Aoife McGuinness, neuroscience consultant at HeyHuman, looks at ways brands can use neuroscience to tap the healthy snacking trend

How can brands communicate snacks’ health benefits in a busy retail environment, where they’re found nestling against high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar indulgence items and other mainstays of traditional permission snacking?

Cues can often be taken from neuroscience. Understanding what makes people tick, down to visual, verbal, tactile and even aural touchpoints – every stimulus has the potential to create a mood, a feeling and a propensity to behave.

Brands like Graze and Propercorn, for example, are known for their range of healthy snacks. Both place their calorie counts front and centre, along with key healthy ingredients such as nuts, oats and fruit. Making these instantly visible and at the top of the ingredients hierarchy plays to customers’ perception, when they are browsing the aisles, that these items are healthy alternatives.

Packaging design and colour schemes always play an important part in communicating key brand messages. Every category has its own palette to paint staple products and ideas, and healthy snacking is no different.

Again, Graze and Propercorn use warm, inviting pastel tones to catch shoppers’ attention and stand out on-shelf by straying away from the bright, primary, blocky reds and yellows often associated with fast-food brands. Walkers’ Sunbites also does this, boasting a mild, relaxing colour scheme and typography that reflects healthy choices.

In work with breakfast biscuit brand BelVita, HeyHuman found something of a middle-ground. We set up an experiential stand in Charing Cross station and encouraged commuters to sample the biscuit. The simple message of ‘Good morning’, combined with live piano-playing and a more muted yellow colour scheme, seemed to cut through the noise.

It was gentle, yet effective, highlighting BelVita’s status as a simple brand to process – not claiming to be the purest option on the market, but providing a slow release of energy and responding to the needs of early-morning commuters.

In snacking, there’s a tacit understanding that whatever you’re consuming is a treat – and the unhealthy ones have just been better at communicating this. It’s time for healthy snacks to do the same, but with a focus on health cues.

So, wherever you are targeting consumers, the key is to keep it simple, keep the colours, wording and imagery consistent with the healthy snacking category as a whole, and highlight the most important health factors first.