The Comfort of Coding: opportunities for growth in Confectionery and Snacks

A few years ago when video game exercise programmes were all the rage, one machine had a most annoying feature. If someone had the temerity to miss a day of ‘training’ it would ask in a most condescending manner, “Were you busy yesterday?” Avoiding the temptation to throw the balance board at the TV screen, a common response to this question might well have been “Yes, I had a bad day and ate a bag of wine gums instead!” 

This ideally sums up confectionery and snacks – they are the perfect comfort foods. When things are tough, a sweet or savoury treat can go a long way to making the world seem a slightly better place.

Maybe we have more bad days in the UK than our friends on the continent because we are the largest consumer of snacks in Europe.  Habits are changing though and there has been a noticeable move to more healthy snacks. This might account for the fact that confectionery sales have not been as buoyant in recent years, although 2017 did buck a five-year decline with an increase in revenues, and sales forecasts for 2018 are continuing this positive trend.

The confectionery market is also changing as it seeks to stimulate sales and maintain growth.  We are seeing the introduction of more artisan products, such as unusually flavoured chocolate. Personalisation is another growing area.

There’s plenty of new product activity in snacks too – as well as the introduction of healthy snacks, savoury popcorn is a booming market. 

Manufacturers in these sectors have plenty of reasons to be optimistic – but these remain very competitive markets and, with consumers seemingly keen to explore new tastes and textures, brand loyalty can never be guaranteed.

The need for reliability

The bottom line is that production has to be working to maximum efficiency for a business to maximise its bottom line. That includes the coding of products.

This makes sense in many different ways. If a printer is not working for whatever reason, product cannot leave the factory. That’s why our research identified reliability as top of the list of printer requirements for most factory managers and engineers. 

A coder that is producing inaccurate or hard to read codes can result in a brand not making it past the retailer’s warehouse – and returned goods, not to mention a potential fine, are a very expensive business.

A reliable printer that produces consistently accurate and legible codes, and which also offers longer service intervals and low-cost maintenance, will help businesses operate to maximum efficiency while keeping overall running costs low.

Quality demands quality

Artisan and specialist products are growing in popularity as consumers seek greater indulgence from their treats.  In the confectionery sector, this has seen the launch of products with higher cocoa content and unique flavours and textures, while for snacks, product introductions such as savoury popcorn and popchips are combining new taste sensations with a healthier product offering. 

As in all competitive markets, packaging plays a crucial role in conveying the quality of the product, encouraging trial and securing repeat purchases.  For this reason, it is essential that a printed code helps to reflect the quality of the pack, complementing rather than compromising its high-impact graphics and design. 

It’s also important because consumers do notice such things.  Our recent research found that the majority read use-by dates. What’s more, a poor or illegible code would make many doubt the quality of the product inside the pack – and some would choose a different brand as a result. 

If many consumers are taking note of the code, it makes sense to try to engage further with them.  Printed, scannable QR codes offer opportunities for direct communication with consumers, by providing extra information or access to a promotion.

Coding – a flexible friend

One impact of all this new product development is that production runs are becoming shorter.  This is particularly true for businesses who also supply private label products, and for contract manufacturers and packers.  Another emerging trend is the popularity of personalised products – both for the corporate sector and as a gift item – which again increases the need for flexibility and fast response in production.

Coding equipment can support these requirements with intuitive user interfaces that enable quick setup, large message storage capacity and fast changeovers.  Automated message selection and remote monitoring also speed up product changeovers plus reduce the risk of errors.  Lightweight, portable models can be quickly moved to where they are required on production lines.

Specialist producers who have long relied on manual coding methods will also find that a move to digital printing can open up new opportunities, by printing the type of high quality codes demanded by the larger retailers.

The choice is yours

The wide variety of coding equipment available means that a solution can be found for every application. Code content and line speeds will be important considerations in selecting an appropriate model, as will the types of packaging material used.  Products manufactured in sugary or dusty environments will need printers with appropriate levels of protection, to minimise the risk of printer faults and downtime.

Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printers can print onto almost any substrate and are available with many different coloured inks, ideal for complementing the overall pack design as well as providing code legibility on contrasting colours.  Fast-drying inks are designed specifically for high speed lines such as flow wrap, and food grade inks will meet the regulations for printing onto surfaces that come into contact with food, such as a competition code on the inside of a wrapper. 

Laser marking provides a permanent high quality code on many different materials in a font that will match premium packaging.  Large amounts of information including complex QR and barcodes can be contained in a small area.  The appearance of the print is particularly suitable for blending in effectively with a pre-printed pack.

Entry-level models provide the perfect introduction to a new technology and enable growing businesses to access the benefits of digital printing for the first time.

So making sure you have a reliable and flexible printer that can deliver a consistently correct quality code will go a long way to helping you make the most of the opportunities in snacks and confectionery. That’s almost as comforting as a bag of wine gums.

To find out more about our research and the solutions to coding in the confectionery and snacks industry, read our White Paper