Snacks have the power to drive positive emotional shopping behavior, but too much focus on health and a lack of in-store innovation could kill the joy factor, says the VP of shopper psychology at Saatchi & Saatchi X.
There has been a raft of healthy snacks developed over the past few years, with better-for-you and good-for-you snacks exploding into the arena. Some of the category’s biggest players have pledged to innovate in this area including Snyder’s-Lance , PepsiCo and Kellogg , among others.
But, Dr Christopher Gray, vice president of shopper psychology at Saatchi & Saatchi X, said innovation in this direction had to consider emotion – a factor that was extremely important in shopping.
“When we think about the emotional engagement of snacking – what it is that draws people into snacking and wanting to purchase snacks – there’s a number of very powerful emotional benefits that snacking can provide,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
For example, many products sparked nostalgia or had a strong sense of connection because of the sharing aspect, he said. There were also brands that reduced negative or uncomfortable emotions like anxiety or guilt, Gray said, such as those that claimed non-GMO on pack or contained healthy ingredients.
However, too much focus on health in snacking could damage the shopper experience and act against the category, he warned. “My concern, as we move forward and that becomes more and more common, is – are we moving away from snacking as creating moments of joy to snacking as a way to alleviate guilt?”
Snacking creates excitement, but you have to keep it up in-store
Gray said snacks created a lot of emotional engagement with consumers. “They’re excited about snacking,” he said.
“There are so many great, positive emotional engagements when it comes to snacks. What I see though, is that disappears when the shopper gets into the shopping experience.”
Snack makers were not doing enough to stimulate excitement around snacking in store, he said. “One of the challenges I would have for the industry, is how can we tap into that emotional excitement?”
There were hundreds of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands that would love the level of emotional engagement that snacks had, he said, because it was a huge advantage. “But if we don’t thread it into the store experience – the retail experience – to motivate her or him to purchase, then there’s not much of an advantage any longer.”
Emotions were incredibly important in influencing shopper behavior, Gray said, and could help improve attention in store; opening up a shopper’s perception which made it easier for brands to communicate. “One of the things we’re always trying to do is get his or her attention. So if they have a broader openness to their environment, that’s helpful. Whereas if a shopper is frustrated, they tend to get blinders on and become very focused. Breaking through that is very difficult,” he said.
Maintaining and sparking snack excitement in-store
There were a number of ways snack makers could stimulate shopper excitement in store, Gray said, from developing in-store tailored messaging and on-pack communication to theatrical marketing.
“I hope we don’t lose that joy of snacking. There is a certain aspect, whether it’s bakery, popcorn or even candy, which is a little bit about being bad. It’s about taking an indulgent moment, having a fun break from the day. Snacking has that wonderful aspect to it that I hope we don’t lose sight of.”