As the consumption of confectionery and bakery products continues to rise, consumers not only want to be wowed by taste, but they are becoming choosier about their packaging, according to Sascha Rentzing, Packaging and Processing, Messe Düsseldorf.
Nestlé's "YouTube my Break"
Packaging chocolate and snacks in appetizing wrappers and allowing the product to speak for itself is no longer enough. To entice the consumer, manufacturers need to dig deeper into their box of tricks to target the latest trends, such as fun videos and commercials for their products, he said.
One of the pioneers of ‘snackertainment’, in which the real and the digital worlds merge, is Nestlé. In a marketing campaign with Google, it integrated the red rectangular wrappers of “have-a-break” KitKat with printed QR codes that take consumers to a “YouTube my Break” channel.
What makes the campaign different is the KitKat logo has been removed from its central position on the wrapper and replaced by YouTube.
Google’s Android operating system, in the wake of Cupcake, Donut, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, was given a brand name in the shape of KitKat for the first time in history.
In this way, Nestlé is underlining something that experts and studies have repeatedly found: that the package is of supreme importance today in communicating the brand – particularly in the confectionery sector, claims Rentzing.
“With increasing product diversity, competition is getting tougher. If you want success on the confectionery market, you have to present your product well,” said Torben Erbrath, director, BDSI (German Confectionery Industry Association).
This applies all the more as the selection of sweets and bakery products at the point of sale is growing.
Existing products with traditions going back many years are being supplemented by sugar-free or sugar- and fat-reduced confectionery. The range of confectionery suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets is also on the increase.
Confectionery that is gluten- or lactose-free, halal or kosher can be found in almost any supermarket.
BDSI claims the snack sector is growing in diversity with a huge variety of flavors – whether in nuts, deep-fried or baked salty snacks.
“Thanks to this vast diversity, there’s a matching product for every consumer,” added Erbrath. “The package paves the way into the shopping trolley.”
Packaging designers are faced with a difficult task because they now have to publicize the snack with memorable slogans across all possible media and showcase it on the shelves with attention-grabbing colors and shapes.
However, making excessive use of materials and resources does not go down well with the consumer.
“Customers are attaching growing importance to keeping their ecological footprint as small as possible. And they have a strong desire for healthy, ultra-fresh foods that come in high-convenience and attractive packages,” said Andreas Steinle, head researcher, Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute), a think tank for trend and future research.
The cost of raw materials such as milk, cocoa and sugar, energy and packaging materials is also steadily rising.
To attract consumers who want sustainably produced goods and prevent the cost of materials and production from spiralling out of control, industry has no alternative but to economize on materials and avoid excessively extravagant packages while reducing energy input in production.
Pacproject was tasked to look at Corny muesli bar wrappers and discovered the product’s aluminium barrier film wrapper has been steadily reduced in the last 30 years and replaced by a composite barrier material – without detriment to the product.
“Even without full barrier protection, the Corny bar was still in a very good qualitative condition at the end of its sell-by date. This raised the question whether the cereal bar actually needs the level of protection and barrier effect provided by current films,” said Alexander Witt, packaging engineer, pacproject.
Alternatives to classical packaging materials like aluminium and plastics are already making increasing inroads into the marketplace. For example, under its Greenbox label, Bionatic has developed its first range of 250 types of packaging using renewable or recycled resources such as wood, cellulose, bioplastics and palm leaf.
“A single leaf is converted into a package by first cleaning it with a high-pressure water jet. And then it is molded on exposure to heat in a mechanical press. So it’s a kind of deep-drawing process. This is followed by finishing in which the edges are smoothed and the surfaces polished,” said Robert Czichos, founder, Bionatic.
Meanwhile, scientists are searching for further alternative materials. In the context of its ThermoWhey project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) is working on a production process for barrier coatings made of whey protein capable of replacing conventional oil-based polymer coatings.
The advantage of whey is its ingredients are naturally capable of extending the shelf life of foods. However, whey is heat-sensitive, so researchers first have to find a coating formulation that can be processed at high temperatures.
More than 2,700 exhibitors are expected to attend Interpack 2017 in Düsseldorf (May 4-10) and some 1,000 of these have named the confectionery industry as a target group for their products and services.
According to Vera Fritsche, consultant for packaging machinery, VDMA, (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association), there is still plenty of room for optimization in confectionery production.
“Intelligent control and automation technologies and energy-efficient drives, compressors, fans and pumps are some of the classical solutions for saving electricity and other resources and boosting energy-efficiency,” she said. “Efficient motors perfectly adapted to machine movements and acceleration processes reduce power consumption."
“Innovative and optimized processes cut the consumption of energy and water, while machine designs extend service and maintenance intervals and service life and save energy.”
Swiss plant manufacturer Bühler has set itself the goal of reducing energy consumption in all of its core processes by a further 20% by 2020.
“This way, we can both raise the energy-efficiency of our products and do our bit for environmental protection at the same time,” said Ian Roberts, chief technology officer, Bühler.
He sees a central aspect in productivity – by shortening cycle times, for example.
Additionally, Bühler is redoubling its efforts to improve the energy efficiency of existing customer installations. Because of the numerous process steps such as cleaning, roasting, debacterizing, crushing and grinding the cocoa beans, chocolate manufacture is highly complex and costly.
Bühler pledges to slash energy costs in cocoa processing by 65% if customers make use of the company’s free energy audit and adopt its shell burning technology.
The audit is used for tracking down energy leaks in the production process. As an alternative to the direct disposal of the shells, the combustion system exploits the energy obtained from the shells for roasting and debacterizing, so no heating energy has to be bought in.
Theegarten-Pactec is pushing ahead with machinery that helps customers cut their costs with Industry 4.0 - the digitalization of production and streamlined human-machine and machine-machine communication with its software.
“Making production processes transparent, keeping key data retrievable at all times, analyzing them correctly and deciding on the appropriate course of action holds great potential for boosting efficiency,” said Markus Rustler, managing partner, Theegarten.
The company started to overhaul its user interface and the associated data processing for the machine operator and management in 2011.
“We have created a platform that makes the performance of our systems more transparent. For example, it is possible to establish correlations between efficiency losses and time, ambient temperature or other parameters. And this helps operators to track down errors and to find their own solutions,” added Rustler.
Furthermore, the intuitive support of maintenance and cleaning processes has been optimized – with active service and maintenance interval reminders from the machine itself.
He added the advantage of automation and digitalization is the machinery, which is linked into complex communication systems, can be operated by fewer operators; in some cases by one person. And by integrating the user interface into mobile consumer devices, the data from the machinery can be accessed and edited from anywhere in the world.
Swiss company Knobel Maschinenbau, a chocolate machinery manufacturer, helps producers cut costs in other ways. It sells its equipment – molding lines, stand-alone depositors and other devices – on the modular principle so customers can extend their production step by step and, if required, re-equip their production locally segment-wise.
This offers them high flexibility and allows for rapid and efficient changeover to new products.
Swift re-equipping has been made possible by integrating new machines in the system on a plug-and-play principle, added Knobel.