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When Form Meets Function: The Art and Science of Effective Food Packaging

In a typical supermarket, a shopper passes about 600 grocery items per minute. On the grocery shelf, competition for the attention of a consumer is fierce, to say the least. In this environment, when a new product makes its debut on a grocery shelf, excellent packaging design is the difference between a successful product launch and almost certain failure.

The Six Essential Functions of Packaging

Excellent packaging design accomplishes six distinct functions. They are:

  • Marketing: The graphic design and materials used in your packaging are the canvas upon which you paint your branding portrait. The colors, fonts, and words you choose to incorporate in your design convey who you are as a brand and encourage consumers to purchase your product rather than the products of your competitors.
  • Physical Protection: New product packaging design should provide physical protection of the product inside from damaging events such as mechanical shock, vibration, electrostatic discharge, compression, and unfavorable temperatures.
  • Barrier Protection: Packaging also serves the function of providing a physical barrier to damaging external materials like water, dirt, dust, and other contaminants.
  • Transmission of critical information: Packaging design also serves as a delivery method for important information. For example, the FDA food labeling on a product reveals essential information to the consumer and helps food manufacturers comply with applicable regulations.
  • Security: Tamper-resistant seals and similar security measures ensure that food delivered to consumers is free of substances introduced from external sources and help to keep food safe.
  • Convenience: As consumers become increasingly discriminating about packaging choices, the trend in packaging is toward convenience in addition to protection and brand messaging. Designs which incorporate a degree of convenience have a distinct advantage in the modern marketplace.

Form and Functionality: The Perfect Packaging Pair

In addition to accomplishing the six basic functions of packaging, a good new product packaging design will have a strong aesthetic appeal for the consumer. The form will follow function naturally, creating a superior consumer experience and elevating the product above its competitors.

For instance, consider the following examples of products in which the packaging design bolsters the brand message and the form lends itself to marketing opportunities:

EatingWell Frozen Dinners: Recently, Bellisio Foods introduced a line of eight frozen microwavable entrées under the EatingWell brand. These entrées have no preservatives, MSG, hydrogenated oils, or artificial flavors or colors, and use beef, pork, and chicken raised without antibiotics, along with whole grains.

The obvious message the EatingWell brand wants to convey is that their food is clean, wholesome, and free of harmful substances. To bolster that message, the packaging design highlights the theme of transparency. The inner package uses vacuum skin packaging over a square, black, recyclable CPET tray. The outer package, meanwhile, features a large, die-cut window on the front panel that provides a clear view of the entrée.

The effect for consumers? Form and function merge perfectly to enhance the consumer's perception that the product inside is wholesome and healthy. You can see a picture of the design here.

Sprout Foods Baby Food: Sprout Foods produces a line of organic baby food. Understanding the desire of parents everywhere to be sure their babies are getting high quality, clean foods, Sprout Foods is now offering their line of organic baby foods in a see-through pouch.

"Moms want to know what's in their baby's food, and what better way to give them that peace of mind than by actually showing it to them before they purchase it," says Rick Klauser, CEO of Sprout Foods.

The effect for consumers? Once again, the marriage of form and functionality inspires consumer confidence and helps establish Sprout Foods as a healthy baby food choice. You can see a picture of the design here.

Packaging design should reflect your brand message and remain functional.

The Bottom Line

There is both an art and science to successful food packaging. Truly effective new product packaging design takes into account both the functionality needed and the form that will facilitate that functionality and provide strong brand messaging that resonates with consumers.

Are your packaging designs accomplishing all that? PKG Branding can help you find out. PKG's Consumer First™ approach relies on a proven, insight-rich process that informs branding and packaging decisions from a consumer point-of-view. Contact us today to explore ways to more closely align your packaging design with both your brand message and consumer preferences.

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