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Snack Manufacturers Drive Packaging Innovation

May 30, 2008
Snack food manufacturers are some of the most innovator packagers. Portion control, convenience and sustainability are driving their changes.

Three divergent issues — healthy eating, demand for convenience and sustainability — are motivating new ideas for snack food packaging.

Blue Diamond’s almond package was innovative just on looks. But the company added a transparent strip calibrated in 1-oz. increments down the side of the package to teach consumers how much was one full serving of almonds.

The growing number of single-serving, portion control and easy-to-use and -tote packages is the most noticeable shift. On the sustainability front, snack processors are lightweighting their packaging and focusing on wrapper recycling.

In the nut category, Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento, Calif., is leading the way in packaging innovation. The canister for Blue Diamond Natural Oven Roasted Almonds is portable, offers one-handed opening and has a built-in portion control mechanism.

Describing the development of the package, Blue Diamond Growers marketing manager Maya Brown says, “One of the key drivers was that not a lot of people know how much a serving of nuts is. Typically it’s a handful a day. That’s what drove us to come up with the flip-top lid — you can shake out a handful.”
Further, the package’s full-body shrink label features a transparent, unprinted vertical strip down the side of the package that is calibrated in 1-oz. increments. Consumers can quickly see when they have shaken out one serving, or roughly a handful, of almonds.

Completing the concept, text on the back of the package explains that “a handful of almonds a day is a healthy snacking choice.” In addition to standard nutritional data, percentages of micronutrients such as selenium and copper are included in the Nutrition Facts panel.

Designed to appeal to women, the shapely 8-oz. plastic canister “is an ergonomic package with an hourglass shape designed to fit a woman’s hand,” notes Anna Frolova-Levi, director of marketing at Twinsburg, Ohio-based Weatherchem Corp. The dome-shaped closure, supplied by Weatherchem, extends the curved profile of the container. The shrink label extends over the lid, providing tamper-evidence.

Also with an eye to portion control, Blue Diamond Growers has introduced a 100-calorie bag of almonds. Weighing 0.625 oz., the bags are sold in multipacks of seven.

Likewise, Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, has launched a 100-calorie pack for Pringles Reduced Fat Potato Crisps. The primary package is a plastic tub with foil seal; secondary packaging for the eight-packs is a paperboard sleeve. The packaging is structurally similar to that of Pringles Snack Stacks, a product for on-the-go consumers.

Earlier this year, Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas, introduced 100-calorie packs for two new snacks, Lay’s Cracker Crisps and Cheetos Cracker Trax. The company also added single-serving bags to the line-up for its Flat Earth crisps. The Flat Earth bags are sold in five-packs.

For on-the-go and individual-portion snacking, Sara Lee launched Bites, bite-sized portions of its cheesecake. Eaten right out of the freezer, they borrowed packaging from poppable ice cream snacks.

Sweet snacks also are jumping on the portion-control trend, although they are not necessarily packaged as individual servings. In the frozen food category, Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., launched Sara Lee Bites, a bite-sized version of its cheesecake. A “poppable” snack, Each ready-to-eat “bite” has 20 calories.

Designed to be eaten straight from the freezer, the bites are packed in a recloseable, tapered round paperboard tub. Graphics are livelier than those used on the packaging for full-size Sara Lee desserts to position the product as a snack food and to appeal to children as well as adults. The package holds 7.5 oz., or 40 bites.

The convenience aspect

In many instances, snack processors are targeting both portion control and convenience with a single package design. The Blue Diamond canister and the 100-calorie packs, for example, tuck easily into a gym bag, briefcase, backpack or purse, providing convenient, controlled snacking on the go.

Other package designs focus solely on convenience, with an emphasis on portability. Such is the case with the Cheerios on-the-go pack from Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc., which makes it easier to feed snacks to babies and toddlers away from home.

Holding 1.1 oz. of Cheerios, the refillable plastic jar is topped with a closure that has openings of two sizes for easy dispensing. The package, in Cheerios yellow, fits easily in a handbag, diaper bag or stroller and is merchandised in the baby aisle.

For older snackers, P&G has extended its assortment of on-the-go Pringles packages with the Pringles Grab and Go! can, which holds 1.52 oz. of product vs. 6 oz. in the original can.

Convenience also has come to packaging for snack seeds. With an eye to the special requirements of sunflower seed eaters, Spitz International Inc., Medicine Hat, Alberta, has introduced a sunflower seed package that doubles as a spittoon for seed hulls.

Know your consumer: Spitz International shrink-wraps its sunflower seed package with a wax-lined paper cup that doubles as a spittoon for seed hulls. It fits in car cup holders.

An 8-oz. bag of sunflower seeds is packed in the spittoon — which is a wax-lined paper cup — and the package is shrink wrapped. The spittoon is proportioned for car cup holders.

Spitz is addressing convenience in other ways, as well. “Currently we are the only sunflower seed company that offers resealable packages on all our large single-serve and take-home items,” says Chris Tamillo, national sales manager at Spitz. In addition, “We have expanded our product line to include a 2.25-oz., convenient tube size that fits easily into a briefcase, purse or pocket for today’s on-the-go crowd.”

Green initiatives

Snack processors are taking sustainability to heart in both processing and packaging. Frito-Lay purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset the electricity it uses to produce SunChips snacks in the U.S., and the company uses its packaging to communicate the effort.

Specifically, Frito-Lay includes the Center for Resource Solutions’ Green-e symbol on SunChips packaging to show it supports green energy through the purchase of RECs. SunChips is one of the first national brands in any category to use the symbol on its packaging.

The Frito-Lay RECs are part of the PepsiCo RECs purchase, announced last year, that matches the electricity use of all Frito-Lay U.S.-based facilities, including the manufacturing sites that produce SunChips snacks. (Electricity is one of several energy sources used to produce SunChips.)

Note to Marketing 
The best way to sell some snacks is to let them sell themselves—by making them visible through the package.
Taking this tack with the Balance Organic Bar, which is bursting with chunky ingredients such as soy crisps, nuts and fruit, Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., uses a transparent film to package the bars. The film, supplied by Alcan Packaging, Chicago, provides high optical clarity and robust barrier properties.
A window onto the product also plays a key role in a redesigned club-store package for Crunchmaster Rice Crackers from TH Foods Inc., Loves Park, Ill. In creating the redesign, Design North, Racine, Wis., recognized a window would be an important component of the package because rice crackers are a new category for club stores, and consumers want to know what the product looks like.
Although the packaging puts a strong emphasis on product photography, the window showing the crackers is necessary to fully convey the product’s attributes. “From a textural standpoint, the window delivers. It communicates texture and crispiness that you might not get in the photo,” explains Design North’s president, Lee Sucharda III. “Seeing is believing.”

Other green approaches include lightweighting packaging materials and structures. For the form-fill-seal bags in which it packages its all-natural potato chips, Kettle Foods Inc., Salem, Ore., recently switched from plastic-coated paper to all-polyethylene film bags.

Making packaging more environmentally friendly is difficult for snacks like chips, which require high-barrier, oil-resistant packaging. “You reach a limit where technology puts up the barricade, and this is as green as you can get,” says Jennifer Hauge, Kettle’s marketing communications manager. However, she adds, “We want to be on the forefront of whatever technology exists to have greener packaging.”

Switching to the polyethylene bag, which uses 20 percent less material than the paper-based package, is a step in that direction. “We’ve reduced [the package] on the whole, which is the most we can do in terms of making it greener,” Hauge says. She explains that currently there are no recyclable or biodegradable films that can sufficiently protect the freshness and flavor profile of Kettle chips.

Michael Osborne Design, San Francisco, designs the graphics for Kettle’s packaging, and Printpack Inc., Atlanta, supplies the bags.

Taking a different green approach, Clif Bar & Co. Berkeley, Calif., is sponsoring a program to keep energy bar wrappers out of landfills. Clif Bar has created the initiative, called the Wrapper Brigade, with TerraCycle Inc., Trenton, N.J., which provides wrapper collection and reuse expertise.

Wrapper Brigade participants receive four collection bags that hold 200 energy bar wrappers each. They mail the filled bags back to TerraCycle, designating the charity they want to support with their wrapper donation; the program will donate two cents to charity for every used wrapper. All shipping fees are covered by the program to encourage people to collect as many wrappers as possible.

The collected wrappers will be fused and woven into a material that will be used to make backpacks, gym totes and other products. These items are expected to be available at major retailers by early 2009. Free sign-up for the Wrapper Brigade is available at www.terracycle.net/brigades.

Clif Bar also uses non-toxic inks and recycled-paperboard in its packaging, has eliminated shrink wrap and has developed litter-reducing innovations like the stay-attached tear top on Clif Shot gel packets.

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Whether your interest is packaging (583 articles, 108 news stories, 89 new products and nine white papers) or snack foods (375 articles, 49 news stories, 27 new food products and one white paper), do your searching on www.FoodProcessing.com … where there also is a Resource Center devoted to packaging (see the left navigation bar)

Did you miss last October’s Pack Expo? See our report on all the packaging developments unveiled at the show.

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