Preconceived notions of snacking tend to center around sweet and salty treats such as chips and chocolate. Over the last several years, however, there’s been an adjustment in consumer habits and preferences that lends itself to a different type of snack.
Whether it’s nuts, cheese bites, or beef sticks, protein snacks have emerged as a significant trend, especially among health-conscious millennial shoppers. For many of these consumers, snacking is part of their lifestyle, and snack packaging can support that lifestyle just as much as the product.
“Packaging for ready-to-eat protein snacks can provide a unique consumer experience,” says Rick Custer, Fresh-Lock Commercial Director, Presto® Products. “Brands, packagers, and retailers have an opportunity to distinguish their offerings with packaging that provides added value and functionality.”
The Protein Snack Market by the Numbers
We all snack from time to time; that’s no secret. Yet, it may surprise you to learn just how often Americans are having smaller bites to eat throughout the day. A 2015 Mintel study found 94 percent of Americans snack at least once per day, and half of adults have two or three daily snacks.
One of the fastest growing segments in the snack market is meat snacks. In 2017, Nielsen reported the category was growing at an annual rate of 7 percent, which greatly outperforms more traditional snacks such as potato chips and pretzels.
The trend towards protein-packed snacking shows jerky is a clear frontrunner. In fact, IRI’s 2017 New and Emerging Snacking Trends report called jerky “the new protein bar.”
While the Mintel study found that millennials are four times more likely to snack than older generations, the Nielsen report indicates they are slightly less likely to spend money on meat snacks. That doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for protein. Rather, a certain percentage of this demographic is turning to nuts, dairy, and plant-based protein products.
Packaging and the Snacking Experience
Providing a better experience with snack packaging begins with understanding why people are snacking in the first place. Custer says it has a lot to do with the daily demands of modern life.
“Our hectic, on-the-go routines have people of all ages looking for ways to get some sustenance during the day in a quick and convenient way,” he explains. “Protein snacks fit the bill perfectly, and packaging should be designed with busy lifestyles in mind.”
Some people will look for quick bites to eat at their desk or in their car. Others may graze on snacks throughout the day. There’s a popular flexible packaging format that matches these patterns.
“A small standup pouch creates an ideal packaging experience for on-the-go snackers,” says Custer. “It can be tossed in a purse or backpack. It fits nicely in your car’s cup holder, and when reclosable features are added, the package provides even more value.”
We developed the exclusive Fresh-Lock® mini Slider as an effective closure option for smaller flexible packages made for lightweight products. For brands looking to add reclosability on small to medium sized multi-use pouches, sliders give consumers an effortless user experience.
“Sliders can be an excellent way to set premium brands apart from the competition because they create first-class packaging to match the product,” Custser says. “The nice thing about the mini Slider is that it doesn’t come with a premium price tag. Because less material is used to create this reduced scale closure, it’s an affordable option.”
Thinking Beyond Single Serve Snacking
A lot of protein snack packaging is designed for one-time use by a singular snacker. For example, the semi-rigid trays separating nuts, cheese, and meat are a popular item. While this is a convenient packaging solution, there is also an opportunity to develop snack packaging that contains multiple servings.
An article featured on The National Provisioner website, points to snacking behavior described as “grazing.” People with busy schedules tend to munch on their snacks throughout the day rather than sitting down and eating a snack like a meal.
Those who consume their snacks this way certainly stand to benefit from the convenient resealability a zipper or slider creates. The closures keep the product fresh and prevent spillage.
“If brands use a larger protein snack package designed to provide enough servings for an entire workweek, a zipper or slider practically becomes a necessity,” says Custer.
Custer also reminds us that many millennials are entering their 30s, a time of life when they are becoming parents. So, brands should expect millennial shopping habits to start shifting from single serve packages to larger formats designed to keep an entire family fed.
“Millennials are getting married and starting families,” Custer says. “That means snacks will be enjoyed by multiple people in a household. Millennial parents want healthy options for their kids, so you can expect the trend of high-protein snacks to continue growing.”
Recent studies support the idea that young moms and dads may be more likely to purchase larger packages of snacks at places like warehouse club stores and supercenters. Nielsen’s research shows that, while jerky may be a common convenience store impulse buy, 24 percent of purchases occur at supercenters and 20 percent at warehouse clubs.
A larger flexible package full of a protein-packed snack like jerky, trail mix, yogurt bites, or cheese sticks will be most convenient with a zipper or slider.
Find the Right Solutions for Protein Snack Packaging
There have been many recent innovations in the world of flexible packaging, from package construction and materials to closures and equipment. Fresh-Lock® is proud to be on the forefront of these developments.
We offer brands and packagers a wide selection of unique closure solutions. That includes the particle plow slider, which is ideal for granulated products such as protein powders as well as salty nut mixes and granola. We’re also making reclosable flexible packaging a possibility in new markets thanks to innovations like the reduced scale mini Slider and the child-resistant Child-Guard® slider.
Plus, to make it easier for these solutions to be effectively applied during manufacturing, we are developing groundbreaking equipment with rotary over the top insertion technology (ROTI). This enhanced slider process increases speed and flexibility while opening up new possibilities for packaging operations.