Andrew Streeter, packaging innovation director at Datamonitor, told ConfectioneryNews.com that on seasonal occasions such as Easter “packaging is critical. It’s what makes the market”, creating excitement and shelf-appeal.
Structural changes reduce material use
He said that confectioners this year were creatively changing the structure of Easter egg packaging to reduce material content and engage consumers.
“Easter eggs are often criticized for being a bit overpacked…We are seeing more moderate use of packaging.”
He said that less plastic was being used and more board packaging was being added in its absence.
“Structural innovation is providing magic to Easter while stripping out packaging content”
He said pack materials were being reduced through structural changes, such as turning the box into a character like a dog that holds the egg in its mouth.
Sustainable and engaging
There is a lot more precision in the way the packaging is built through decoration, textures such as matte finish or gloss, and how the packaging interconnects, he added.
The focus on sustainability is partly being driven by pressure from institutions to reduce packaging materials. For example, UK Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson every year produces annual Easter Egg Packaging report.
Last year she said that the industry was becoming “complacent” after the report found that chocolate only took up 38% of the surface area in egg boxes, the same figure as the prior year.
Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel Food and Drink, said: "After all the bad press that excess Easter packaging has received, there is some effort to trim down packaging and to make the products more eco friendly - 10% of new launches claim to be eco friendly."
Streeter said that being able to see the egg was important, but it must protect the chocolate atmospherically with PET tubes or foil.
For example, in the UK, premium supermarket Waitrose has packaged a decorated Easter Egg without foil in a plastic tube. See image below.
Last year, Nestlé UK announced that it had made its entire Easter egg range 100% recyclable by using recyclable cardboard and compostable film.
Streeter said that there may be cost savings in material reduction, but conversion costs such as gluing would remain unchanged and the time to produce may be extended.
But he added: “It’s not about the cost, it’s the value it gives to hollow a hollow object made out of fragile material”.
Production and consumer demand for sustainability
Easter eggs are packaged through a mixture of hand assembly and machine automation.
Some big firms may conscript seasonal workers or contract specialized packers to manage the additional workload around seasonal periods.
Whether consumers care that packaging materials are being reduced is another matter.
A recent survey from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) found that 55% of consumers globally would pay more for environmentally-friendly packaging.
But Streeter said that sustainability was not the primary driver, and consumers were more drawn by price and presentation.
Egg came first but chicken and other shapes next
Streeter said that Easter was not just about eggs, and added that there was a very diverse product range this year.
“The chocolate formings one sees, seems greater than previous years,” he said.
Lindt’s Gold Bunnies have long been an Easter favorite but Mondelez has also introduced a Cadbury hollow bunny, while Nestlé has packaged Smarties branded chocolate in both a hen and chick shaped package and a bunny.