Trade-Offs in Indulgence Packaging

January 7, 2019

As 2019 begins and New Year’s resolutions are set, there is a lot of thought and conversation around indulgence. As we have enjoyed ourselves a little more than usual over the Christmas break, everyone is looking for a healthier start or at least some healthy alternatives to our usual ‘rewards.’  As consumers, snacking and treating ourselves has become a large part of our shopping behaviour with indulgence fulfilling a purpose of rewarding achievements in our work or social life. This can take the form of a number of products: chocolate, ice cream, cake, sweets and alcohol (Fona, 2017, p2) to name a few. As FMCG experts, it cannot be ignored that 94% of adults snack daily (Mintel, 2018) which means that the category is growing and open to new innovations.

Healthier snacks will be welcomed over the next few months but how can you make your packaging stand out at shelf?

The healthier eating trend has not gone unnoticed by snack producers. Biscuits are thinner and come in smaller portion sizes, ice cream tubs come in low-calorie variants, cereal bars and protein snacks boast of healthier ingredients. In addition, new product innovations have appeared in the form of marshmallow, crisp, corn and nut snacks options that have increased in visibility on shelves and online and have broadened categories. In this competitive product arena, each brand should be asking how it can push its visual equity and brand power at every touchpoint, including first and second moments of truth.

  • How does our current packaging fare on shelf?

Fresh, modern and sustainable packaging is helping brands stand out and appeal to the ethical side of the packaging world. Whilst not every brand needs to follow the same suit or use the same colour schemes, a regular evaluation of your packaging against those of other (and newer) competitors may help you keep up with the changing environment. Whilst some brands may feel that old packaging is what is known by consumers, a brand refresh or repositioning can help extend mature stages of product development and continue to grow the product. Using PRS IN VIVO Retail Labs is one way to stay ahead of the market by continuously assessing your packaging needs in real world settings.

  • How does our current pack communicate indulgence?

Low calorie and healthier options are a great way to increase your product portfolio but does your packaging communicate healthy and indulgent? Depending on your target market and your brand messaging, it is important that you communicate the right ratio of indulgence to health. A good example would be Danone’s Greek Crunch:

It uses indulgent imagery of a cheesecake and matches that with key calorie claims and messaging to communicate a balance between indulgence and health. Digestive Thins use strong imagery to convey the biscuit snap and use the ‘Delightfully delicate’ claim to convey lightness of the treat. Haagen-Dazs use images of open tubs of ice cream to communicate strongly the deliciousness of their product and use mini cups to show the single-serve options. Packaging must communicate indulgence through strong visual criteria whilst still balancing a healthy message. This is where the trade-off takes place and why pack testing is important. As intuitive as pack design can be, consumer testing can help validate or help develop those competitive packs.

  • How does my pack communicate its USP?

Some brands have opted to add in healthier ingredients and oils to boast health benefits. This is brilliant for your brand but does the consumer understand or see your banners or mentions of special ingredients? Do they understand from your packaging the key benefits of the product (and understand the benefit of certain ingredients) and does that translate into reasons to buy your product? If your product indeed has health benefits, make sure that it is clear to the consumers what you are offering them.

So how do you move forward?

The first stage would be assessing what is working and what is not. This can only be done in a real world environment. I recommend collaborating with PRS IN VIVO to find a research solution that works and fits your budget needs. Research is never pointless and whatever stage in your packaging development you choose to conduct it, the investment will be invaluable to your product portfolio.

Rosina Calvert is a qualitative research analyst at PRS INVIVO. She joined the company after completing her first Master’s degree in Marketing and is currently pursuing her second Master’s in psychology. Her passions are marketing strategy, product marketing and brand optimisation.

REFERENCES 2019. Fonacom. [Online]. [3 January 2019]. Available from: 2019. Mintel. [Online]. [3 January 2019]. Available from: