Snack food consumption surged during the height of the pandemic — after all, shoving a handful of gummy worms into your mouth may not solve the impending doom, but it sure can distract you for a moment. Now, however, as consumers begin to return to their daily lives and optimism rises, snack food brands are challenged to find ways to retain the customers they gained during the lockdown.
One way that Ferrara — the sweet snack foods company behind Keebler, Brach’s, Laffy Taffy, SweeTARTS and many other popular cookie and candy brands — is doing this is by launching a partnership that goes straight for consumers’ sense of fun. The company announced earlier this month that it is collaborating with “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” the sequel to the 1996 blockbuster that remains a favorite for a whole generation of consumers (ironically for some and earnestly for others), “Space Jam.”
“Years ago, we learned that candy was recession-proof, but one major discovery in the last year is that candy is also pandemic-proof,” Greg Guidotti, general manager of sugar confections at Ferrara, told PYMNTS in an interview. “With so many delicious and fun offerings like this ‘Space Jam’ limited-edition collection, we’re hoping our Ferrara brands stay top-of-mind with our consumers as things get back to ‘normal.'”
He noted that in seeking out opportunities for partnerships and collaborations, the company looks for properties that fulfill two key requirements: they are relevant in the moment and they have broad appeal. Given these criteria, the Space Jam partnership “was an easy decision,” playing into the company’s broader product strategy, said Guidotti.
As he put it, “Ferrara differentiates itself by creating a fully integrated and cohesive program from product to proposition to activation — leveraging both the property and our equities seamlessly.”
The Spice of Life
Another important way to win consumers’ snack loyalty is by offering variety. It makes sense that, after spending over a year in lockdown, many consumers would be seeking novelty right now, both in their lives and in their snacking experiences.
“We are always considering the latest trends and consumer data to differentiate our portfolio of snacking options and ensure we’re delivering snacks that meet our fans’ needs,” said Guidotti. “With Confections, the biggest trend is with taste experience. More and more, consumers are looking for multi-sensorial, multi-textural and multi-flavor experiences.”
This desire for novelty comes as more consumers begin seeking snacking opportunities outside the home. Afternoon snacking visits to restaurants are on the rise, even as other dayparts struggle.
Much as the animated and live-action worlds intersect in the Space Jam films, the packaging for this collaboration’s products blends the physical and the digital. QR codes on product wrappers, boxes and displays lead consumers to video games featuring characters from the film and Ferrara’s products. This activation gives Ferrara a chance to also engage consumers who may be too young to have the fondness for the film that many millennials feel.
“Many of our Confections consumers are Gen Z, and native to the digital and social space,” said Guidotti. Adding this “QR-enabled physical-to-digital experience” gave the brand an opportunity to connect with consumers on a deeper level, bringing a “more digital, immersive experience that further brought this partnership to life,” he said.
Additionally, these QR codes could present the company with the opportunity to collect data, giving them a better understanding of the brands’ most engaged customers and presenting a valuable chance to market to these consumers.
As Trevor Sumner, CEO of marketing platform Perch, explained to Karen Webster in a recent interview, “Let’s say … I’m in a store, I scan that QR code and you’ve now cookied me. Now you can reach out to me at any time. If I give the email address, now [you] can turn those in-store shoppers into omnichannel shoppers, and that unlocks everything.”
The Digital Future of Snacking
Along with the limited-edition packaging, Guidotti said, the Space Jam collaboration also features “a holistic amplification to engage with consumers where they are – on social and digital channels.”
These sorts of digital activations that incorporate social media can be the key to reaching younger consumers, especially as social commerce picks up steam. In the past month, Facebook has grown its augmented reality try-on capabilities, expanded its Shops feature to Marketplace and WhatsApp, and added QR codes and payment links to Messenger. Meanwhile, Twitter announced on Tuesday (June 22) the addition of new paid features Ticketed Spaces and Super Follows.
“Consumers are continuing to look for digital-first tools to help simplify their lives,” said Guidotti. “We are always looking … to connect with consumers where they are.”
PYMNTS’ data from the June 2021 survey of over 15,000 U.S. consumers, published in the How Consumers Live in the ConnectedEconomy report, found that 92 percent have placed an online order in the past year, and 92 percent of U.S. consumers also believe that digital tools enable improvements in shopping and eating.
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