The eggs factor: Easter packaging trends
Ask a child what Easter represents and they’ll say “it’s when the Easter bunny arrives”. Clearly, the religious significance of Easter has waned as gifting has taken over. Easter, like Christmas, is now entrenched as a key selling period for retailers.
The season has been embraced by a raft of categories – cakes, bakery, even joints of meat are presented in packaging redolent with Easter imagery. Brands are well aware of Easter’s power as a marketing tool and they’re coming out in full force.
In terms of packaging, Easter’s no longer just about chocolate. Last year, Waitrose’s on-going commercial marriage with Heston Blumenthal continued apace with the return of the latter’s £20 Golden Egg, in all its sleek black glory, to dominate the premium market. M&S, as always, delivered elegance and luxury in equal measure, while Hotel Chocolat, the priciest choice, continued to push the envelope – experimenting with the very idea of what an Easter egg should be.
The same contenders are back again this year. But this time round, the trends shaping Easter egg packaging are even more defined, whether it’s high end or own brand.
1. Protection, excess - and desire
The noise around excess packaging seemed to kick off properly over Christmas as online shopping – and therefore the need to pack goods in cardboard boxes – reached new heights. It seems to have trickled into Easter 2016 too, with our collective environmental conscience tussling with our desire for treats wrapped beautifully.
For designers and packaging experts, that tussle is perhaps even more exacerbated; we know that protection is a crucial part of the packaging equation – and especially so with a product as fragile as chocolate Easter eggs.
Although the layman might think it’s a cut-and-dried issue of excess packaging – and on one level, it is a disgrace that chocolate takes up an average of just 38% of the box in which it comes – it is, of course, more complex.
A carton with a clam pack offers an awful lot of visibility, which is obviously what brands want; just as importantly though, it offers good protection. And when it comes to premium products, the packs add drama and excitement to the overall experience, a fact that’s reflected in the price.
And ultimately, how much and what sort of packaging is used for such a fragile product needs to achieve a fine balance between cost, environmental responsibility, desirability and the treat factor. It’s a balancing act that has become pronounced in 2016, and likely to stay on the agenda for some time in the future.
2. M&S, Waitrose and the rest
Easter 2015 was all about the Waitrose/Heston Golden Egg, and its sell-out status makes a talking point for this year too. But 2016 is a year in which Waitrose, along with Marks and Spencer, are putting significant clear blue water between themselves and the Big Four, never mind the discounters.
The luxury factor is more than evident at Waitrose, M&S and Hotel Chocolat too, with its Ostrich Egg – coming in at a whopping £75.
Of course you’ll still see cheaper, branded, eggs at Waitrose and M&S, but the Big Four and discounters are focusing the bulk of shelf space almost entirely at the lower price range and going heavy on promotional activity in a bid to shift volume.
Both retailers are playing to their strengths. Price is a major deciding factor in what we purchase and for what occasion. A quick straw poll at Sun Branding Solutions proved almost unanimously that we’ll likely spend £10 or less if it’s an Easter egg for ourselves, but we’ll top that without much soul-searching if it’s a gift.
3. Cheeky wit and corporate good
Last year, Hotel Chocolat’s tongue-in-cheek approach got it mentioned in all the right places – we certainly noted the “Egg on Toast”, “Egg Sandwich” and even “Egg On My Face”. Introducing clever, functional packaging designs to match, this boutique chocolatier got it right. And it’s doing so again this year, proving that a brand that gets creative, while also blending product and packaging into one, will generate real consumer appeal and instant recognition on-shelf.
More notable than Hotel Chocolat’s wit however, is what I believe to be the first tie up of its kind in the Easter egg category: Tesco’s Help for Heroes egg. Tesco has to be applauded for delivering a win/win – indulging the nation’s sweet tooth and doing some social good to boot.
Let’s hope this is one trend that we’ll be seeing more of next year. Happy Easter.