Sweet Treats That Are Neat: The Lure of the Package

by Bill Wynkoop, Lazer Incorporated

As all parents know, the checkout area of a grocery store includes at least one strong reply of “No!” to your children because, of course, it is the gateway to a battery of candy, confection, gum, and chocolate.

Sweet tooths aside, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that a stroll through this category offered little inspiration in the form of its packaging. Aside from Toblerone, Tic Tac, and a handful of others, most products were packaged in a fairly standard fashion—foil inner wrap for freshness, paper outer wrap for graphics.

To some extent, they felt like they were commodity items trying only to meet a certain price point with the sweet promise of the product holding the lion’s share of the allure to the consumer.

Sparks of change
When the slide blister packs for gum hit the market, almost overnight the entire category shifted into variations of this package. So much so, that now it seems to be the standard for the entire category!

Consumers liked the two-piece components of this construction and the intriguing new method of product delivery. They liked the thinness of the package, the neat slide of the blister from the paperboard sleeve, and the pop of the blister when they accessed the gum. These elements all combined for a very welcome reception at retail and a welcome new dispensing experience during use. The amazing thing is that hardly anyone noticed that the price of gum went up considerably.

Slide Blister Packs for Gum
The introduction of blister pack gum (top) caused brand owners to reconsider the potential for new delivery innovations. The success of click-lock carton packages (bottom) has led to many new ideas in unique, tactile dispensing designs.

ClickLock Cartons
However, it didn’t take long for the marketing and sales forces to take note, because soon other sub-categories were experimenting with packaging that offered a unique product delivery or an aural or tactile mnemonic that consumers could respond to.

My evidence comes in the next package that started to infiltrate the shelves, the click-lock carton. Mentos is the first to mind, adding this package to their standard foil/paper rolls of chewy candies. I have to admit that I have compulsive tendencies because when I have this package in my hand, I can’t stop flipping it open and closed—I love the sound of the “click” and I love that I can do it with a simple snap of my thumb.

In my opinion, this experience ranks only behind bubble wrap in terms of active attraction—once you start, it’s hard to stop! And once these packs hit the shelves, others seemed to follow—Skittles and Ice Breakers chose it for their gum and Certs has a design variant for their Cool Mint Drops.

Old is new again
In the same vein, but in plastic, a number of mint packages began to appear, all of them offering a dispensing option for one or more units. As previously noted, Tic Tac had already been doing this for decades, but the new entries provided a different spin.

My favorite here is the Smint two-piece unit that has a spring-loaded dispenser. Press it down to release a tasty treat, and once again my thumb is happy. In fact, I think I’ve been able to totally empty a 40-pack container in less than a minute!

TinPacks
Competition at the grocery checkout area is demanding new forms and more enticing execution, and well-executed tins may offer that differentiation.

Mint Packs
The execution may vary, but plastic dispensing is a powerful tool to keep treats in consumers’ fiddling fingers.

There doesn’t appear to be a standard approach in this arena. Whether it’s a push top, a slide top, or other, every brand has developed its own approach to dispensing. Recent hinge-top dispensers like Ice Breakers Liquid Ice and Wrigley’s Doublemint Twins are small and delicate, but still sturdy and addictive for thumb fiddlers.

These efforts to rethink candy and mint packaging in the checkout area are probably responsible for new design ideas in an old category favorite, mints and treats in tins. Altoids has always offered their strong products in a hinged tin, but they were fairly alone in this material until recently. Now, even Hershey’s is using a similar construction for the launch of its Cacao Reserve Truffles.

And for more touch appeal, York has put its new mints in a deep drawn two-piece tin that offers a heavy emboss of its logo and brand name. And my favorite, Wrigley’s Eclipse Mints, can be found in a tall tin with the same heavy emboss on the logo. But for the fabulous finishing touch, they even added printing on the inside of the hinged top.

When I find something new on the shelf, I have to touch it, squeeze it, and usually buy it, so it was very difficult to cull only a few samples to share here. That said, take a minute or two of your own time and check out what’s been going on with sweet treats. I think you will find that there’s been an explosion of creativity and innovation that promotes fun and tactile consumer dispensing. For this consumer, it’s been great to see.

Now if only I could get my thumb to stop twitching.

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