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Intelligent design: Packaging food with purpose



Article ID:
20130925-3
Published:
August 2013
Author:
Len Pollack

Article Abstract

This article addresses how packaging affects sales and what messages different styles communicate.

Editor's note: Len Pollack is senior vice president of client strategy at The Pert Group, a Farmington, Conn., research company. He can be reached at len.pollack@thepertgroup.com. This article appeared in the September 9, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.

You may not realize it but when you pick up a package of cheese or a box of tea at the grocery store, a variety of factors influence your decision to purchase. Is it portable? Easy to open and use? Eco-friendly? Customers in the market for everything from paper towels to meatballs look at packaging for quick cues - we want our purchases to reflect our needs and values. Hot Pockets = portability. Amy's = quality. Burt's Bees = eco-friendly. Packaging affects purchasing.

The message packaging communicates has proven to play a large role in sales. Packaging determines thousands of dollars of spend every year - a consideration companies should factor in as they strive to cut or maintain costs while preserving quality products.

Evaluating your packaging and updating it to match your product's strengths can help you better reach your target audience. As you work through the process, remember that today's marketplace is saturated and emotions permeate more buying decisions than ever. What compelling experience does your product and its packaging offer the consumer?

Looking for something more

The new generation of consumers is looking for something more, better and different and are willing to pay more for the experience your product might offer. However, Millennials have been hit particularly hard by the economy so their approach is cautious. While they're willing to pay more for a great experience, their hard-earned dollars are distributed with care. With a focus on satisfying their needs in different ways, a trip down the frozen-food aisle is an opportunity for delight. Food isn't just about satisfying hunger. Millennials shopping after work aren't just grabbing a Hungry-Man meal or a P.F. Chang's skillet dinner. They're buying a treat - something that would be too difficult or too much work for them to make at home.

Focused on functionality

Our time is stretched more now than ever with longer work days and more commitments so it makes sense that packaging changes of the past decade have focused on functionality. With easy access to information and smarter consumers, there's more to consider. What kind of seal does your package have? Is your package reusable? If it's not reusable, what will the consumer do with the remaining food?

Consider squeezable applesauce. Now there's a product with a clear message: "You want portability. We'll give you portability."

As a producer, are you making your path to purchase and consumption as easy as possible? Intelligent package design considers functionality during the entire process. For example, fruit cups clearly need more intelligent packaging. Not only are the cups cumbersome for grocers to work with but parents don't like them because the cups tip over and create messes.

Fifteen years ago, most consumers did not care about organic foods. They also didn't care about their water bottle lid - until other inventive and appealing options became available. Adjustments must constantly be made to match the changing marketplace. Adapting your packaging now can lead to a superior design and ultimately more sales.

A strong driver

Buying decisions are affected by everything from weather to local politics. Understanding that emotion is a strong driver of consumer spend will help you build a better relationship with your customers. If your brand promise focuses on high quality, how do you communicate that to your customers? What does quality packaging look like for your brand? If you are a meat producer, something as simple as the color of Styrofoam can align your product with prime rib or place it next to the ground chuck.  

Aligning your company's initiatives, product messaging and packaging design helps establish, communicate and reinforce your place in the market. If you sell an eco-friendly product, do you apply those same values to your product packaging?

Everything from the size to the finish of your packaging sends a message that intentionally or unintentionally affects buying decisions. So take a new look at the whole package. What does it say about you?

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