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How Our Favorite Snacks Can Survive (Even When They Can’t Be Seen)

by Kirsty Minns on 10/13/2022 | 4 Minute Read

Snacking trends are huge right now. Functional snacks, healthy snacks, snacks-as-meals, protein, plant-based—everything is snacks. Demand in the sector is strong, the entrants are many, and competition is hot and heavy. 

If that wasn’t enough, in the UK, there's an additional challenge; the introduction of new HFSS legislation to restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt in favor of healthier options. Starting this October, snacks ruled as unhealthy will be relegated from prime, impulse-buy positionings, like end-caps and the store entrance. Without a captive audience, they'll need to work much harder to be seen and bought, especially when they can no longer run "buy-1-get-1-free" promotions.

The new government might yet reverse this decision. But whether the legislation lasts or not, the date is a harsh wake-up call for snacking brands. Consumers want healthier snacks, and retailers like the UK's M&S are already ditching sugar and salt from tills and promotions. What's more, economic changes, like squeezed household spending, also affect impulse buying behavior. 

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For snacking brands, they'll need to put some thought into how they can gain more visibility. If a brand can no longer rely on promotional stands, how will they catch consumers' eyes? 

The answer lies in a fundamental fact. When it comes to snacking decisions, taste is the most critical factor. Creating crave appeal via design is a must. It’s time for brands to reconsider every touchpoint and asset to ensure they don’t disappear from view.

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More Sensory Than Ever

Fundamentally, marketers must remember that branding and visual communications should address all of the senses. In a world where digital engagement is driving sensory deprivation, the focus needs to shift from just the product. To successfully evoke crave appeal, everything needs to speak to the sensation of eating—marketers should always ask themselves how a brand can be felt, tasted, and heard, and even how it's seen. 

For most HFSS brands, it’s a whole new way of thinking. Some already do it with their communications—look at the recent billboard from Kind Snacks that lets Londoners pick their own fruit. Ultimately, it’s about bringing this approach into the packaging and realizing that your packaging can communicate so much more than just the product. It’s about considering whether you use gloss and matte or how color and type can tell a distinctive brand story. 

For example, Raw Chocolate Company’s use of typography immediately signals so much, a handmade element and small batch production, which you associate with quality. Meanwhile, Ombar chocolate opts for a craft matte paper, which instantly conveys its natural credentials. It makes you feel it’s the healthier choice than a glossy Cadbury pack, which might speak more to indulgence for a consumer. 

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It's also about realizing that every surface of your brand expression counts. The small interactions people have while opening a pack are all opportunities to initiate a conversation with your consumer. Plastic-fee chewing gum brand Nuud does an exceptional job using tone of voice and every inch of its pack to convey a sense of fun and the philosophy behind its friendly revolution.

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More Fun, More Dynamics

A significant part of that multi-sensory approach is injecting some dynamism. Adding dynamism and movement through design is a great way to offer that sense of fun while upping the crave appeal. 

Cadbury’s 2020 rebrand, for example, leaned into the feel-good aspect of snacking, while the design execution celebrated the smoothness of the pouring chocolate—you can almost feel the taste of the product through the design. In soft drinks, Pepsi does this well. In its recent new campaign and brand world, it drove product craving through sound, movement, playful typography, and hyper-real photography. The work brought the universal drinking rituals and the effervescent energy of the brand to life, drawing in all senses through different mediums.  

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Another good example is Proper Corn popcorn, which highlights the inherent dynamism of its product through its design—the exciting pop transformation of a kernel of corn into a satisfying snack moment. 

Know Your Audience

As well as conveying taste and movement, it’s crucial to consider the people that snack. For example, Gen Z and Millennials snack more than older generations, and in many cases, the traditional three meals a day are getting replaced with "multiple mini meals." Snacks today have more roles to play—they are no longer just an occasional treat. So brands need to know which occasions they want to tap into and how to reflect those through design. 

Belvita, for example, selects design cues depending on the occasion and mindset its different products are looking to cater to. Its breakfast biscuit uses a sunrise motif and colors to represent vitality and morning optimism, with its cardboard packaging referencing the traditional cereal box. Its Protein biscuit, meanwhile, conveys strength and energy through bold fonts and darker colorways, with convenient packaging for on-the-go-energy-fix snacking.

But remember, crave appeal, dynamism, and tactility are key. But if you’re unclear on your overall brand viewpoint, you’re fighting a losing battle. Knowing your aesthetic DNA is the most vital driver of desire. Understanding your position in the market and what makes you stand apart—and being unafraid of having a single-minded point of view—is crucial to surviving. 

After all, that drives an ongoing connection with the consumer and will ultimately ensure you will always be seen.