Suzanne Callander explores how confectionery producers can address the global personalisation megatrend, and hopefully profit from it too! 

Personalisation is an ongoing global megatrend that requires manufactures to tailor a service or product to accommodate individual consumer requirements. 

Across many manufacturing sectors this megatrend has been made possible on a large scale thanks to rapidly advancing production technology which is enabling automated plants to address the need for ‘mass customisation’ – a process that allows a customer to personalise certain features of a product, while allowing the manufacturer to keep costs at, or near, mass production prices.  

Traditionally, personalisation has been the preserve of smaller artisan producers who are agile enough to quickly adapt products to meet customer demand, but usually at a premium when it comes to pricing.  

The confectionery sector has been quick to address the personalisation trend. Consumers can now go online and design their own M&Ms, with personalised messages and images, for example. 

A good place for confectionery producers wishing to address the trend is to start to think outside the box when it comes to wrapping and packaging. Swizzles Matlow, for example, offers a facility that allows consumers to design their own personal messages on packaging. In the chocolate sector, Tony’s Chocolonely is doing a similar thing, offering an online service which allows consumers to upload their own images and text onto an outer wrapper template which is then printed onto a wrapper and shipped to an address of the consumers choice.  

Kennedy’s spoke to Christoph Krombholz, Marketing Manager at Loesch Verpackungstechnik, to get his thoughts on packaging personalisation. He first highlighted the fact that the personalisation trend can pose problems for some larger manufacturers whose production lines are fully automated – making short batch runs and frequent changes difficult to achieve. “For mass customisation you need to identify smart technical situations so it could require a large investment. There is a need for flexible and efficient machines with simple and intuitive operation, so that they can start up again quickly following format or recipe changes,” says Christoph. “Another important consideration, of course, should be the environmental impact of the packaging materials chosen. An equally prevalent consumer trend is the demand more sustainable solutions.” 

“Rather than a challenge, this trend should be viewed as an opportunity… It has the potential to open up new markets and to add value to existing product lines.” 

 Loesch is in constant conversation with its customers to ensure it is able to provide solutions to both traditional and emerging packaging needs. “Of course, we are also able to help with the development of customer-specific solutions, especially in the area of production personalisation,” continues Christoph. 

 Christoph’s advice to confectionery producers to ensure that their packaging catches the eye of the consumer on retailers’ shelves is to make good use of the space on the packaging to communicate with consumers. “It is important to use this space as well as possible,” he says. “When it comes to packaging material choices Loesch is able to offer solutions that work with a wide range of materials – both traditional and sustainable. We are also happy to offer advice regarding the material and the best economic solution for the product that needs to be wrapped.” 

Flexible equipment
 
Massimo Monguzzi, R&D Manager at CAMA GROUP, believes the consumer trend for more personalised products also poses a challenge for packaging equipment manufacturers. “Packaging equipment providers really need to study and engineer customised solutions based on our customer’s needs,” he says. “Customers’ requirements can often change from project to project and we need to be creative to overcome this challenge. 

“Confectionery producers will always choose equipment that is able to respond to their needs, so solutions need to offer the flexibility to manage different product formats and to shorten changeover times. Customers are demanding smarter machines that help operators and technicians in their everyday operations such as maintenance.” Other trends that Massimo has identified is the need for more sustainable packaging processes. “We are having to find ways to reduce the amount of packaging material required, to optimise energy consumption and reduce waste and product rejects,” he says. 

For confectioners looking to address the personalisation trend, Massimo believes that  

flexible machines are the key. “Robotic solutions are, by nature made for more flexible production, but it is also possible for more traditional packaging machines to be upgraded to high levels of performance – for example adding automatic changeover capabilities,” he concludes. 

CATCHING THE EYE WITH CARTONBOARD 

While all consumers will have their favourite brands, their choices today are increasingly being led by a desire for more environmentally-friendly options. Cartonboard has been heralded as offering a good solution for confectionery packaging. 
Winfried Muehling, General Manager at Pro Carton, explains further: “Cartonboard is made from renewable resources, and it is compostable and easily recyclable. Fibres from cartonboard packaging can be recycled more than 25 times with little to no loss of integrity, which has enabled the cartonboard industry to be seen as one that is continually evolving, is fully circular and continuously improving its carbon footprint.” 
But, how does cartonboard stand up when it comes to issues surrounding consumer health and safety? “Different barrier solutions are available to protect against the migration of unwanted substances from the cartons into the confectionery products,” says Winfried.   
The flexible and versatile nature of cartonboard enables its use in many different printing techniques to ensure it catches the consumer’s eye. “It is possible, for example, to include three-dimensional designs and embossing, which provides a unique feel and texture to the substrate,” continues Winfried. “Amongst some of the other print processes which can be used for cartonboard packaging, one emerging technology is digital printing, which allows for customised printing, particularly useful for seasonal and personal greetings.” 
Nestle’s Smarties Giant Hexatube, which won a European Carton Excellence Award, is made entirely from recyclable cartonboard together with an integrated lid. It boasts six sides – demonstrating the levels of cutting and creasing accuracy that can be attained with the material – and a lid with glued ears which allows the tabs to be opened and resealed. 

Identifying opportunities
 
When I asked Ruben Taks, International Sales Engineer at Lareka Confectionery Equipment, whether he believes that the personalisation trend posed any challenges to confectionery producers, he laughed! “Rather than a challenge, this trend should be viewed as an opportunity,” he says. “It has the potential to open up new markets for confectioners and to add value to existing product lines.” Offering an example, he cited Lareka’s work with artisan chocolatiers who are adding personalised packaging to their standard product lines for corporate customers. “The mark- up for simply personalising the packaging can be huge,” continues Ruben. “We have seen producers doubling their mark-up, simply by adding a personalised wrapper to a standard product.” 

I went on to ask Ruben how confectioners reap similar rewards by personalising their packaging. He says: “To offer a personalised wrapper, confectioners will either need to hand wrap pre-cut wrappers or, if the number of products increases sufficiently, to purchase a wrapping machine for bars, tablets, and indeed all types of confectionery, that works with pre-cut wrappers, instead of from a roll, which tends to be the norm. Wrapping machines do exist that will allow personalised packaging down to batch sizes of one, if necessary – assuming, of course, that you are able to print the wrappers cost-effectively.” 

Ruben went on to highlight the importance of finding a partner who is able to design and print good quality wrappers, if you do not have the technology to do so in house. “Make sure that they are able to offer you fast lead times, even for minimal order sizes,” warns Ruben. “Often orders for personalised products will come in for events that are due to happen in the very near future – to be able to offer a good service, therefore, requires rapid turnaround times for both the design and print in addition to delivery of the finished products.” 

Ruben advises that one of the first steps should be to identify whether there is a market for personalising your product. He says: “We absolutely believe that confectionery personalisation can help increase profitability – but we always advise our customers to first identify their own opportunities in this sector. The only thing you really need to take the first step into this market is access to a good designer and a good quality printer – once you have the wrappers you could even wrap by hand if necessary, while quantities are small or you could work with a third-party to help personalise your standard product to meet early demand, until you are confident that the volumes are high enough and consistent enough to invest in your own packaging solution.” 

When it comes to catching the consumer’s eye, Ruben’s advice is that whatever you do – be different! “For some this might mean a rainbow of colours for others it might be something. more subtle – but never be a copycat. Always try to offer something unique and make sure your packaging reflects your product and your price point. Never forget that that you can produce the best chocolate in the world but if your packaging doesn’t attract the right customers then no one will ever know that – always remember that the quality of your packaging should be as important as the quality of your product.” 

CELEBRATING WOMEN EVERYWHERE 

Hershey’s has introduced a limited-edition milk chocolate bar which highlights ‘SHE’. The special design was created to celebrate women and girls everywhere, and it coincides with Women’s History Month celebrations which run throughout March in the US.  
From daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, neighbours, mentors, coaches and co-workers, to the barista who knows your order by heart, Hershey’s asks us all to take a moment to celebrate SHE.  
“We are surrounded by women and girls that inspire us every single day. Creating this simple, but powerful and colourful change to our milk chocolate bar serves as a reminder of how important they are in our lives,” explains Veronica Villasenor, Vice President, US, The Hershey Company.  
To continue the celebration of SHE, Hershey’s is also partnering with Girls on the Run, a non-profit organisation with a mission focused on supporting, empowering and inspiring girls to realise their limitless potential. As part of the partnership, Hershey’s is donating $150,000 to Girls on the Run. 
The Hershey Company says that it is on a journey of celebrating and investing in women in the workplace and communities. Named #1 on the World’s Top Female-Friendly Companies list by Forbes in 2021, The Hershey Company is among only a handful of Fortune 500 companies led by women. Hershey is committed to equal pay, career development and supporting impactful non-profit partners among other initiatives to support women.  

Image credit: Lareka Confectionery Equipment

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal kgrewal@kennedys.co.uk