Dairy Guest Contributors National

Sorensen: Innovation With Dairy Snacks Also Could Include Packaging

Cindy Sorensen agriculture
Cindy Sorensen

by Cindy Sorensen/founder, The Grocery Group

A walk up and down grocery store aisles will reveal a plethora of snack products that have been developed to fulfill the growing consumer snacking trend.

Due to busy schedules, consumers have not been eating the traditional three meals a day at the kitchen table with their families. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in at-home meal consumption, that’s not expected to continue once we return to our previously busy schedules.

Rather than three meals, many consumers are on average eating six snacks throughout the day.

Consumer research conducted over the past several years has shown increasing demand for – and consumption of – convenience foods. This includes items we can pick up at the local fast-food drive-thru, as well as those that are portable, snack-size and (hopefully) nutritious at grocery stores.

Due to these consumer trends, dairy products needed to innovate to grow consumption and maximize sales. As a result, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and cottage cheese now come in a variety of sizes, including on-the-go snack packs.yogurt snacks

Many retailers have incorporated these products into their merchandising strategies, with dedicated “grab-n-go” displays.

However, innovation in food products is more than developing them to fit consumers’ taste profiles and consumption trends. Innovation can also mean product packaging/design, ingredients and promotion. 

In fact, consumer research identifies an opportunity for dairy products to improve when it comes to packaging.

Millennials and Generation Z indicate they are concerned about sustainability. This includes not only sustainability in manufacturing food products but also in packaging.  

Unfortunately, many snack foods are over-packaged. Some have two to three layers of packaging that help merchandise at retail, segregate ingredients (i.e. cheese, crackers, nuts) into snack packs and make the items more convenient for on-the-go consumption. The products deliver on consumer trends, but their packaging does not. 

Consumer groups have told us they like to buy items individually so they can package them in their own, reusable containers. Certainly, this could represent a cost savings for manufacturers and consumers, while also providing an environmental savings for increased sustainability.  

It seems this information could be instrumental in developing promotional programs that focus on the benefits of purchasing dairy products and preparing one’s own snack preferences for storage and portability purposes. 

cheese stick snackThis also is an opportunity to partner with a storage container company for key times of the year such as “back-to-school” or summer school/camps.

The traditional health and wellness focus in January, when many consumers turn their thoughts to reduced meal and snack sizes, would also be a good time.

Great strides have been made; just a few more steps are needed to fully deliver to consumers what they tell us they want. 

Always start the product innovation conversation with consumer research and, most importantly, believe in it. Consumers and customers will reward you for it.

Sorensen’s Grocery Group has a mission to “develop leadership in purpose, people and products” with a specific emphasis on the grocery/consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The group also develops programs to connect grocery industry professionals to colleges and universities to help attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment. Reach Sorensen at [email protected]

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