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Why Food Packaging Design Matters to Your Overall Marketing Strategy

One reason food packaging design is such a fascinating subject is that it includes generous helpings of both science and art. Because the packaging contains food that people eat, it must protect the food and prevent contamination, keeping it as fresh and palatable as possible. And because people have such a vast array of choices, it must reach out to the consumer and influence them to choose one particular product over a competitor. 

City street filled with yellow taxis and neon signs.

A study from 25 years ago found that the consumer decides whether to stop and look at a product on a supermarket shelf in about 1/6 of a second. And in the past 25 years, the American consumer has become more pressed for time and the subject of more competing marketing messages than ever before, so 1/6 of a second may be generous at this point. 

Another study found that if people pick up an unfamiliar product, there’s a better than even chance that the product will eventually end up in the shopping cart. People may use shopping lists, but shopping lists don’t put a complete stop to impulse purchases. Even someone who is fully committed to sticking to a list isn’t immune to the powerful messages conveyed by food packaging designs.

What Food Packaging Design Conveys

People are conditioned to be interested in packaging design. Gift-giving occasions have taught most people that packaging is special, personal, and tantalizing. The unboxing experience is something that child and adult alike look forward to, and though “unboxing” a package of breakfast cereal may not be terribly exciting, it is, nonetheless, an unboxing experience, and brands strive to make it special.

The ideal food packaging design conveys not only what the brand is, but what the brand stands for. Think about the simple packaging of various Apple computer products. They convey a sense of exclusivity, sleekness, elegance, and the hope that the item within will improve life in some definable way. Food packaging can do similar things.

Excellent food packaging design also conveys various business values, such as commitment to sustainability, or donation of some of the proceeds to social causes. And these commitments are often called out in such a way as to reach the exact target audience the product is made for. 

Key Elements of Food Packaging Design

Person pushing a shopping cart filled with groceries.

Effective food packaging design accomplishes several things:

  • It draws the consumer’s attention
  • It states the brand and the product’s purpose clearly
  • It appeals to positive emotions
  • It strives for instantly recognizable, “icon” status (like the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle)
  • It displays the product’s benefits
  • It appeals to the product’s target audience

You can see how both art and science have weighty roles in the design of product packaging. People not only want to be enticed by attractive packaging, but they also want to know the product inside is fresh and protected against damage and contamination. Increasingly they want to know that the packaging itself is easy to recycle or otherwise sustainable.

Packaging Trends

Advancing technology is driving many scientific and artful trends in food packaging design. New processes and packaging techniques are extending food shelf life, and some brands are incorporating sensors that can alert consumers to food shelf life and safety issues. Clean label initiatives are finding ways to pack more information onto cleaner looking packaging through technologies like QR codes. And new inks and printing techniques are opening up new possibilities for packaging artwork, so packages not only work better, but they look more enticing too. 

Making Things Simple for Consumers and Retailers

The best food packaging design makes things simple for consumers, by offering attractive, functional, informative packaging. It also makes things easier for retailers by considering packaging types and how they’re stocked on shelves. It’s as if the design gives the impression of effortlessness, promising retailers easy stocking and promising consumers something that will make their lives easier and more enjoyable. PKG Brand Design is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives; please subscribe to our blog for the latest package design industry news!


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