The Puppy Bowl is over, the guacamole is gone and the Clydesdales have again captured the hearts of America. The confetti has fallen on the field at Houston’s NRG Stadium and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been presented to the champions. It’s late, and for fans of the winning team who may have partied a little too hard, or those so unfortunate to be on the side of the losers and are crying in their beer, it’s time to head home. Enter Tostito’s and its interactive packaging technology.

In lieu of dishing out a cool $5M for a 30-second TV commercial, Tostito’s introduced its “Party Safe” bag, a limited-edition flexible chip bag with an integrated sensor connected to a microcontroller that is calibrated to detect small traces of alcohol on a person’s breath. The bag – which is an interesting application of the growing genre of smart, active and intelligent packaging – works when the user breaths into a sensor embedded in the bag. If the sensor doesn’t detect alcohol, a green steering wheel image lights up; if alcohol is detected, a red steering wheel image flashes along with the message “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The triad of Tostitos, Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving joined forces in an effort to make sure that people are partying responsibly.  In an article by USA Today, Jennifer Saenz, chief marketing officer for Tostitos maker Frito-Lay said the brand “thought it was an opportunity to begin a conversation with consumers about drinking and driving, and about responsibility, in a really fun and engaging way.”

All about engagement

It’s the engagement aspect that is most important from both a brand and a packaging perspective. According to Mintel’s 2017 Global Packaging Trend, “Packaging Gets Smart,” the deliverable behind this type of interactive packaging technology is shifting from being primarily entertainment-based to becoming more functional or “contextually relevant.” It’s about providing content that aids consumers in a specific use occasion or need state rather than simply as a push-marketing tool. The Tostitos example, particularly where the affiliation with Uber fits in, speaks to the Mintel Trend Transumers which discusses how consumers spend their time in transit, translating to a greater market for in-transit brand advertising.

So where can adoring football fans and party planners get these unique bags? Sorry, they can’t. The bags are part of a limited edition promotion with 1,000 bags sent to members of the media. However, Tostitos and Uber are offering $10 discounts on post-game rides simply by scanning a code on specially marked bags of chips.

Appropriately, Tostitos isn’t the first to allocate its Super Bowl marketing budget to combat drinking and driving. In 2016, British actress Helen Mirren starred in ads for Budweiser, urging people to avoid drunk driving. This is also not the first time Uber has offered discounts or even free rides to party-goers. In Bangkok this past New Year’s Eve, Uber offered free rides to those who were too drunk to drive themselves home.

Tostitos has been careful to warn that this bag is not a breathalyzer and won’t give an exact measurement of user’s blood alcohol level. Be warned: “Yes, officer, I’ve been drinking but the Tostitos bag said I was OK to drive,” will not hold up in court.

What We Think

Even though this specific Tostitos bag isn’t available to the general public, the concept of engaging consumers with smart, active and intelligent packaging in fun and entertaining ways is a perfect gateway to leading them to more functional interactions, such as those that might help in preventing accidental misuse of medications, authenticating products or preventing food waste.

David is the Global Packaging Director at Mintel. With nearly 25 years of diverse packaging experience across multiple end-use categories and all packaging formats, he has worked with retailers, CPGs, packaging converters, and design and marketing agencies to help them better understand the business and innovations of packaging. At Mintel he is responsible for custom packaging projects for clients, direct interaction with US and global clients, sales support and new business development, and providing packaging insights to media.

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