In food marketing, packaging is a whole lot more than just a way to protect your product during transport: it is one of the most important tools a company can use to reach its market. When it comes to potential customers, packaging is often the first point of contact with your brand; it is an ideal way to convey your brand promises and product benefits.
Considering that most impulse purchases are influenced by a product’s appearance, it’s not difficult to see why packaging design is critical to marketing success.
This month, I’ve invited Marie-Josée Bourque, our Vice President of Account Services, to share just what you need to know so as to optimize your food packaging. We’ll look at the latest trends in the food packaging industry as well as discuss a few rules of thumb to apply when designing effective packaging.
More and more customers are buying their groceries online, which changes the way they interact with your product. That’s why it is so important to adapt your packaging to these new platforms.
“Clarity and simplicity are the name of the game when it comes to designing packaging for e-commerce. Information on the packaging must be easy to read, because everything appears small, especially on a mobile device. When customers buy online, they can’t physically pick up and examine the product to read the information. You have to make sure they can recognize the product immediately.”
In fact, we recommend keeping everything clean and simple, going even to the extent of offering different packaging for online use. “To effectively communicate what your product has to offer, the information which once appeared on the packaging must be available elsewhere. It’s important to ensure that the product information you want your customers to see is accessible either via the brand website, social media platforms or both,” underlines Marie-Josée.
Going digital also means making sure your packaging is photogenic. As such, your messaging will be more cohesive and will prompt consumers to share more photos of your product on social media.
Health and well-being
In recent years, people have been paying more attention to their diet and what is in products, both in terms of ingredients and nutritional value.
One emerging trend is that of “clean label”, or offering foods with a short, simple and familiar list of ingredients. People want to know what’s on their plate and to eat real food that is as natural as possible.
Another way to follow the trend of healthy eating is to showcase your product’s health benefits. Whether it is an excellent source of fibre, omega-3 or non -GMO, this is important information that can and will influence consumers’ choices.
What’s more, even if certain foods don’t appear to be healthy at first glance, it is almost certain that they possess interesting benefits that can be highlighted. For example, a processed product may be high in lipids or sodium, but can still be an excellent source of protein. Certain brands also revise their recipes in order to offer low-sodium or low-sugar versions.
“However, if you are selling a very decadent product, it is best own up and call it what it is. Consumers today are too savvy to be fooled,” says Marie-Josée, “and transparency is important. It is always better to be honest about what your product has to offer.”
So, focus on other elements instead. For example, perhaps the decadent product is made of naturally sourced ingredients, or even homemade. If not, you can always focus on the pleasure the consumer will experience when enjoying your product.
Packaging says a lot about how “green” a company is and sustainability is a major issue for more and more people. It’s important to keep eco values in mind when designing your packaging.
There are several ways you can make your packaging greener. Think about using eco-friendly materials: choose compostable, biodegradable packaging made of recycled, renewable materials, when appropriate for your product. Another easy choice is to simply reduce the quantity of packaging used, or to create reusable packaging.
Another important element to consider is traceability. Now, more than ever, consumers are concerned about where their food comes from and the story behind it. People like to see this information on packaging, so this is something that you’ll see more and more. When it isn’t possible to include it, we suggest that you put a QR code on your product that leads to a website where that consumers can access this information easily.
To wrap up this post, we wanted to share a few basic rules and guidelines when it comes to designing effective food packaging, no matter the product. So, here is some advice without a “best before” date!
1. Think long term
When you develop new packaging, think about news flavours or products that could eventually be added to the product line, and create a design that is flexible and can be modified easily if necessary.
Coherence between different products is essential because it helps to create brand awareness: “If consumers already know your brand thanks to a product that they already like, chances are they will be more inclined to try other products in the line or new products when launched to market,” explains Marie-Josée.
2. Consider shelf placement
Don’t forget to create your packaging according to how your product will be placed in store. Make sure that your promise and benefits are visible straight away. For example, packaging that displays your product upright, with the front facing the consumers to catch their attention, is more effective than if the product was lying on its side on the shelves.
3. Don’t change just for change’s sake
After a few years with the same packaging, many brands are tempted to change their design for a more up-to-date look. But how do you know if it’s a good time to redo your packaging?
As a matter of fact, as long as your sales are going well, there is no reason to make any changes. On the other hand, if your sales plunge, then you should start asking yourself questions. This is when we recommend doing a focus group to understand what the problem is, and whether it is related to packaging or to the product itself.
“You have to remember that in general, consumers don’t like change. Change for the sake of change is not a winning formula. You only change when you see a problem or an opportunity,” adds Marie-Josée.
4. Choose a practical format
Always ask yourself how you can make using your product easier or more pleasant for consumers. Is it by offering a re-sealable closure? A stronger handle? A format that is easier to hold? Reusable containers? These are small details that can make consumers want to keep buying your product.
5. Make it easy for consumers
Even if more and more people are interested in nutritional information on packaging, this doesn’t mean that they want to spend hours reading it. You have to deliver the information simply and clearly. “By simplifying your packaging, you make life easier for consumers, and that always wins,” says Marie-Josée. “If it’s complicated, consumers won’t try to figure out what the product is. They will simply look for something else.”
Therefore, ensure that your product’s promise is noticeable, that its benefits are clearly presented and the design is simple.
6. Stand out
To create packaging that catches peoples’ attention, look at what your competitors are doing and make sure that your design is completely different, whether by its shape, materials or colours. Surprise people to attract their attention, so that they notice you right away.
Many companies will choose to copy the leading products’ packaging. This strategy works sometimes, but it isn’t the most effective in the long term. Unique packaging that is stands out from the crowd will strengthen your image and impress customers.
7. Adapt the design to suit your target market
You wouldn’t market to higher income people in their 50s the same way you would to students or young families. Knowing your target market is essential to communicate effectively and create your brand universe. “Choosing a target market means leaving others behind. It is always difficult for brands to make this decision, but it is essential, because you cannot talk to everyone the same way,” says Marie-Josée. “By wanting to reach everyone, you end up not being interesting to anyone.”