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Why the Fastest Growing Snack Brands Design Radical Packaging

By Matt Crave

Snacking is currently the greatest driver of growth for the entire CPG industry. With 94% of Americans snacking at least once per day, it’s obvious why the snack category is so competitive, especially for better-for-you snack brands who are competing in a category dominated by conventional brands like Doritos, Pringles, Chex Mix and Cheetos.

A big reason for this growth is Millennials. They’re the consumer segment that every snack brand wants to attract and engage because they’re the biggest snacking generation of all time. Millennials are also the driving force behind healthy snacking going mainstream. They eat better-for-you snacks more often throughout the week than any other group. A recent study states that 55% of Millennials ate at least three better-for-you snacks in the past week alone. It should come as no surprise that the fastest growing snack brands have the clean labels and short ingredient lists that millennials expect from products.

So what does all of this have to do with the upside of radical packaging and fast growing snack brands? In a word—everything. In addition to the major role packaging plays to help brands stand out on shelves and beyond, 62% of millennials state that packaging and product labels influence their snack-purchasing decision

The Case for Radical

To win the hearts, minds, and taste buds of Millennials and other conscious snackers, the packaging needs to be radical. We believe that radical packaging should be:

  • Unique but not a freak
  • Confidently iconic
  • Visually delicious
  • Pragmatically organized
  • Creatively expressive of the brand promise

A radical packaging strategy is a gateway to new relationships with conscious consumers. Once snack brands achieve great flavor and have all the better-for-you and product-innovation boxes checked, they can become laser focused on creating an awesome brand experience. That experience will improve their success rate and build relationships within the largest snacking generation of all time. When in the hands of talented packaging designers, a radically-designed snack brand can make the first move with consumers by attracting attention to their brand character and personality.

Simplify + Amplify

Better-for-you snack brands have a plethora of messages to deliver and only a few seconds to tell their story. When not handled well, better-for-you snack packaging can lose track of its story with too many design elements fighting for attention.

Like an overly chatty stranger, a busy, disorganized snack package is a time waster. Successful snack brands have iconic packaging that attracts attention in a crowded category and organizes all of its messages so that consumers can easily find them.

To achieve best-in-class packaging, it’s imperative to simplify messages like organic, non-gmo, gluten-free and vegan down to the bare essentials. This is easier said than done, but preliminary consumer research can inform this process of elimination. “A menagerie of ingredient certifications is akin to over accessorizing. Learn what attributes are important to your target consumer, allow those to shine, and contain the rest.” states June Hope De La Mora, a brand strategist for the natural products space and consulting partner for The Movitz Group.

Late July Snack’s packaging for their Jalapeno Lime tortilla chips is a great example of a strong brand presence on shelf. It features a few certifications while creating an iconic look. The designers used a monochromatic color tactic—dark green on bright green that presents the icons as supporting cast to the leading roles of brand, product name, nongmo and organic messaging. It’s a clever tactic that big conventional food brands use to hide less attractive claims and FDA-required ugly-parts on the primary display panel.

Good Enough to Eat

Healthy snacks were rarely known for tasting delicious until Millennials came along. They’re the generation that expects healthy foods to taste not just good, but just as good as more traditional snacks. According to a national study by Amplify Snack Brands, Better-For-You Snacks: The New Snacking Reality, 89% of Millennials select taste as their highest priority in choosing a snack. Investing in mouth-watering packaging visuals is a necessity for making consumers believe your product will be a taste sensation.

Paying a little more to secure top-notch food photographers and stylists has paid off big time for our clients here at Freshmade. Having worked with successful grocery brands and major retailers like Publix, we’ve established close, long term relationships with some of the best food photographers and stylists in the country. For our client Annie Chun’s, we paired delicious-looking images with the new design system to highlight the product’s taste appeal. This paid off with a 27% lift in sales—in a previously flat category—within the first 6 months.

How delicious do your flavor visuals look compared to your primary competitors? Do Millennials find them to be appealing? Sometimes, all a brand needs to grow their trial-rate is to increase their taste appeal with professionally-styled photography or custom illustrations that attract consumers’ mental taste buds. In the recent study Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation, we learn that our brain and visual system development is intimately linked to the acquisition of food. The results of the study show dramatic physiological and neurophysiological changes in response to food images. The best better-for-you snack brands understand that healthy food brands need to look as delicious as their traditional junk-food snacking competitors.

Brand Personality & Visual Voice

Now that better-for-you snacks are going mainstream, the competitive set includes more conventional, mainstream snack brands than ever before. Top performing snack brands like Doritos, Pringles, Chex Mix and Cheetos may not be clean label snacks or better-for-you but they have earned prime real estate in the minds of consumers through heavy investment in advertising. These conventional snack brands have strong name recognition, iconic visual identities, and a big brand feel that have been reinforced with clever marketing campaigns for generations.

Better-for-you snack brands that strike the right balance with their packaging between disruption and relevance are winning the Millennial prize. One of the fastest growing better-for-you snack brands right now is Hippeas. In less than 3 years they are on track to become a $100 Million snack brand. Livio Bisterzo, the founder of Hippeas, knows all too well that it’s not enough to have a better-for-you product. “This is not my first rodeo in natural foods. I really wanted to build a brand that made sense and that had that big brand feel from the get go,” Bisterzo said. “I think in today’s fast growing, natural food industry, consumers want more than just a product innovation. If you can add real brand story to it, and real emotionality, that’s how it works… That’s what happened with Hippeas, the brand story was as strong and relevant as the product innovation.”

Finding the Answers

At the end of the day, all better-for-you snack brands face the same questions: How do we attract and engage more Millennials? How do we differentiate against conventional and better-for-you competition? How can our packaging amplify taste and flavor? How can we creatively express our brand promise? Packaging that answers most of these questions is good; packaging that answers all of them is radical.


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