Packaging formats for snacking culture

9 April 2018

Millennials’ ‘grab and go’ lifestyles often fail to leave time for proper meals, which has caused a boom in the snacking industry. Ceri Jones examines the packaging formats that serve this hungry market.

Changing eating habits are making the three-meal day a bonus, rather than the norm. For anyone short of time, preparing and eating a sit-down meal several times a day is not only becoming unrealistic but also – crucially – undesirable.

Dining’s loss is snacking’s gain. According to research from GlobalData, while 61% of consumers say they rely on time-saving products and services, half are also trying to snack less in order to control their weight. As a result, there is a growing demand for nourishing nibbles that address the unhealthy reputation attached to treat foods.

“Globally, snacking culture means consumers are increasingly grazing throughout the day; snack foods and snack-size versions of main meals are replacing traditional meals,” says GlobalData senior consumer insight analyst, Melanie Felgate in her report, ‘Evolving Meal Occasions’.

Felgate explains how younger consumers are increasingly focused on maximising their time at work or play, thereby driving the market for the sort of meal replacement snacks – breakfast biscuits, for example – that had previously been considered an unhealthy and occasional treat, but are now acceptable as a ‘meal’. This on-the-go consumption is creating demand for new, more convenient packaging.

Crunch time

“As snacking becomes an accepted part of the daily eating ritual, there is less distinction between what constitutes a snack food versus a meal,” Felgate says. “Indeed, consumers are now eating snacks in place of meals.”

Larger portions are making treat foods appear more acceptable. Fairfields Farm’s new Heat & Eat potato crisps, which were released in the UK in 2017, are an example of the sort of thing that are designed to exploit the rarity of sit-down meals. These microwaveable crisps, which can also be served cold, come in a 175g bag, of which 125g is crisps and 50g a pot of flavoured dip.

A graphic directs consumers to open the bag along its length, where laser scoring ensures an easy, clean tear. Once heated, the crisps can be served in the bag, with the widest side opening up to enable sharing.

Aimed at the youth market, the pack includes the Shazam logo and a camera icon. Scanning this takes consumers to a webpage containing the ingredients and heating/serving instructions.

Babybel’s new Mini Roules, meanwhile, comprise long strands of cheese have been rolled up into portion-sized wheels that sit in a thermoformed red plastic mini-tray covered by a heat-sealed membrane. The packaging is a film quad-sealed bag with side gussets; the front and back are matte printed with a gloss finish to highlight the Babybel logo and various other design elements.

While the pack is hardly original, choosing a quad bag over the on-brand net – with its connotations of fruit, vegetables and nuts – signals a change in focus for a product that has little to do with health; its flexible bags emulate those of used for crisps.

CaféPod’s UK line of Dolce Gusto-compatible coffee capsules come in a range of supercharger, livewire, double black, intense and decaffeinated, and is aimed at younger consumers who drink coffee to stay energised.

Rather than opt for a paperboard box with pods sat in a frame, these have a ‘grab bag’ style. The metallised film quad-sealed bag is turned 90°, so the printed side gussets become top and bottom of the pack, creating better structure and shelf presence. While most coffee-pod brands use black-silver-gold and earthy colour palettes to suggest a premium product, CaféPod has employed bold oranges, blues and reds to appeal to a younger audience that is accustomed to disposable consumption.

The fun in functional

US-based Farmhouse Culture offers a range of organic vegetable products that have been fermented in a probiotics-infused brine. The sauerkraut variety recently won the World Packaging Organisation’s WorldStar award for its plastic, stand-up pouch with a degassing valve.

While flexible packs with valves have been used in other categories – such as nutritional foods and supplements – this is new for fresh foods. The Ferment-o-vent pack is a resealable stand-up pouch with a press-to-close zip. A transparent back section lets shoppers see the vegetables clearly, to alleviate any concerns over buying a new and unusual product.

Snacking culture means consumers are increasingly grazing throughout the day; snack foods and snack-size versions of main meals are replacing traditional meals.

– Melanie Felgate, GlobalData

Gut health is a big selling point for Farmhouse Culture, which aims to maximise the nutrient content of its vegetables by preserving them in lactic acid solutions containing bacteria. This custom-made pouch is vital to ensuring the microorganisms in the sauerkraut thrive, while keeping the food crunchy. There are several sauerkraut flavour varieties and shredded vegetables, as well as a kimchi made for snacking.

With almost half of US consumers being very, or extremely, concerned about the lack of fruits and vegetables in their diets, organic fermented vegetables offer a convenient way to pack more nutrition into their daily lives as part of meals or snacks. Farmhouse Culture’s director of marketing, Marc McCullagh, says, “Farmhouse Culture is proud to be an innovator within fermented foods and it is very exciting to now be recognised for its packaging innovation as well.

“The stand-up pouch and its Ferment-o- vent help to ensure that the krauts and the live active probiotics from the fermentation process remain happy and taste amazing.”

Sticking with vegetables, the UK’s Florette has solved an age-old problem. UK beetroot packaging hasn’t changed for years and almost all retailers offer cooked beets in a vacuum-sealed plastic film that requires cutting or piercing to open, often leading to a huge mess of liquid that stains skin, clothing and work surfaces. Florette’s new zip-top pouch provides a resealable and mess-free fridge pack.

Stand-up pouches with zips are rapidly growing in popularity, with applications across markets, sectors and categories, from snacks to detergents. The success of this flexible format has made it imperative to introduce safety features, especially in nonfood sectors, where the use of attractive, dynamic designs can make some harmful products look like confectionery.

The stand-up pouch and its Ferment-o-vent help to ensure that the krauts and the live active probiotics from the fermentation process remain happy and taste amazing.

– Marc McCullagh, Farmhouse Culture

Take Procter & Gamble’s Gain Flings, for example. These three-in-one, single-dose laundry pods contain a detergent, cleaner and odour eliminator in a package that looks appealing to young children. Because of this, the company has introduced a childproof zip.

The closure requires several simultaneous gestures and has been tested to ensure young children cannot use it, even when shown how; you line up the slider to a notch on the track line, then slide it across while firmly holding it down. If the slider isn’t pressed down, or is misaligned, the pack will not open.

The demand for convenience requires packaging that is functional and hassle-free. With Smart Cups, a dehydrated drink mix is 3D printed onto the receptacles’ inside surfaces in a honeycomb pattern. When water is poured in, the coating effervesces, mixing the drink, before becoming still to signify it is ready to drink.

The flexible and resealable pouches hold five, ten or 20 plastic cups in a choice of four flavours, and the light overall weight of the products means reduced carbon emissions. With dummy plastic cups at each end of the stack to protect the active ingredients, and the resealable pouch to keep them from drying out, Smart Cups aim to combine nourishment with convenience.

Stand-up examples

Young’s Sea Food has new range of ready meals in oven-friendly, sealed packaging under Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range are aimed at consumers who are reluctant to cook or handle fish. The packs contain a fresh piece of cod or haddock with a flavoured butter or sauce in a flexible Estercook pouch. A transparent window enables busy shoppers to see the food inside, and clearly marked text explains the bake-in-the-bag capability.

The cost-effective packaging is intended to get the best result from the fish by retaining moisture and therefore flavour. The high-barrier film is designed to cope with cooking temperatures of up to 225°C for two hours, and the consumer tears away the top strip when the meal is ready.

“This flexible packaging is ideal for sustainability, as it drives down the weight of plastic,” said Young’s Sea Food packaging development manager Einar Olgeirsson, claiming that its dual-cook options, upright presentation and single-piece packaging is the “ultimate packaging solution”.

Flexible Estercook pouches provide people who lack confidence in their culinary ability, or are reluctant to handle raw foods, an easy way to make themselves a hot meal.
Packs large enough for sharing are encouraging time-poor people to eat things like vegetables fermented in probiotics-infused brine, rather than conventional cooked meals.
Babybel’s new Mini Roules have forsaken the cheese product’s signature net packaging for a bag that closely resembles those used by crisps.

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