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Dear friends + colleagues,
As the ongoing “new normal” keeps throwing wrenches into our work lives, we continue to miss talking all things branding with fellow industry professionals. This letter was designed to provoke an exchange of thought between the cognitive and creative in modern branding. We hope you’ll read and take something away from it.  
The consumer’s path to purchase has taken many turns over the last two years, driven mostly by the pandemic. But where do consumers now expect to find and buy your brand? The short answer: many places. The long, more complicated answer: path to purchase is usually uniquely driven by product category and consumer shopping habits in that category.
Inspired by our recent project work, we wanted to see how consumers are shopping for brands in the Salty Snacks category
We did some research using our Quick Assess tool, and were intrigued by the results…
Branding Insight #1:
In the salty snacks category, in-store purchasing reigns supreme, but e-commerce should not be ignored.
Our research showed that 97% of consumers continue to buy Salty Snacks in-store. Many categories have seen a significant shift to e-commerce during the pandemic, but for Salty Snacks, in-store purchase and discovery (74% find a new brand while in store!) is still key. Does this mean that the more things change…the more they stay the same?
So…what are the implications?
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While so important to the Salty Snacks category, in-store shopping behavior doesn’t look the same as it once did. The at-shelf experience is vital, but it’s also important to consider what the key trip drivers are as well as when and where the category consumer discovers new brands. 38% of respondents said they buy salty snacks online whether they’re picking their purchase up at the physical store or having it delivered to their home. The online brand experience is still critical—it offers important brand support and engagement. Work to understand the logistics and psychology behind your consumer’s shopping habits from discovery through to repurchase. This effort will be time well spent if your brand wants to create a lasting relationship with your consumer. 
When designing packaging for Salty Snacks, look to find ways to communicate the brand’s essence and point of difference through signature design elements. Havsies, a popcorn brand we designed for, wanted to go all-in on being the most BOLD and PREMIUM popcorn in the space. To achieve this, we enlarged the traditional product photo to emphasize its personality: bold and big on taste. We utilized gold foil and holographic substrates to communicate the brand’s luxe feel, giving it eye-catching shine in a category that tends toward a healthy aesthetic. The resulting giant, gleaming popcorn graphic communicates Havsies’ brand identity on-shelf from further away than its competition, and it's also a scroll-stopper as consumers browse the digital shelf. 
Branding Insight #2:
Flavor is the key driver for a consumer’s purchase decision in the category.
68% of Quick Assess survey respondents said flavor most influences what they buy – significantly more than any other product attribute.  As a result, it’s crucial to identify the right flavors and then communicate your flavor offering through content and design elements that resonate in both the physical and digital retail environments. 
How does that impact brand strategy?
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In Salty Snacks, there’s been an explosion of flavor options over the past decade. Staying on trend requires staying ahead of trends. This requires tracking away from home (seeking out cutting-edge restaurants, food, and beverage experts, etc.) and then confirming new flavor directions with your target consumer through consumer learning to understand what appeals to them most. It’s also important to focus your brand content on the things that resonate most with consumers—in the case of salty snacks, that’s flavor and ingredients. Remember, just because you can say it doesn’t mean you should.     
Strategic flavor communication is a vital part of your package design. In the popcorn category specifically, consumers look for flavor innovation or, more accurately, evolution. Take what’s familiar or popular and modify it with something unexpected. That’s where Havsies’ big kernel comes in. It jumps off pack and off the shelf, but beyond that, it communicates the brand’s innovative flavors with elevated, detailed, eye-catching photography. The consumer can clearly see the flavor experience, which helps them recognize the different flavors on shelf and online and entices them to try the product.
If you'd like to dig into more of our Salty Snacks consumer research insights, reach out to us at or
Until next time,

Julie, Kate, + Pato
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