An interview with Richard Walzer

Back An interview with Richard Walzer

Can you tell us about your role?

As EMEA Head of Design at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, I lead the regional design team, building distinctive and coherent brand experiences across our portfolio of chocolate, gum and fruity confections. We shape the innovation agenda to ensure that the innovation pipeline is fueled with consumer-centric solutions that meet our global brands’ strategies and individual market requirements.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

This is a difficult question to answer, as my career has been influenced by multiple individuals and organisations. I suppose the greatest influence was my first primary school teacher who told my parents at the age of five that I would grow up to do something related to art and without that, I’m not sure I would have continued to grow my passion for art and design. As with many British designers of a similar age, I was influenced by watching Better by Design, a television series where Richard Seymour and Dick Powell redesigned everyday objects - seeing for the first time the power of design thinking in action drove me on to carve out a career in the design industry. In my career to date, I’ve been fortunate to work with some fantastic and highly skilled designers whose careers continue to go from strength-to-strength, carving out a role for design in some of the world’s biggest organisations – to name a few: Jamie Stone Chief Design Officer at PA Consulting, Nigel Newby-House Associate VP Portfolio Planning at HTC, James Rutherford Design Director at GSK, Kathryn Richards Design Director at Fjord.

What is the biggest challenge for packaging design in 2019?

I don’t know if there is a specific challenge for 2019, but the biggest challenges will continue to be related to Sustainability and Viability. As packaging designers, especially at one of the biggest packaged snack companies in the world, we continue to strive towards doing the right thing for the environment faced with a very complex set of choices whilst needing to deliver these with viable margins for the business (and our partners). And on the subject of viability, as designers, we will continue to strive to make packaging more experiential whilst working within tight margins.

What do you see as the key change in packaging last year? 

I think one of the interesting changes that we’ve seen recently is the incorporation of more diverse and complex substrates and finishes across the FMCG category – details that used to be the exclusive remit of luxury brands or those in the alcohol category, we now see being incorporated across everyday treats and snacks such as Walkers Sensations. For the likes of Galaxy or some of our other premium propositions we track trends and emerging semiotic codes to understand how to position our brands so that they’re fit for the future. High-end finishes and techniques used to be something you would only see in Harrods or Selfridges, but now we are seeing mainstream FMCG brands utilising more complex techniques across their use of colour, material and finish to position themselves differently. This is raising consumer expectations in the quality of packaging, with the benchmark now increased.

What exciting things are happening at Mars Wrigley Confectionery?

Lots of exciting things are happening at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, with many projects that we’re working on hitting the shelves. This is always the exciting thing for any designer when you can see all the hard work pay off with new innovations for our consumers to enjoy. For example, we have recently rebranded Snickers in collaboration with Jones Knowles Ritchie our creative partner to enhance visibility at-shelf, decreasing time to find and giving it a really strong and distinctive personality.

Before & after

Previously the brand was dated and more significantly it was recessive at-shelf, not standing out in a sea of brown. Now the brand is distinctive, contemporary and most importantly the packs are noticeable in-store, reducing time to find. Introducing the new branding across all touchpoints to include communications, packaging and displays has delivered a coherent, consistent and distinctive brand that drives salience and recognition. We are also expanding the portfolio to meet changing consumers’ needs, for example, we just launched Snickers Nut Butters in the US and Snickers Crisp in Europe. My team are working hard to identify up and coming opportunities to stretch our brands and ensure their relevance in the future.

New product - Snickers Crisp

Richard Walzer , Head of Design, EMEA Mars Wrigley Confectionery