Consumer Habits Lead to Growing Opportunities in Snack Food Packaging
The on-the-go lifestyle of today’s consumer has been well-documented and is having an impact across several industries. But in the food and beverage markets, the pace at which today’s consumers move throughout their days has contributed to the rise of snacking — which often occurs in lieu of a traditional meal. Because snacks are frequently the fuel behind this lifestyle, an opportunity has emerged in the packaging industry to find ways to create snack food packaging in convenient formats with clear communication elements for the consumer on the move.
Keep it Clean and Clear
While packaged snack food may still carry a connotation of sweet, salty and largely unhealthy, these on-the-go consumers that are replacing meals with snacks are seeking out nutritious options that still provide the sustenance they need throughout the day. Packaging designs can play a significant role in communicating the nutritious aspects of a snack food item, while standing out from the packaging of less healthy options.
According to market intelligence agency Mintel, the millennial generation that is leading this charge for fresh and healthy foods can be drawn back in toward the center of the grocery store via strategically designed packaging using transparent materials, modern designs, recyclable attributes and innovative structures. Part of the design strategy that Mintel states will speak to consumers in the coming year, is the use of “essentialism.” This design principle provides the consumer with the information they need and nothing extraneous, which could lead to an information overload.
Much like their on-the-go lifestyles, consumers don’t want to waste time sorting through information they don’t need when selecting a product. Using a package to highlight a product’s key attributes, such as main ingredients, where they’re sourced from, or other key benefits can catch a consumer’s eye. Additionally, using simple graphics that express freshness and health can cut away from the clutter.
Snack Food Packaging to Match the Lifestyle
As consumers progress through their days, snacking can often occur simultaneously with their various daily activities — shopping, working, driving, etc. Because of this, packaging that offers ease of use and can be easily discarded will be advantageous. For example, stand up pouches and other flexible packaging formats have created ways for consumers to have a snack and reseal the package for later. Additionally, for dairy items like yogurt, pouches provide an opportunity to consume a healthy snack on-the-go, without needing a utensil.
With the advent of pouch closures that toddlers and children can operate, this allows for even less interruption for a parent on the move, as this type of packaging makes it possible for a child to safely feed themselves.
Though flexible packaging receives a great deal of attention for the convenience factors it brings to snacking, there is opportunity in other packaging segments as well. For example, as reported in packagePRINTING’s 2017 State of the Folding Carton Industry report, the rise of single-serve snacks in flexible pouches has led to opportunity in the carton segment. Because consumers want to be able to easily start their day by grabbing a pouched food item to accompany them, they are often purchased in multipacks. This then provides an opportunity for folding carton converters to provide the primary, consumer-facing packaging that contains the multiple pouches within.
Major Food Industry Players Take Notice
As consumers’ desire for healthier snack options grows, so has their interest in supporting craft or boutique producers. The craft beer movement often garners the most attention, but the rise of independent snack food manufacturers offering benefits like “organic,” “natural” and “local ingredients,” has given shoppers more choice at the grocery store.
With several major acquisitions over the past few years — including significant moves from The Hershey Co. and the Campbell Soup Co. announced on December 18 — it’s clear that the big players in snack food are catching onto this trend.
These December acquisitions consisted of Hershey acquiring Amplify Snack Brands and Campbell Soup acquiring Snyder’s-Lance. The Hershey acquisition is particularly intriguing, as most of Amplify’s brands (Skinny Pop, Oatmega, Paqui) express some type of healthy or natural attribute. Given Hershey’s status as the premier chocolate and candy company in the U.S., this expansion into health-conscious snack food certainly demonstrates an awareness of these consumer trends. From the press release:
Amplify's brands compete in many attractive food categories that are capitalizing on fast-growing trends in snacking with a focus on better-for-you products that deliver clean, simple and transparent ingredients as well as unique flavors and forms.
The Campbell Soup acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance is also interesting in that it brings the company beyond canned soup and into a different segment of the food market altogether. The Snyder’s-Lance brand portfolio is not solely dedicated to healthy or natural-focused brands, but the acquisition does demonstrate that the Campbell Soup company is aware that it needs to look beyond soups made at home into the world of more portable eating options.
There are many more beyond these two acquisitions, however. According to this article from The Balance, several other health-conscious snack brands have been acquired in recent years. Here’s a sample:
- J.M. Smucker acquired Sahale Snacks in 2014
- Snyder’s-Lance acquired Diamond Foods in 2015
- American Halal acquired Mediterranean Snacks in 2015
- Mondelez International acquired Enjoy Life Foods in 2015
- General Mills acquired Annie’s Homegrown in 2014
What Converters Can Do
It’s clear that consumers have spoken and that this snacking trend with a healthy or natural twist isn’t going away. Brands will be demanding packaging they can use to help their products stand out, and converters can play a significant role in making that happen.
The Mintel trends express the importance of essentialist design in packaging, ensuring the consumer is not confused or overwhelmed by too much information on the packaging. Suggesting to brands that they only include the most important information on their packaging or labels can help them in the decluttering process. Even if their product offers several benefits and advantages, selecting the few most important bits of information and discarding or deemphasizing the rest will make that package more inviting for consumers.
However, just because consumers have shown to positively react to these essentialist or clean designs, it does not mean that brands cannot benefit from the use of eye-catching colors and finishing techniques. According to a recent article from Ray Cheydleur, portfolio manager for printing and imaging products, for X-Rite Pantone, the use of foils, varnishes and intense colors, whether they be solid, fluorescent or iridescent, can create the differentiation brands need on shelf.
While the booming number of snack food brands all have different messaging to express, helping them find a way to catch the consumer’s eye with color, but not overwhelm them with extraneous information, should be a strategy converters can leverage to make the most of this growing snacking trend.
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