David LeStage, senior manager of R&D for packaging innovation with Frito-Lay North America, told FoodProductionDaily.com one of the company’s main goals is “bringing fun back into snacks.” However, he said, many companies structure their packaging creation so that there are too many obstacles preventing the “fun” from happening.
“Innovation at CPGs is typically led by marketing,” he said. “They start with an annual operating plan, layer on a lot of constraints like budget, and at the end, there’s not a lot of time or room to get creative.”
Frito-Lay’s innovation model, Lestage said, is to ensure marketing and innovation teams share the lead role in driving packaging innovation. A primary purpose in creating packaging for new products, or revamping packaging on existing products, is to meet consumer needs and interests.
“The goal is to launch packaging innovation in the marketplace that delights the consumer,” he said. “In other words: Build it, and they will come.”
Lestage, presenting at The Packaging Conference 2014 in Orlando, showed a “sizzle reel” teasing snack packaging designs from Frito-Lay’s drawing boards. The ideas included multi-compartment bags that enable consumers to freshly sprinkle flavoring on chips by breaking a barrier between two compartments on a single package, peal-and-reseal bags that encourage sharing, and more.
The Frito-Lay innovation pipeline brings staffers from various departments, as well as equipment vendors and other outside parties, together to generate ideas. However, Lestage said, generating concepts is just the beginning.
“Ideas are easy—we could come up with a thousand more right now at the drop of the hat,” he said. “Execution takes work.”
Using existing resources
Frito-Lay’s packaging team endeavors to make the most of existing assets to make creative concepts a reality. A prime example is the Doritos Gamer Pack, a container aimed at a specific consumer demographic: video game players looking for a convenient, appealing snack package to enjoy during their favorite activity.
Sunitha Nair, lead packaging engineer on the Gamer Pack product, explained that the team arrived at a cube concept. The container would have a stand-out shape; a wide, distinctive opening; straight, clean lines; and basically would mirror some of the characteristics of a rigid pack—all using the film from its conventional “pillow” bags.
Frito-Lay drew upon an existing, similar package: the flat-bottom, gusset-sided Tostitos Artisan chips bags. However, significant differences between the Tostitos Artisan bag and the Gamer Pack concept (including a shift from a gable top to a flat benchtop) meant existing equipment had to be at least retrofitted.
According to Nair, Frito-Lay worked with internal teams and outside supplier partners to come up with an idea, which used existing packaging lines with mechanical retrofits. The teamwork approach, and the drive to make the most of existing resources, meant the concept was able to go from drawing board to launching in it Walmart stores quickly— in just 10 months’ time.
The Packaging Conference is an annual, three-day event focused on packaging for food, beverage and other industries. Sponsored by Plastic Technologies Inc. and SBA-CCI, the event is tackling a range of concerns, including sustainability, metal packaging advances, shelf-life improvement and more.