Appetizers Could Offer New Opportunities in Snack Branding

Snack producers are in a bit of a branding dilemma this year. Up to this point, so many creative decisions – from product development to packaging and branding – have revolved around the idea of consumers being “on-the-go”. Away-from-home channels had become important for driving sales, and products were tailored to be as convenient as possible for consumers with busy, active lifestyles.

Even though many consumers are actually snacking more in quarantine, the competitive landscape has changed pretty dramatically. With products like yeast and flour still difficult to find in some stores as shoppers tackle complex baking projects, “convenience” is clearly no longer necessarily the most attractive feature for consumers. In 2020, food should now offer new experiences.

How should snack brands pivot to meet this new set of needs? One potentially effective strategy could be to enter the appetizer category. It blurs the line between snacking and mealtimes, giving snack brands an opportunity to shift from being part of consumers’ car rides and work breaks to being part of the dinner table spread. 

Utz has just debuted a new frozen appetizer line, and these products are a great example of the kind of direction that snack branding can take. These appetizers don’t require prep work (they just need to be heated up), but they do take advantage of the fact that consumers have more time for hot snacks now that “grab-and-go” is a less attractive category.

Utz’s new frozen appetizers also play into the important “experiential” component of meals by offering novel products. For example, the company is selling frozen Boudin Balls under the Zapp’s brand, a classic New Orleans treat that is rarely offered anywhere else. This is the kind of product that shoppers may have heard of but have likely never actually tried, making it a more unique and interesting choice than other options in the frozen aisle.

For a snack brand to be experiential, they can either focus on making the preparation of the food a fun project, or they can make the product itself a novelty that consumers feel compelled to try.

While Utz chose to develop entirely new products, this is not the only way for snack brands to enter the appetizer category. For some brands, it might mean redesigning the packaging for existing snack products, shifting focus away from the convenience factor, and even incorporating recipe shots. For products like potato chips and cookies that may have never had suggestions for preparation before, leaning into the idea that the product can be a leading ingredient in addition to being a stand-alone snack can generate new interest. This concept can also be rolled out across brand campaign materials, such as digital ads and point of sale displays.

Daily routines now look much different than they did just a few months ago, and snack brands will have to quickly find where they fit in. If these brands can transcend beyond the perception that their products are mostly convenience items, they could find an important new role as part of consumers’ meal planning.

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