Snackification of Packaging: A Farewell to Table Manners?

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We were all sitting when my dad grumbled with a mix of anger and surprise. “They don’t bring the food to the table, don’t give you cutlery or plates and what’s worse, you have to throw your waste in the trash bin when you’re done. How is that possible?

I was about seven or eight years old the first time we went to a McDonald’s restaurant. For me, it was a new experience, as if I was taking a trip to America. For my dad it was a tragedy.

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This image is of Pumper Nic, the Argentine version of the American fast food restaurants that appeared in the 80s and disappeared in the mid-90s.”

Such a dramatic experience for my dad was much more natural for me. Years later he was happy to go to McDonald’s. He’d got used to self-serving practice.

Novelties make some people uncomfortable at the beginning while others accept them without questioning until novelties become normal for everybody.

In a store at New York airport, I found an overwhelming proliferation of snacks. Lots of designs I had never seen before. They were colourful, intriguing, some attractive and some disconcerting.

My wife was rolling her eyes and my son was looking at the floor drawing a semicircle with the tip of his foot when they asked me if I was ever going to stop taking pictures.

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The store shelves were a weird landscape, different from the one I was used to seeing. And that’s what attracted me.”

The first step in attracting consumers is to be different.

AAfter taking a few pictures, I decided to analyze the products, their designs and why there were so many and so different. The first thing I noticed was they weren’t the typical fried snacks which are considered to be unhealthy. Like the products in the photo below

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Instead, they were mostly baked potatoes, cereal bars or small bites made from dried fruit and nuts with high nutritional benefits.

Some of them proclaim themselves to be super-foods that can replace a meal. When did we start willing to replace a meal with a cereal bar?

It was then that I felt like my dad at McDonald’s for the first time but then I tried some of them and I mostly liked them. So I understood what they were useful for.

There are also chocolate and succulent snacks, but their packaging designs are very different from classic confectionery that seem to come from a superhero movie. Like the ones in the photo below.

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The difference is the large and full-colored backgrounds that work as beacons between the tide of competition. Typographies are simpler, without deformations, more neutral and less frenzied.

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After the past hedonistic years of indulgent but poorly nutritious products, there is a revalorization of healthy eating. Maybe also because of snobbery. But if being snobbish means eating better, so be it.

The new generation of snacks is based on two fundamental needs: have something healthy and tasty to eat between meals and be able to do it anywhere.

Nutrition and portability go hand in hand.

The term portability comes from the computer world. It is the ability of a software to be used under different systems.

And it is precisely thanks to technology that you can study in a bar or work on a bench of a square: the walls of offices and libraries where you can’t talk have been torn down.

Healthy snacks come in individual portions or packages that allow us to save some to eat later. You can have them anywhere and you don’t need to stop your activity to nourish yourself properly. They’re portable.

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But when the choices and brands multiply amply, they need to differentiate one another.

There are some references to 1940s vintage American styles, playing with the nostalgia of times that most of their consumers may have never lived.

There is also a return to the 80’s colour schemes, which is something vintage for grown-ups and something new for youngsters.

Older than old is new.

Some cereal bars want to convey high performance, as an efficient energy fuel. Other examples have a natural imprint by means of a pastel colour scheme or handwritten typography.

There is one that denotes authenticity showing off its only four natural ingredients and what it does NOT have.

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It looks as if you don’t have to sit at the table to have a meal. A cereal bar while you’re walking is enough. If no one is going to sit down for a meal anymore, is this the end of table manners?

In this era, I feel we are witnessing the end of the endings and the start of the beginnings.

There are as many possibilities as there are people, and the most interesting thing of all is to be able to do a little bit of everything: a snack while you study or work but have a meal at grandma’s on Sundays.