Hitting the sweet spot

28 October 2013

Confectionery is big business in the world of packaging. The need to stand out on the shop shelf means confectionery producers take packaging extremely seriously, often committing significant sums into rebrands and redesigns. For the end user, this represents a major opportunity to take a piece of the packaging pie. Tim Sheahan reports.

The confectionery market represents a significant opportunity for companies operating in the packaging sector. In Europe alone, the sector had total revenues of about €52 billion in 2011 (MarketLine, Nov 2012), a figure that is expected to grow by 2.6% to be worth around €59bn by 2016.

The global appetite for chocolate and other sweet goods shows no sign of slowing down and as a result, manufacturers and suppliers place a particular emphasis on how their product looks when it takes its place on the increasingly competitive shop shelf. Companies recognise that a quality product requires quality packaging if it is to stand out from the competition.

Even the established brands in the confectionery space commit to significant rebrands and redesigns every few years to ensure their product lines stay fresh, while also retaining iconic and recognisable elements that reassure the all-important customer. However, while the sector offers a multitude of opportunities for packaging firms, the food producers want their advertising spend to go as far as it possibly can.

Marketing movement
David Rogers is the founder and creative director of packaging design and branding firm We Are Pure. The company has worked closely with brands such as New Covent Garden Soup Co, Surf and Blockbuster. The Nottingham-based company has also co-coordinated a number of high-profile projects with confectionery brands including Cadbury and Fox's.

According to Rogers, the confectionery sector, among others, has gone through a number of changes since the economic crash.
"I believe the recession has had a part to play in many of the changes I'm seeing," he explains. "Generally clients don't have the budgets these days. So from a marketing perspective they're continually trying to meet objectives with less and less spend.

"Not that we primarily deal with advertising & marketing but it appears that with less money on the table, companies have placed a greater emphasis on the packaging as a brand tool with increasingly more sophisticated ways to engage consumers through the packaging."

Rogers says that the company is often challenged with designing packaging for start-up brands that are launching with little or no marketing spend, or brands that are launching into highly competitive sectors, and have to either find or create an own-able niche within the sector so they stand out.

Economic pressures aside, there is a glut of brands on shop shelves across the land and each of these has a multitude of packaging SKUs, resulting in a very crowded shelf. To stand out, according to Rogers you'd need to be unique which often means being brave.

Retail spotlight
"Today, as the first point of connection between consumers and brands the packaging must work harder. It's not simply a case of shouting louder from the shelf to make yourself heard; treat packaging as a brand tool and find a way to make the brand make sense to the consumer that is connecting and engaging. You need to appeal to your target market with something that resonates with them," he explains.

"That said, the right packaging structure, the right pack shot, the right typefaces are important for mood and tone. And it's worth remembering that some things don't photograph well so it's important to look at illustration or photorealistic imagery to show the product. Children's brands are often best suited to using illustration which allows you to represent things in more surreal ways to create differentiation."

Mark Salisbury, director at Solid Block Design, echoes some of Rogers' sentiments. The graphic design agency works closely with a number of brands, and often packaging producers, to bring to life names such as Nike, BBC and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. According to Salisbury, there are a number of key factors to focus on when creating packaging for a confectionery brand, factors that differentiate it from other parts of the food and drink sector.

"In any packaging project you have to consider how both the graphic design and packaging structure meet the needs of three different people: the brand owner, the retailer and the consumer.

In simple terms, brand owners need a package that protects and sells their product; retailers need a product which also sells and can be easily displayed; and consumers need a package which is appealing and communicates all of the information they need to make a purchase," says Salisbury.

He adds: "The main challenge, from a design perspective, is balancing all of these to produce a package that works for everyone. Other challenges can come from the products themselves.

"For example, items such as confectionery are often easily damaged, either through heat or mistreatment. Therefore careful consideration also needs to be given not just to how products will be displayed, but also how they will be safely transported from the factory to the shop floor."

Strength in depth
And as many companies will attest, the impact of a strong packaging design on a confectionery brand can be huge. The confectionery market, particularly the chocolate market, is saturated, so consumers have a lot of choice.

Packaging is usually the first point of contact a consumer has with a brand. And, often, it's the only opportunity the brand has to make a favourable impression.

Salisbury says: "Successfully communicating brand and product messages and setting the brand apart from competitors is essential. If the packaging doesn't do this, the product will struggle. Confectionery items are predominantly purchased as a treat, usually on impulse.

"As such, packaging needs to focus on the emotional appeal of a product: how will a customer feel about buying and consuming the product? Great confectionery packaging is a design which grabs attention and conveys the joy and pleasure a consumer will derive from the product."

Moving away from the design element of packaging momentarily, a recent study released at Pack Expo Las Vegas by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, revealed that US growth in chocolate sales totalled $12.5 billion, a 3.8% increase over 2011 revenues. Non-chocolate confectionery sales came in at $6.9 billion, representative of 6.4% growth.

The positive knock-on effect of this, aside from an increased need for packaging itself, is an anticipated annual growth of up to 5% in equipment sales for confectionery packaging production.

According to Salisbury, print has become an increasingly competitive environment in the past few years and there is currently a great deal of innovation originating in the sector as a result.

Two areas where several genuinely innovative ideas have begun to be seen are in Near Field Communication (NFC) and Wireless Power (WP).

NFC allows packaging to deliver content to a consumer's phone or tablet purely on the basis of proximity, offering them an enhanced brand and shopping experience. WP, meanwhile, allows small electrical components to be placed in packages, so that they light up.

"Both of these new technologies are really exciting and are set to have a further impact in the coming years," Salisbury explains.
Rogers adds that growth in the packaging production arena will reinforce the shift in emphasis that sees packaging used as a tool to engage the consumer, as the first point of connection between the consumer and the brand.

Today's brand is more than a logo, typeface and style of photography, and this is leading companies to look at the packaging as the advertising. Then it is a matter of how that brand story can be applied to the packaging, within the obvious limitations of space.

"This is where it gets interesting and creatively challenging, because every brand is unique and what you're selling or how that relates to the person you're targeting become the foundations for the creative process," concludes Rogers.

Tangerine confectionery range revamped by BrandOpus

Agency: BrandOpus
Brand: Candyland
Project: BrandOpus was enlisted by independent confectionery manufacturer Tangerine to create a new consumer-facing brand. The aim? To bring together 75 products, differentiate segments and consolidate a portfolio that includes Wham Bars.

"Adopting the single Candyland brand creates a platform for NPD, that allows us to concentrate on what we are best at: innovation and creation of delicious new confectionery," explains Mel Wilson, head of marketing at Tangerine Confectionery. "Ultimately the project that we have undertaken with BrandOpus enables us to extend the portfolio over coming months and years."

Gnaw calls on Solid Block for during identity crisis

Agency: Solid Block Design
Brand: Gnaw
Project: Solid Block was commissioned to help in the chocolate's naming, branding and packaging.

Looking for a point of difference in a crowded premium confectionery market, the company conceived an identity that aimed to communicate a high quality product, in a fun and playful manner. From the name to the packaging and custom illustrations, Solid Block created communications which stand out in a sector that can take itself too seriously.

Director Mark Salisbury says: "We achieved this, and the brand's year on year sales increases are proving that customers like the work too."

We Are Pure confectionery hits the movies

Agency: We Are Pure
Brand: Blockbuster
Project: Just like the movie industry, the confectionery market is a tough business. Pure's creative, fresh approach delivered the brand differentiation Blockbuster needed for success.

Inspired by classic movies genres the designs connected with the consumer on an emotive level, giving the sweets a unique personality and 'A list' shelf appeal.

Creative director David Rogers says: "For Blockbuster sweets the concept links the products to the customer experience. A simple creative leap to make but it results in packaging that is totally unique and perfectly fits the brand."

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