Navigating Confectionery, Snack Packaging Trends


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What is in store for the snacks and confectionery market in 2024? Looking at what packaging manufacturers are focused on gives a glimpse into priorities for brands and manufacturers as well. Both are working to meet consumers’ interests in the coming year. 

Overall trends in packaging will translate to snack and convenience products on the shelves with a focus on Sustainability, Convenience and Communication. Despite strides in sustainable practices, the industry will grapple with ongoing supply chain restraints. Packaging plays a pivotal role in conveying brand attributes to consumers who are increasingly discerning when making purchasing decisions. It serves as a vital tool in building brand identity and raising awareness and is the initial point of contact between the product and the consumer.

Most consumers judge a product by its appearance and the package should satisfy their needs aesthetically, while sharing important details, value and convenience features. The package also has to be durable and withstand transportation, and be easy to use, store and dispose of. 

Many brands continue to make investments in sustainable practices, and this isn’t expected to slow down in 2024. According to Bain & Co.’s Paper and Packaging report, consumers expect CPGs to lead sustainability efforts. “Consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability challenges and say they are more willing to act. Avoiding excessive packaging is the action that consumers are most willing to take. In the U.S., a quarter of consumers report making decisions using environmental factors as determinants. On the other hand, 32 percent of consumers fall into the ‘conscious non-consumers’ category, meaning they express concern about climate change and have several environmentally friendly lifestyle habits but do not buy eco-friendly branded products.”

Making Sustainable Commitments

Regardless of where consumers fall, expect to see commitments to sustainability continuing as the industry works towards its 2025 goals. U.S. manufacturers are keeping a close eye on their European counterparts who are driving global specifications. Many U.S. expectations will be influenced by what happens in Europe, especially in the confectionery space.

Euromonitor International Ltd. also forecasts confectioners will keep working toward sustainable packaging goals and they expect flexible packaging volumes and share of packaging volumes to increase. This, in turn, could prompt other brands to reconsider their strategies to remain competitive and embrace more sustainable solutions. This move reflects the growing importance of sustainability and recyclability to consumers and manufacturers, and is significant considering the vast scale of confectionery and its reliance on packaging.

Brands know sustainable products offer enhanced brand awareness and differentiation, are considered a value-add for consumers and are better for the earth. As large producers move toward recycle-ready packaging, which is gaining adoption in the U.S., expect more mainstream acceptance within two years.

Snack and confectionery producers and brands have an opportunity to communicate sustainable features to consumers through packaging, leveraging tags and recycle-ready logos to engage environmentally conscious shoppers. 

According to recent Bain & Co. analysis: “When asked to rank elements of sustainability they consider when purchasing products, shoppers ranked sustainable packaging as the second most important element, ahead of the product contributing to animal welfare, being organic and having a low carbon footprint.”

Smaller Pouches, On-The-Go Packaging

Research from Euromonitor also shows volumes of plastic pouches will increase because of the built-in affordability, freshness and flexibility in creating packaging with visual appeal on supermarket shelves. 

The research company points out the lightweight nature of plastic pouches also appeals to producers, as it reduces shipping costs and subsequently the environmental impact of transportation. Sharable packs are also a consumer favorite and packs that incorporate a reclosable feature can help keep products fresh. 

In addition, seasonal packs are using more colors as manufacturers design eye-popping visuals to draw in consumers. Matte over laquer packaging, containing windows to see into the bag, are a popular feature with consumers — expect to see more of this as well.

Consumer preferences, particularly among Gen Z, are driving new snack variations. Better-for-you products, including those infused with nutraceuticals, are gaining in popularity.

Hard candies continue to be popular, with many flavors being introduced. Consumers appreciate the mileage they get out of a piece of hard or individually wrapped candy. In addition, high-end chocolates continue to gain share. Euromonitor notes manufacturers’ preference for rigid containers for delicate chocolate products, which provide enhanced protection, safeguarding them from breakage, moisture and external elements. Rigid packaging also offers space for branding and appealing visuals, which is crucial.

Ease-of-use is an important feature consumers look for in packaging and more manufacturers are incorporating reclosable pouches and laser searing for clean opening. Standup pouches add convenience and shelf visibility and take up less room on consumers’ pantry shelves. 

Extreme weather that affects sugar harvests is causing sugar prices and the cost of consumer goods to increase. According to data from the USDA, retail prices for sugar and sweets are predicted to increase by 8.9 percent in 2023 and 5.6 percent in 2024. This is well ahead of historical averages but lower than the 10.4 percent increase from 2022. With this, expect to see pack sizes decrease, to maintain similar price points. 

Consumer purchasing habits, notes research firm Circana, indicate an upward trend in some shopping behavior, with most consumers considering prices before purchase and 25 percent reporting buying what is on sale versus their preferred brand.

Looking ahead, packaging is expected to become increasingly advanced, incorporating technology to create sustainable solutions that accentuate the brand, protect the product, sustain the earth and inspire the consumer.

Contributor Info: Rebecca Casey is senior vice-president, sales & strategic marketing for TC Transcontinental. She holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Illinois and an MBA with a marketing focus from Northern Illinois University. She is the president of the PAC Global board and serves on the executive committee for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. She can be reached at [email protected]