Andrew Streeter, director of packaging consultancy firm CPS International, and director of packaging innovation at Datamonitor, said that while matte finishes had been used in snacks for some time, their use was intensifying.
“The reasons behind it are mixed; there are several drivers coming in,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
The first driver was retail driven and pragmatic. “Where you’ve got supermarkets that are well lit you get reflected light on the pack, rather than absorbed light. So, a matte finish reduces this highlight and you can see more of the branding.”
Secondly, he said matte was associated with something closer to paper and therefore aligned with nature and naturalness – something that resonated with increasingly savvy consumers.
“The third thing is it’s also tactile. Remember packaging is not just visual – with matte you do get a different texture to match."
Differentiating in a ‘shark tank’
The $123.3bn global sweet and savory snacks sector is more competitive than ever, and Euromonitor International has said the sector will surge to $129.8bn by year’s end.
IRI executive Sally Lyons Wyatt described the US sector alone as a “competitive shark tank” as the battleground broadened to include competition from quick-serve.
Philip P. Nader, head of technical marketing at Infinium Printing, said snack companies were shifting to matte finishes in a bid to outpace competition.
“Matte finish becomes a way to differentiate the package. For the consumer to make their decision, which is anywhere between three and five seconds, it can influence whether they might buy that package or not. The snack shelf takes up a whole aisle in the supermarket and they all have these shiny packages, if you see a matte finish it’s a little bit different,” he said.
Nader said the move to matte could also spark a sense of throwback for consumers with memories of freshly baked goods packed in paper bags in store. This in turn, he said, led to a perceived higher quality.
David Lindberg, vice president of sales at Bryce Corporation, agreed: “Manufacturers are considering matte packaging as a look that’s more premium… Everybody seems to be pushing back towards that old-fashioned, vintage look.”
No technical challenges
Both Bryce Corporation and Infinium Printing agreed that there were no technical challenges when using a matte finish instead of a gloss finish.
“It’s essentially as easy for us to work with as a regular shiny propylene that’s been prevalent in the marketplace for the last 25-30 years,” Nader said.
Because the inner film lining doesn’t change, using a matte finish on a snack bag doesn’t impact any of the functional aspects.
However lead times could be slightly longer on matte materials, something that could prove problematic as lead times shorten amid competition.
Streeter said matte finishes were likely to take off dramatically in the snack sector over the next year or so, but eventually manufacturers would need to innovate to differentiate further.
“In the mid-term it is a battle field that people will start playing in but eventually you’ll get companies mixing and matching,” he said.
Companies may start to use a matte finish with a gloss film for the brand name on pack, for example, he said.
“I would anticipate the trend will go from reflective plastic flexibles to matte flexibles and then you’ll have a bit of mix and match coming as a follow-through.”