Easy-open, reclosable, hygienic, high-impact, barrier packaging helps salty snacks perform in the marketplace.

With laser scoring at the top of this bag, a gentle pull is all that’s needed to open it.

At first glance, not much about packaging has changed in the snack aisle. Dominated by powerhouse Frito-Lay, the shelves seemingly hold bag after propped-up bag of salty chips and cracker snacks.

But look closer. You’ll find innovative packaging designs with key features that almost any and all food and beverage categories crave: easy-open, reclosable, hygienic, high barrier and enough shelf pop to entice even the most health-conscious snackers to pick up the package.

Easy-open, free-standing bowl-shaped pouch gives consumers adequate access to contents. The Amcor PushPop pack can be run on any VFFS machine with four-side seal capability.

Bye-bye, flying chips

Most people open chip bags by grabbing the top with both hands-one on the front of the bag and one on the back-and pulling. Sealing technology has progressed in recent years to make this a bit easier than it used to be without compromising seal integrity. But every so often, you get a bag that tests your strength…and your patience. Pull too hard and you’ll not only open the bag, you’ll shower the floor with chip confetti.

Easy-open flexible packages have been abundant in a variety of food categories, but snacks had been lagging…until now. These easy-open packages also put a horizontal twist on the traditional lay-down bag.

From Frito-Lay, a new Lay’s potato chip product sold in India comes with a packet of chili-flavored sauce for drizzling on the chips. The metallized polyester (PET) bag, a typical fin-seal style made on a vertical form-fill-seal system, turns its graphics sideways so the top and bottom seals appear as the bag’s sides. With a laser score perpendicular to the seals, the film yields easily to a gentle tug. Because the bag is turned on its side, the large top opening allows easy access to the sauced-up chips. Film converter Flex America Inc. won a Silver Award for Technical Innovation in the Flexible Packaging Association’s 2009 Achievement Awards competition for this development.

A sticky-tape tab on the back of the bag provides a simple reclose feature. Consumers remove the tab and use it to keep the bag’s folded-over top closed.

Another sideways pouch design was used for the October 2007 launch of Kidsnax fruit snacks under the Nickelodeon brand in the United Kingdom. The brand uses the PushPop pouch from Amcor Flexibles Food, which features a laser score on the top of the pouch that consumers pop open with slight pressure. This design creates a wide opening for easy product access. Plus, PushPop holds its original shape as the product is consumed and, since the entire surface can be printed, it also retains the brand’s identity.

Nanotechnology produces a clear laminate film, N-Coat from Multifilm, with exceptional gas barrier properties.

Crunch time

Even though they usually have a quick selling cycle, salty snacks are highly susceptible to oxygen and moisture. They need high-barrier packaging to stay fresh and crispy.

One new option is N-Coat from Multifilm, which uses nanotechnology to provide exceptional oxygen barrier. An ultra-thin coating is applied on 48-gauge polyester film, resulting in a clear film with a gas barrier that, according to the company, competes with most metallized structures. The non-metal material shows off the product, allows for metal detection inspection and is more economical than films coated with polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC).

Portion-control flowrap holds 15 crackers, just enough for a satisfying personal snack. Dispensing carton makes it easy to grab one pack from the pantry and go.

Another freshness option is to produce smaller packs, usually single-serve sizes, that limit how much product is exposed once the package is opened. Kraft Foods’ Nabisco division promotes this idea for its Ritz Fresh Stacks, a portion-controlled stack of the popular crackers. According to the Ritz website: “We’ve taken the same great Ritz you already love and shrunk down the package so it will fit anywhere, from your home to your car to your office. And we’ve put the crackers in smaller stacks (only 15 each!) so not only is it easier to take them with you, but you’ll only open what you need, having fresh-tasting crackers each time.” Eight Fresh Stacks are packed in each dispensing carton.

Other snack manufacturers also offer multipacks of single-serve bags for on-the-go, anytime, anywhere snacking. Frito-Lay markets its Doritos and Sun Chips brands in a variety of multipacks: Family Sack, Flavor Sack, Smart Mix, Variety Mix and Go Sack. The printed-film sacks contain either 20 or 22 1-ounce bags.

Rigid snack container leader Procter & Gamble gets flexible with its Pringles Minis pack design. Multipack of single-serve bags uses high-impact printed film.

Even Procter & Gamble, leader of rigid snack containers, has a flexible multipack for its line of Pringles Minis. Again, high-impact printed film (in the brand’s identifiable red color) provides the needed shelf appeal, especially since most multipacks are merchandised on the store’s lower shelves.

The entire Pringles Minis line breaks from P&G’s traditional rigid packaging, with single-serve bags in 5- and 16-count film multipacks and a new flat-bottom stand-up “sharable” 9-ounce bag.

A pouring feature could be a solution to consumers’ desire for a more hygienic snack package. The Pour & Lok design from Hudson-Sharp also provides reclosability to help keep product fresh.

Too much sharing?

If the idea of sharing a bag of chips with people who lick their fingers between reach-ins gives you the heebie-jeebies, you’re not alone. Cleanliness and hygiene are becoming more important to consumers all around the globe, especially in light of so many high-profile food contamination scares.

One solution would be packs that make it easy to dispense snacks for individual enjoyment.

The Hudson-Sharp Machine Co. hopes to corner the market with its new Pour & Lok pouch. This easy-open, reclosable pouch design creates a pour spout for controlled product dispensing. With easy dispensing, the Pour & Lok container provides a hygienic design for snack foods. No more licked fingers reaching back into a shared bag.

Pour & Lok is Hudson’s newest product in its Inno-Lok line, which uses the patented InnoFlex transverse zipper technology to pre-apply the closure device to rolls of film. A unique foldable zipper material allows food manufacturers to create a side-gusset in pre-zippered film on vertical form-fill-seal (VFFS) systems. The process requires an extra step on VFFS machines and, at Pack Expo 2008, Hudson-Sharp secured a deal with machinery manufacturer HayssenSandiacre to add this feature to its machines.

Conceptual packages from Atomica Design gives consumers double the snacking fun with dual-compartment rigid and flexible designs.

Shelf appeal, naturally

Americans love their snacks. According to market research firm The Nielsen Co., snack sales in U.S. during the two weeks surrounding Super Bowl Sunday alone are estimated at $595 million. Snack manufacturers are happy to feed our frenzy. In 2008, 3,619 new snack products were introduced, according to Mintel’s Global New Product Database, with “natural” products performing strongly.

Hoping to break through the shelf clutter, these healthier products promote “0 grams Trans Fat” or “Baked” on the front of their bags. And here’s a novel idea in the salty snacks category: Frito-Lay is promoting low sodium on its new Fritos Pinch of Salt Corn Chips, a low-sodium snack made with all natural oil containing no trans fat or preservatives.

Packaging cues, such as matte finishes on bags, help communicate healthy, natural and even “premium” positionings. According to Mintel: “Premium products increased by 48% in the six months to September 2008 and remain consistent year-on-year as consumers change their attitude to snacks, now often looking for an occasional indulgence or treat.”

Beyond words and images, unique structural design commands attention in the snack food aisle (this differentiation is one of the reasons P&G puts Pringles in rigid canisters instead of bags). Twofolds conceptual packaging designs from Atomica Design Group provide a fun way to give consumers snacking variety-in the same package. Company designers created flexible and rigid dual-compartment packages that hold two different snacks, such as potato chips and pretzels or, in the Sweet & Salty version, chocolate and nuts.

Maybe you have to look a little closer, but you can find plenty of innovations in snack food packaging to munch on.

For more information

Amcor Flexibles Food
011-32 2 416 26 11;www.amcor.com
Atomica Design Group
Flex America Inc.
The Hudson-Sharp Machine Co.
The Nielsen Co.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Frito-Lay: 'Breakthroughs' coming in reducing packaging waste

When you’re the snack king, even small improvements in packaging sustainability could mean big gains for the environment.

A recent posting by Dave Philips, the Snack Chat chief blogger at Frito-Lay, a business unit of PepsiCo, tells us to get ready for a giant leap.

“At Frito-Laywe’ve reduced the amount of packaging in the market by 10% over the last five years-that’s 60 million pounds of packaging-by reducing the size and thickness of the film, without affecting our ability to keep chips fresh. Plus, were-use cartons that transport bags of chips an average of five times before recycling them, saving more than five million trees each year.

“This is good progress for Frito-Lay, but it’s about to get a whole lot better. Our Research and Development department has been working on new technologies that promise to provide breakthroughs in reducing packaging waste that were thought impossible just a few years ago.”

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Pringles 'design your own can' project funds children's charity

Last October, Procter & Gamble started a project during the holiday season called Pringles “Can Creater” to give Pringles lovers the opportunity to personalize their own cans and help support a cause. For every design submitted between October 2008 and June 2009, P&G agreed to make a $1 donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, up to $20,000.

Through a special website,www.pringles.com/popart, consumers can design their own graphics for cans of Pringles, enter their designs in an online competition, share them with friends and family, and print out their art for gluing or taping to Pringles cans at home.

“Pringles is all about sharing fun times, and the Can Creator was designed to express this and give our consumers a new way to enjoy and share Pringles,” says Pringles spokesperson Douwe Bergsma.

At the website, P&G shares fun ideas for these customized Pringles cans:

• Fill with homemade holiday cookies or candy to give to friends and family.
• Use as a unique gift box for those hard-to-wrap items.
• Give a personalized can of Pringles as a fun stocking stuffer.
• Personalize for friends, family, co-workers or others with whom you exchange small gifts.
• Store valued or breakable ornaments.
• Use differently designed containers to organize ribbons and wrapping materials.

The project has been a success. As of early March 2009, P&G had raised the full amount of $20,000 but will continue its “Can Creator” through the end of June as planned. The company is considering doing this again next year, but the final decision hasn’t been made yet.