In the third part of our series on brands with unusual and iconic packaging, we take a look at an item of packaging that is instantly recognisable, not just because of its shape, but because of the whole package.
We hope you enjoy reading! Your Tightly Packed editorial team
The snap mechanism for opening the packaging was introduced in 1976. Photo: Ritter Sport
Packing Ritter Sport in paper
Whenever German consumers hear the words Quality. Chocolate. Squared., they immediately think of Ritter Sport chocolate – and have done for almost fifty years. After all, the chocolate brand, manufactured by Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG, has been around for nearly one hundred years. But the iconic packaging and its sweet content are popular outside of Germany as well. In over one hundred countries around the world, the legendary snap can now be heard, signalling that another bar of chocolate has been opened. And these squared bars have been tempting customers since 1932.
In 1932, Alfred Ritter’s wife and company co-founder, Clara Ritter, came up with the idea of manufacturing what she called sport chocolate, set apart from all other chocolate bars by its square shape. Clara’s aim: To create a 100 gram bar of chocolate that fits inside a sports jacket. Since then, the patented, square packaging with its four equally long sides has taken the world by storm: Today, around 30 different flavours are sold throughout the world, from traditional milk chocolate to a vegan version made out of sesame. Ritter Sport owes its high recognition value to its square shape and practical size, which have remained unchanged since the chocolate’s creation. Since the 1980s, the company logo has also remained the same: the word Ritter is printed in curved lettering, with the word Sport in block capitals below, framed by a square.
The patented snap mechanism is almost as famous as the chocolate bar’s shape, and has ensured that consumers can easily open the tubular bag packaging since 1976. And those of us that want to save some chocolate for later can reseal the packaging just as easily.
In 1974, the company also had a particularly colourful idea and decided to give each flavour its own colour. And even though the company has never changed the packaging’s iconic shape, it does offer the chocolate squares in different packaging sizes: from Ritter Sport minis – an assortment of chocolate bars weighing 17 grams each – chocolate cubes and the large, 250 gram bars to seasonal products in Christmas-themed packaging, for example. In 2010, the company also introduced individual creations, which customers can personalise at the flagship store in Berlin.
From cellophane to paper packaging
The company also regularly adapts its packaging materials. The first bars of Ritter Sport were packed in transparent foil made out of cellophane; from 1960 onwards, the packaging was given a chocolatey brown colour. This was followed by a composite foil made out of aluminium, paper, plastic and colouring, which was, however, difficult to recycle. Finally, in 1991, the company switched to fully recyclable, single-material packaging made out of polypropylene, using the minimum amount of packaging material necessary. But even though this polypropylene foil is fully recyclable, lacking infrastructure means it cannot be recycled in every country.
Ritter Sport: The paper test
In light of the general rise in environmental awareness, Ritter Sport has conducted a hitherto unique series of tests, and now presents the first chocolate packaging made out of paper. At first, the advantages of this material seem to be quite obvious. Paper is easy to recycle; like plastic, it is lightweight and affordable, and it has a positive image among consumers. However, this practical raw material does present one problem: It does not act as a protective barrier for foods that contain fat. Cocoa butter, however, contains a high percentage of fat; as a result, paper packaging would quickly become grease-stained, and would also not be able to prevent the chocolate from absorbing surrounding odours.
A newly developed special paper is to protect the chocolate against outside influences whilst at the same time maintaining the taste; this in turn aims to ensure the best possible ratio between product protection, customer expectations and environmental sustainability. However, this packaging material does shorten the confectionery’s shelf-live compared to the conventional chocolate square, and assessments still need to be conducted regarding efficiency and robustness during transport and at the POS.
But the company feels that its customers’ opinions are just as important as scientific results – which is why customers are now being asked to test this paper prototype.
Via the blog on the company’s website, interested parties could enter the draw for one of 500 chocolate packages and thus declare that they were willing to test the Ritter Sport special paper. The prototype is used as packaging material for the popular 61% Cocoa Selection bar; all bars contain a QR code by means of which consumers can access a questionnaire. However, even if customers did not receive one of the 500 packages, they still don't have to go home empty handed: For a period of time, the special edition will be available at the Ritter Sport ChocoShop in Waldenbuch, Germany, as well as at the Colourful ChocoWorld in Berlin. The chocolate is not available in retail.