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Why Flavor and Packaging Innovation Matters When Marketing to Millennials

Jeff Fromm | Forbes

Posted: 11/17/17

Why Flavor and Packaging Innovation Matters When Marketing to Millennials

We’ve all been guilty of grabbing a snack here and there between meals while at the office (Company Kitchen, anyone?). This is particularly true of Millennials, who spend more money on snacks than any other generation.

But, upon closer inspection, those “snacks” that tide us over don’t necessarily fit into the traditional framework of what is typically considered a snack. What about that leftover dip from last night’s Happy Hour? Or homemade dried fruit from the latest Pinterest diet? More and more often, items that round out the traditional food groups are joining the chips, crackers and candy we expect. This perfectly delineates the new snacking culture that exists in today’s market.

Snacking is more than snacking — it is the new way of eating.

In fact, more than 50% of all eating occasions each day are considered snacking, and 94% of all Americans snack at least once per day, according to Mintel. This is driving significant growth in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) space, representing billions of potential dollars for brands.

Yet, many brands are not focusing on what matters most to today’s snackers: flavors and need-states.

“Today’s modern consumer defines flavor on how all the components of a product work together: where it comes from, how it was made, how it looks in or on packaging, aroma, texture and taste,” said Chad Nicholson, VP and Business Strategy Director at Barkley. “They also want products that fit the full context of their snacking occasions. The most successful brands deliver on all of the above, thus creating a true eating experience.”

Halen Brands, Inc. is a brand that understands this bigger picture when it comes to consumer snacking occasions. I spoke with Halen’s co-founder and CEO, Jason Cohen, to learn more.

Jeff Fromm: What new flavor trends do you see in food?

Jason Cohen: Millennials grew up with more complex flavor palates beyond the traditional tastes of chocolate, vanilla and honey, so we will see an uptick in global flavors. People are looking to push the button on hot flavor profiles, multiple flavors merging together and more culinary influence. Specific flavor trends are unique to the category, and you are going to see more premium flavors. For instance, in the frozen dessert aisles you are seeing maple, pecan bourbon, and in the baby food aisle, chicken, tarragon and thyme together.

Fromm: What’s the role of packaging in creating authentic connections with consumers?

Cohen: Packaging is extremely important for several reasons. One way is that unique packaging design enables a social media play, because Millennials are taking photos of every aspect of their lives, including the food they eat. Design and style in product packaging is an extension of who they are.

Another role that packaging plays is aligning with personal identity. We’ve seen it firsthand, with the products Halen has either created or helped establish. With Skinny Pop, our packaging conveys a message that the consumer can feel comfortable eating the popcorn and no one is going to make them feel uncomfortable about eating the bag because it’s “skinny.” With CORE water, the uniqueness of the bottle provides a sense of empowerment when carrying it. Pop Chips really changed the game on packaging design. The goal was to make a woman feel confident pulling it out of her designer bag; the idea was to make it just another accessory.

Nowadays, the less medicinal and authentic the food feels to the consumer, the greater chance a consumer will purchase it. To many people, food, and the packaging, defines who they are. A person engages with a product because it makes them look unique and it’s a self-reflection of who they are, whether caring about the environment, supporting companies who give back or focusing on artisan products versus mainstream processed brands.

Fromm: Given the snacking culture we see as the new normal, how can brands better meet consumer needs?  What are some key insights you can share about snacking culture?

Cohen: Snacking culture has become the new norm because we are so busy and overscheduled as a society. Kids are running between school, sports, homework, and even Snapchatting. They need on-the-go snacks that parents know are providing them with essential nutrients they need in between meals. With adults, the lunch hour has disappeared. Snacks have taken on a role where you can have multiple options in a day and not feel full, but know you are fueling your body properly throughout. Because of this, we’ve seen a rise in protein-packed snack options, including jerky and cheese chips, which provide nutrients to keep you satisfied and fuel you through the day.

Fromm: How do you evaluate the tradeoffs between healthy and flavorful?

Cohen: There’s no bigger disappointment for people when they feel good about a purchase and then the taste is disgusting. Snacks that succeed on the retail shelf need a flavor profile that everyone will enjoy.

Even though many people know that “better for you” food is the right approach, they don’t want to sacrifice taste for functionality. If you are solely focused on developing healthy, functional foods without prioritizing taste, you’re going to have very short-term customers, due to low repeat. I won’t make foods if my kids won’t eat it — it’s the best taste test for me.

Fromm: What’s the best process for bringing timely innovative ideas to the shelf?

Cohen: Talking with progressive retailers about their needs is an important strategy in bringing innovative ideas to shelves. They’re seeing thousands of new products a day and have a strong sense of what will sell. If you incorporate their insights into your development, there is a better chance of securing shelf space in their stores.

At Halen, we implement this process in-house. When our teams are sitting in front of a retailer, we go in with a concept that hasn’t been finalized and have everyone, from our creative designer to our R&D teams, on call so we can implement their feedback in real time. We hear from retailers what is impacting their business at the time and what consumers are looking for within stores. This real-time approach, and making the necessary adjustments on the spot versus spending dollars to stay in a category, is more beneficial for us — and more importantly, the retailer.

 

 

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