Packaging has evolved tremendously over the years, with companies developing innovative packaging solutions to suit the relevant situational circumstances of their particular periods in time. From metal tins to milk cartons and, more recently, eco-friendly bottles, packaging has come a long way since confectionery packaging was first introduced in the 1700s when snacks were introduced into the food trade in the United States. But, how exactly has packaging evolved through the years and what can companies today glean from the historical advancement of food packaging? 

In this article, we will explore confectionery packaging through the ages to showcase how the modern packaging world has changed and how companies could leverage lessons in packaging to craft better solutions. Whether you have already established trustworthy partnerships with packaging producers or are wishing to build new relationships through sourcing reputable packaging suppliers, made easier with the help of quality comparative resources, you can curate your next packaging innovation with a greater understanding of confectionery packaging’s history.

To begin our packaging journey through time, let’s jump back to 1779;

The Origins of Confectionery Packaging

The roots of snack packaging can be traced back to the year where Pemmican, an energy-producing snack developed by the North American Cree Indians, was introduced to the American food trade. Packed, stored, and delivered in rawhide pouches, Pemmican would pave the way for snack packaging. Fast forward over 100 years to 1896 and the first folding cartons were crafted and used to package crackers from the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). Up until this point, crackers and chips were sold out of barrels and customers would require shopkeepers to scoop them out of the barrels and into bags.

This early method would often lead to biscuits becoming stale and the need for a solution was only filled once Nabisco developed the folding carton. Cardboard and paper packaging thus proved a useful and affordable solution for companies across the globe, with Nabisco leading the charge through novel innovations over the years. Kellogs followed suit and packaged cereal in cardboard cartons and potato chips were glue-sealed in paper bags. These early inventions would prolong the lifespan of foods and become a necessity to meet the demands of the emerging modern market.

Convenience Becomes Key

With the middle-class forming a powerhouse audience in the 1900s market, the need for proper confectionery packaging was paramount to the success of snack businesses across the globe. More than ever before, convenience was becoming the main driver for packaging producers’ innovations. Products needed to be packaged in a way that extended their shelf life, made for a simple and easy consumer experience, and changed the way we consume snacks on the go. Easy-open product packaging and resealable plastic bags became commonplace in the confectionery world for their ability to serve the consumer better. Nabisco, once again, led by example when they developed the first nozzle-tipped canned cheese spread that could be easily applied to sandwiches simply by squeezing the bottle. In every corner of the markets, products were becoming geared towards saving time and money through clever packaging and product alterations.

Sustainability Saves the Day

By the turn of the century, the world was growing ever aware of the devastating environmental consequences of our markets’ unhindered actions over the years. Global warming became a hot topic and the confectionery market was urged to play its part in helping save the environment. By 2010, Sunchips developed a biodegradable bag made from polylactic acid which lived a short lifespan after being bombed by consumers as being too loud when opening the bags. Needless to say, consumers demanded product packaging that both met eco-friendly guidelines and performed as intended.

With sustainability driving the packaging decisions of many companies, novel innovations were being churned out across the globe from companies big and small. Nestle and Mondelez were among the several big companies who placed sustainability targets to be actioned by 2025, thus showcasing the global response by companies pushing for greener confectionery packaging. Bottles were now recyclable, biodegradable and edible packaging grew in favor, and reusable glass jars saw popularity for their dual-purpose benefit. We had entered a new age of sustainable packaging and that seems set to stay.

2020 Trends and Beyond

As another year draws to a close and packaging producers look to 2021, several significant trends have become apparent in the confectionery packaging market. These trends are set to guide companies’ decisions when crafting new packaging solutions to serve the demanding consumer base across the globe. While sustainability is playing an ever-increasing role in packaging decisions, other trends are emerging as forces to be reckoned with. Ease of use is playing a popular role in the packaging process, with companies continually urged to think about packaging innovations geared to saving the consumer time.

Furthermore, tailored packaging is making waves with examples such as Mondelez’s Oreos personalization strategies showcasing that consumers are attracted to products that make a personal connection. From allowing customers to choose from several colored Oreo fillings to adding sprinkles or dipped fudge as well as personalized games featuring on their product packaging, Oreo’s campaigns have pushed confectionery packaging to the next level. And beyond these trends, authenticity is at the crux of new packaging trends with consumers demanding real reflections of company culture and values highlighted on their products. Consumers want real, genuine, and engaging brand narratives told through packaging and not just digital marketing. Alas, packaging is becoming a crucial consumer touchpoint for commercial companies, more so than ever before.

These companies have an opportunity to partner with innovative packaging producers and start to curate unforgettable experiences for their audiences and build lifelong brand loyalty within an extremely competitive confectionery market. Speaking of such innovations, Nestle once again makes a feature in this article as improving their sustainability, personalization and demand for their KitKat products by partnering with Glossop Cartons and Highcon’s laser cutting technology to develop their bespoke cartons that feature angular patterns inspired by the shape of the KITKAT fingers.