Relax, Sleep, and Relief to drive shopper need states.

Affordability through trial

Often shoppers are hesitant to shell out on higher spend without guaranteeing that a new product will work for them. The commitment on a full size may be too high to risk disappointment. Single-serves can overcome this barrier by being smaller and more affordable, stimulating new trials from new shoppers and bringing excitement back into categories.

Key learnings

What we can learn and apply from these shifts in consumption:

  • Bigger is not always better.
  • Small can be aspirational to brand building.
  • Single-serves can drive overall basket size.
  • Engage test and learn product concepts with single-serves.
  • Retailer differentiation with OTG.
  • New categories can be shaped.
  • Single-serves drive more impulse shopper behaviour.

The key takeout for brands, marketers and even consumers, is that smaller has its perks when used correctly and cleverly to stimulate more interest in brands and categories; gain new target shoppers with improved innovations; provide more accessible solutions to your portfolio; and test portfolios and learn exciting innovations.


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Sanet Yelland is the CEO and founder of Streamline Advertising, a full service agency. She has worked across the industry for 30 years, on clients within financial services, wholesale, retail, FMCG and government sectors on notable brands, including Massmart, Dis-chem, SAA, City of Johannesburg, Nedbank, Absa Bank, and Pick ‘n Pay (Score Supermarkets and RiteValue brands). Yelland started the Young Community Shapers initiative in 2000. This project acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing funding, bursaries, and mentorship.


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