Keep it sweet

20 February 2019

There is no 'love it or hate it' marketing when it comes to chocolate; it is almost universally appealing. Perfect for gifting, luxury and everyday treats, chocolate works for every situation. So how is the consumer to differentiate between one chocolate and another? Packaging choices offer on-shelf, online and on-message ways to stand out. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to manufacturers and brand owners to learn how they use packaging to keep their chocolate sweet.

Chocolate can be whatever consumers want it to be: an easy thank you, a 4pm pick-me-up, a wedding favour or a children's treat. Chocolate brands know that to be sure to appeal to as many consumers as possible while keeping their brand message distinct enough to meet the 'special' element that chocolate demands, its packaging needs to be a quick visual code.


Chocolate packaging has a practical job to do too, with the materials and formats chosen having to keep the product within in optimal condition – often while allowing for consumers to see the product itself as part of the on-shelf appeal. There is also the increasing trend for reducing sugar consumption and the growing awareness of issues with sweeteners that is having an impact; the UK Government's target to reduce added sugar in food and drink by at least 20% by 2020 means manufacturers across the confectionery sector have their work cut out.


Gnawsome packaging

For quirky artisan chocolate brand Gnaw, its packaging is a key part of its branding, which relies on its passion for quality ingredients and clever styling. The Norwich-based company exports its chocolate bars and sweet treats all over Europe, with a presence in major supermarket chains as well as carefully-selected independent retailers. All handcrafted in Norfolk with 'no nasties', Gnaw's newly repacked range includes ethical, lower sugar varieties including a chocolate and granola bar.


Gnaw founder Matt Legon tells Converting Today, “A completely new packing line was essential to facilitate production of the new 100g and 110g sized bars. Designed around Gnaw's bespoke specifications by specialist UK manufacturer Ilapak, the new equipment required an investment of £56,000 for the purchase and installation of the Flow Wrapper, as well as new stereo plates, packaging film design and production.”


Legon is pleased to share that Gnaw's bright and beautiful new packaging for bars – including its milk chocolate with cranberries and the dairy-free dark chocolate with orange, British granola and seeds – has been greeted with positive feedback from customers and retailers alike. “The innovative products have sparked a lot of interest within the wider chocolate marketplace,” Legon adds. “The positive response and the subsequent impact of this product range on the business is significant, with repeat orders rapidly coming in, from our overseas markets in particular. To facilitate this growth, Gnaw has also brought in cooling tunnels, further mixing and tempering tanks along with additional production staff and doubling our factory hours.”


This excellent response has meant that Gnaw has imminent plans to add further quirky flavours to its range of 35g individual bars and its popular 'chocolate shots' – clever cubes of chocolate that come with their own stirring stick, ready to turn hot milk into delicious hot chocolate. “The marketplace has changes in recent months, with more consumers making regular purchases of small bars to eat straight away rather than buying bigger bars,” Legon notes. “The 'grab and go' impulse line has seen Gnaw respond successfully to this demand; but we're not stopping there. With our new packaging line we're already working on exciting new stuff.”


The chocolate sector is particularly interesting in that there is plenty of room for all types of brands; quirky British brands like Gnaw are growing thanks to their fun flavours and appealingly cool packaging, but the romance and tradition of famous European brands like Lindt and Nestle's Baci Perugina are enjoying sweet success too.

Italian kisses and Swiss bunnies

As part of its global growth plan to expand established European brands in new markets, Nestle's Baci Perugina – one of Italy's most famous and best loved chocolate brands – is now available in the UK. Its individually-wrapped ‘kisses’ are rapidly finding fans, with the gifting potential particularly targeted at the wedding favours and Valentine's/loved one opportunities. Headed up by Bruno Emmenegger, Nestle's new business unit within the Confectionery Division of Nestle Italy has seen an investment of €15 million to support its growth plans.


“A historical, prestigious, quality brand like Baci Perugina can and must seize all opportunities offered by new consumption habits and new sales channels, continuing the work already done and conquering not only the Italian market but also an increasing number of consumers and markets abroad,” Emmenegger says. “Our investment plan sees significant investment in the introduction of cutting-edge technology, the installation of solar panels and a regenerative energy system.”


For Lindt, whose foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies are among the most iconic confectionary available, its packaging is an inherent part of its branding. The Swiss chocolatier takes its packaging very seriously, with Martin Hug, head of sustainability for the Lindt & Sprungli Group since 2017, a passionate advocate of making sure its packaging is beautiful and responsible.


“Long-term and stable partnerships with suppliers are a central factor in the success of our premium products,” Hug explains. “Our vision goes beyond making the finest premium chocolate, because our high production standards ought to be matched by equally high standards of ethics and sustainability. This is why we promise that all products leaving our production facilities will live up to our commitment to sustainability along the entire value chain.”


Film star

Hug continues to clarify how packaging is integral to this quality and sustainability promise, saying, “Packaging is a very important and sensitive part of the production chain at Lindt & Sprungli. Apart from being appealing to the consumer and detailing the contents, packaging needs to fulfil its essential function of protecting the delicate chocolate. Lindt & Sprungli works with leading packaging manufacturers who are very keen to ensure sustainability right along the supply chain.”


One global packaging manufacturer that specialises in films for the chocolate sector is RETAL, whose Lithuanian facility produces ten different metallised gold films as part of its portfolio of APET and BoPET films. With end customers including many of the world's most recognised chocolate brands – with all the strict CSR demands that entails – RETAL is well aware that its capabilities need to be focused on the sustainability of its products as well as the quality and variety.


“In the growing niche market of metallized films, we are developing a strong reputation as preferred supplier,” says Indre Bagdonaite, RETAL's APET film sales manager. “We supply the leading chocolate brands. We offer films for a range of applications across the food (confectionery, cheese, meat) and non-food (blister-packs for cosmetics, personal hygiene products) sectors; all our films are food-contact approved. Metallised film in particular gives an excellent presentation to high quality chocolate and adds to the value perception and gifting potential.”


Where RETAL excels is in its ability to combine the luxurious element of metallised film with its closed loop approach to sustainability – something that is increasingly demanded by its customers and their consumers. “The clear trend across the converting industry is to lower plastic use and increase recycling possibilities, without compromising the look, feel and performance of the packaging,” Bagdonaite says. “At RETAL we put great effort into increasing the use of food-approved recycled PET in our production to ensure we contribute positively to the closed loop; we also collect production waste directly from our customers and use it again in our film production.”


With global chocolate manufacturers driven by their own CSR targets and the demands of environmentally-savvy consumers, RETAL's growth plans are aligned with the trend. Bagdonaite notes, “Customers are increasingly asking for 100% recycled PET; RETAL is already investing in the technology to offer this to its customers, with a new production line that allows us to use up to 100% recycled materials starting production in 2019.”


The pleasure that we can all enjoy from knowing that there is responsibility behind every bite – from lower sugar to more recycled packaging – means that chocolate can be a treat we can indulge in guilt-free.


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