In recent years consumers have become increasingly concerned with the health implications of what they put in their mouths, and with predictions that more than half of the UK’s population could be obese by 2050, regulators have shown a marked enthusiasm for action in the area of food packaging, most notably with the traffic light system.
Consequently, food manufacturers have been left with a simple choice: target either the health-conscious market or those looking to enjoy their food. So, when PepsiCo approached us wanting to know why its Sunbites product was not selling as well as it could, we took the bold step of suggesting that it could become one of the first brands to break out of this divide between healthy and tasty.
In 2007, Walkers, the UK’s number one crisps and snacks manufacturer, had launched Sunbites, a savoury snack containing a third of your daily recommended amount of wholegrain in each portion and 30% lower in fat than standard crisps. Although it experienced high repeat purchase rates in the ‘Better For You’ segment, indicating that consumers who tried the product loved it, Walkers wanted to increase penetration by getting more consumers to try Sunbites.
It was abundantly clear that the packaging was putting off consumers who considered taste alongside health in their food purchases. The product expectation set up by the healthy cues did not reflect the actual product experience, and so we needed to change that.
A FRESH PROPOSITION
The original packaging had been entirely focused on emphasising the wholegrain content of the product, so we established an original, exciting, colourful illustrative style and language to reflect just how tasty, light and enjoyable Sunbites actually are, to engage new consumers who were attracted to the idea of trialling a healthier, tastier snack.
We worked with Walkers to develop the core proposition ‘Tiny Moments of Extraordinary Pleasure’ which served as a descriptor for both the product and the category. Focus groups responded positively to our new design, commenting: “I love this image as it relates to the name and is eye catching”, “I like the different fonts. It makes the product seem like a fun thing to have and eat”, and “Looks nice and bright, and is eye catching enough to want to check it out.”
Given that a pack change on an existing brand often sees an initial fall in sales as consumers unfamiliar with the new identity fail to see ‘their brand’, it was an immediate vindication of our work to see Nielsen sales data revealing a 26% uplift in sales for the first three months. The Millward Brown Tracking data also told a very positive story in that consumers’ perception of the brand, reflected in the ‘Brand Regard’ measure, increased by 23% in just 12 weeks after the new packs were introduced. This improved perception was particularly evident in key areas: ‘are high-quality’, ‘have flavours you like’, ‘are great-tasting’ and ‘are acceptable to eat as part of a balanced diet’.
This was no short-term spike either, as sales of Sunbites have risen from £8m before the rebrand to more than £40m now. Really it was a long-term shift in perception from a dull, worthy product to a one that is healthy but also tasty. It shows just what can be done by packaging design alone. It is also worth noting that this relaunch was supported by advertising, but this only began after the initial three month period, meaning that sales increased 26% without any above-the-line support.
It is a remarkable success story and one that many other food brands could emulate. Perceptions can be changed, but it requires the right product, a willingness to invest in a rebranding strategy, and a partner who can find the authentic thought that resonates at the core of the brand and then craft compelling packaging design that will inspire consumers to purchase. It is by no means easy, but it can be done!
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