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Competition in the confectionery market has reached boiling point and is forcing the big brands to provide added value to their products and the packaging in which they come. Today, the impulse purchase sector and promotions play a far more significant role in developing brand loyalty. Rodney Abbott reports

Do you remember those happy carefree childhood days when you spent your hard-saved pennies or shillings on sweets at the corner shop? I do and I am going back over half a century – which is why I refer to pennies and shillings. Even then the shopkeeper’s display was sufficiently expansive to keep my mind occupied for several minutes before I could make up my mind exactly what I wanted to buy.

Today, supermarkets and specialist confectioners, even confectionists tobaconistsand news agents, offer a mind boggling array of products that makes it almost impossible to finalise a choice without undertaking an inventory. The battle for brand supremacy is fierce and the confectionery supplier has to find increasingly innovative and cost-effective pack and marketing concepts to move products off the shelf.

According to market analysts Nielsen, the sugar confectionery market [mints, fruits, gums, traditional sweets etc.] is worth £1036M. The mint market alone is worth £146M and the fruits market is worth a massive £378M. Both of those markets have been growing at 1% and 4%, respectively, over the last year.

I sought timely refuge at one of the most British of confectionery suppliers – Leicester-based Fox’s – which is so proud of its 105-year old heritage.

Mind you, the company has seen some changes in it’s history, having been taken over by Rowntree, Nestlé and, more recently, Northern Foods which has just acquired Paynes – renown for its Poppets and Just Brazils.

Since the arrival of Northern Foods, the company has not let the grass grow under its feet.

Since the start of the year, it has put Fox’s back on TV and undertaken various on pack promotions. Last month, it relaunched the brand in a bid to take it forward.

I asked brand manager Emma Gilbert to explain the reasoning behind the relaunch, which was preceded by careful market research with small but focused consumer groups through packaging designers Siebert Head.

“Loyal consumers – adults aged 35 and above – allied Fox’s with Glacier Mints, a strong brand name. While they recognised the mint as a quality product, they didn’t think that the former packaging reflected that quality and heritage of the brand.

“In fact, the research disclosed that the three basic elements of the branding were almost disjointed, all fighting for the consumer’s attention. Above the image of Peppy the famous polar bear was the brand Fox’s. Below Peppy were the words Glacier Mints. While the image of Peppy was regarded as important, even more key was the brand name ‘Fox’s’.”

Fox’s Glacier Fruits were less well known than the mint, even though the brand has been around since the middle 50s and consumers were saying that they wanted added value from the fruits. “The product just didn’t stand out from other products on the market,” admitted Emma.

Armed with this information Fox’s added real fruit juice, took out artificial colours and followed market trends to provide products with added benefits.

Since the majority of consumers said that their favourite sweets were either strawberry or blackcurrant flavoured, Fox’s has also created a new product by taking those two favourites and put them into one bag.

It has also launched Fox’s Liquorice and Aniseed. “The product is based on the traditional recipe for Army and Navy, previously only available in jars.

We thought we would update it, put it into bags under the Fox’s brand name and make the sweets much more accessible to consumers.”

Packaging technologist Nadine Barker told Packaging Today International that a much more clean and contemporary look has been achieved by doing away with the former glossy finish and adopting matt-lacquered packs available in two sizes – family bags and handy bags. The 50-micron substrate is metallised OPP bonded to clear OPP, supplied and printed gravure by Teich Flexibles.

Individual sweets remain wrapped in freshly designed 40g waxed paper supplied by Lawson Mardon Star. “Alternative substrates have previously been explored but waxed paper works more effectively on our production lines,” says Nadine.

“The twist wrap is better and the consumer can enjoy good release properties from the wax coating as well. Waxed paper complements the heritage of the brand. We regard it as a quality material.”

I asked Nadine how confectionery packaging was changing. “The jar format, popular for so long with the local corner shop, has also had fresh labels so as to be consistent with the redesign of the rest of product range.

“Consumers expect more from their packaging now. They want it to be more functional and user-friendy. Already, there is a new look on the horizon – a look that is being driven by the impulse market and provided by the flip-top carton.

“We wanted to be able target the impulse sector, especially for mints, says Emma, “and one of the packs that has become very common in mainland Europe is the impulse carton.”

And so Fox’s has introduced a 50g carton, roughly the size of a cigarette pack with a flip-top lid. This feature makes it very easy to reseal the pack, which is ideal for popping inside a jacket pocket or a handbag. It is overwrapped in a PP film.

The 450-micron carrier contains 12 cartons using 400micron folding box board, overwrapped in a transparent PP film, with tear tape. Nottingham-based Ken Wilkins Print produces the cartons and PoS material.

With the relaunch Fox’s has improved the volume of outers per pallet considerably, cutting back on the number of pallets used. The outers have been reconfigured as well to save on the amount of packaging used.

“We have already seen some significant brand share increases for both Fox’s Glacier Mints and Fox’s Glacier Fruits since the start of the year. Obviously, with the relaunch we are hoping to build on this even further.

“According to market analysts, Nielsen, Fox’s Glacier Mints already have the highest cash rate sale of any boiled mint and Fox’s Glacier Fruits has got one of the highest rate sales as well.”

Interestingly, Ahlstrom – which manufactures a range of calendered and one-side coated papers for wrapping confection – reports an increased demand for paper based packaging.

The company believes this is because paper presents a positive perception of the wrapped item, with a tactile appeal that looks good. Although it is more than just a means of seduction, papers for the confectionery packaging market are designed to meet strict technical requirements.

“One reason paper retains its popularity is because it’s versatile,” commented sales and marketing manager for calendered papers at Ahlstrom Labelpack Olivier Lavaud. “It works with any kind of printing method and responds well to pre-treatment.

“Our twisting papers, such as Rocalonde and Coralonde, can be supplied pre-softened which allows the packaging to better fit with the shape of the sweet and eases the converting process. The papers run well on high speed machines, allowing between 1 and 2.5 twistings for a firm packaging, important from a presentation viewpoint.

“Besides its positive image and excellent performance, another strong factor in favour of paper is its link to the environment. Whether it’s waxed or not, paper is recyclable and fully bio-degradable as it is made from wood, a natural, renewable resource. Few ind-ustries are as concerned with the environment as the paper industry, few recycle as much as our industry does.”

CRP Print & Packaging created the merchandising unit for the launch of Nestlé Rowntree’s Megabeans. The design of the corrugated fibreboard bin is such that it meets Nestlé’s demand for an appealing, compact, free-standing unit which can be placed in impulse purchase locations in store where space is often restricted.

The curved shape of the bin reflects the product. Visual impact is enhanced by the inclusion of large printed beans on clear plastics wobblers and three tinted, frosted PP bean-shaped windows, giving product visibility.

The simple-to-erect unit comprises a one-piece bin plus a header board. It is flat-packed for despatch to stores where it is erected without the need for any tools and filled with packs of Megabeans at the PoP.

For maximum visual appeal, the bin, header and corrugated beans are litho-printed with bold, colourful graphics that reflect those on the primary packs. Varnishing enhances their appearance, giving the unit a glossy look.

Confectionery suppliers were criticised by Alcan Packaging’s technical and development manager David Bruce. He accuses brand owners of not involving Alcan’s in the new product development process early enough. “This causes delays in time to market and does not always result in the best specification. With the average development cycle for a new product lasting between six months and two years, it is important to get it right first time.

“By involving the packaging manufacturers early in the process, the path to shelf becomes smoother and can prove more cost-effective. It’s all about making the most of ideas and avoiding costly mistakes that are unworkable.

“It is vital to achieve the right balance in the purchasing process between buyers, marketers, designers and manufacturers. Often, marketers drive innovation and liaise purely with the designers, whereas buyers are charged with piecing together the elements of the pack cost-effectively and liaising with manufacturers.

“If packaging manufacturers are only involved at this stage, there is a danger that the customer will be specifying a product that is not wholly thought out or is less than efficient to produce.

“So much rests on grabbing the consumer’s attention and achieving maximum impact on the shelves. Human beings are visual animals so it is no surprise that there is a shift from traditional advertising towards PoS marketing as this has a greater influence on the actual purchasing decision and can capture the impulse buyers.

“Pack shape and the innovative use of inks and materials therefore feature highly on the ‘wish list’ of brand owners. Recent tetrahedral packs, such as Mini Smarties, are prime examples of quirky pack design boosting sales.”

Traditional confectionery bars now include bright splashes of colour, metallic inks and mixtures of matt and gloss effects alongside the traditional brand images.

With the increasing demand for promotional packs, Alcan Packaging has invested heavily in new gravure and flexo presses in all three of its flexible sites. Promotions often call for reverse printing so that hidden messages, tokens or competition details can be included.

The Cadbury’s Commonwealth Games on-pack text messaging promotion – Text 4 Gold – was one such example and featured gravure-printed ‘text and win’ messages on the inside.

“The rationale of promotions,” explains David, “is to target specific customer groups, to be drawn by the increased ‘play value’ of the packs. In response, the printing processes of the future are likely to take on more modular designs where additional features are wheeled in to apply special effects or instant win messages for specific runs.”

Designer Coley Porter Bell completed a radical redesign for Cadbury’s Buttons earlier this year.

Launched in 1958, Cadbury’s Buttons has been marketed as and is largely perceived as a child’s brand. Kids love them and parents – on the sly – love them too.

Coley Porter Bell’s challenge was to develop Buttons from its positioning as a kiddie brand to a brand accessible to all ages. The pack designers found a solution that managed to span the generation divide, catering for the child within the child and the child within the adult.

At the core of Coley Porter Bell’s design concept is ‘the doodle’ – a simple, innocent activity with appeal to both adults and children. The solution embraces a series of over 30 funny and witty designs with appeal on two very distinct levels.

Providing the blank canvas for the doodles is the Button itself, the beautiful circle of pure chocolate, back onto the pack, centre stage. Sur-rounded by a warm glow, the Button is confident, unapologetic, heroic, quite simply ‘glowing with pride’.

Amcor Flexibles Europe has produced striking new primary and secondary packaging for the relaunch of Cadbury’s MiniRolls made by Manor Bakeries.

The three outer wrap and 10 different inner wrap designs are surface gravure-printed on metallised OPP plus coldseal coating by Amcor Flexibles Colodense.

Targeting 5-12 year-olds, the product is available in three flavours – swirly milk chocolate, sticky strawberry and juicy orange. Each flavour variant has its own mischievous character and friends on the pack.