Handy packaging drives snacking mega-trend

Manufacturers must adapt an innovative packaging design and marketing approach to tap burgeoning consumer demand for on-the-go snacking, says report.

In an industry currently worth €66 billion across Europe, Datamonitor pinpoints the consumer trend of flexi-eating as a relatively unexploited area for leading food processors.

The report finds that the European inclination to miss meals and opt for snacks throughout the day is set to rise to 522 billion instances per year in 2009, translating as 1.9 snacks per day per consumer.

But Datamonitor claims although consumers look for convenience and takeaway functionality, they are often deterred from snacking on-the-move because it creates too much mess, is too much trouble to eat or drink and is offensive to other consumers.

These issues need to be addressed to create packaging that reduces mess and provides self-contained snacks and meal replacements specifically for consumption on-the-move.

So far those products doing best are breakfast bars, sandwiches, pies and pasties, and more traditional dried snack foods such as pretzels and crisps - but there is scope for all food manufacturers.

A good example is the fruit trade, which is producing increasingly large amounts in pre-packaged format to take away the peeling and preparation elements.

Daniel Bone, Datamonitor consumer analyst and author of the report, told FoodandDrinkEurope.com: "It's an extremely simple innovation, but it's amazing how lazy consumers can be."

And dairy producers are cottoning on to the trend, for example UK cheese brand Cathedral City has launched a successful Dip & Go product, spending £3.5 million on marketing to position it as a snacking and convenience food.

"What manufacturers need to recognise is that there are a number of important attributes that define a successful product and make on-the-go consumption easier," said Bone.

In most cases the unique selling point is to offer superior packaging functionality and make sure consumers are aware of how this assists on-the-go consumption.

Walkers Shots crisps range failed to take off last year, due to an unclear marketing message and confused target audience. The crisps are packaged in a tube format that empties the contents straight into the mouth.

"The problem with Walkers Shots is that the product was marketed towards young consumers whose hands are tied with ipods and mobile phones. But the adverts didn't focus on the benefits of the packaging," Bone explained.

There is an element of manufacturers being too clever when marketing their imaginative design, rather than focusing on the functionality it brings.

But coupled with the right marketing, innovations such as re-sealable crisp packets and self-warming drinks cans are set to become increasingly popular.

"Latest food innovations around the world are nearly always to do with packaging, making products easier to consume," said Bone.

"Manufacturers have got to think whether their product can be consumed one-handed, and whether packaging causes a mess," Bone said.

The report also identifies hot food-to-go via vending machines as an increasingly profitable possibility, as consumers generally view hot food as more nutritious.

Snacks serving as filling light meals will ultimately have broader occasion applicability as consumers increasingly skip home-based main meals, opting for on-to-go alternatives instead.

Bone cites top US manufacturer Kraft as a forerunner in this category, with its own-brand heating machines that "add credibility to its convenience range and add to the weight of the trend generally."

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