If you already operate a food or drink brand or you’re thinking of starting one up, the question of what makes an effective packaging design has no doubt crossed your mind.

Great packaging designs aren’t just about creating something that will help your products fly off the shelves.

You also need something practical that conforms with regulations and accurately portrays the food inside.

Creating an effective packaging design is by no means straightforward. Here are some relevant factors that you will need to take into consideration:

Use Suitable Packaging For The Product

Walk into any supermarket, and you’ll see hundreds of different types of packaging for everything from mince pies to cans of pop.

The reason for this is simple: packaging needs to be suitable for the shape and material qualities of that product. For most companies, the ideal packaging option will be some combination of plastic inside cardboard.

The plastic provides the waterproofing, and a means to display the product attractively, and the cardboard provides the rigidity, product information and branding.

Choose Packaging For The Product Environment

Grocers, supermarkets and delis segment food and drink products into three categories: ambient, chilled and frozen. Not all types of packaging are suitable for all environments.

Regular plastics, for instance, can become brittle and weak at temperatures of – 25 C and below that are common in commercial freezers, the correct type of card will need to be used for chilled products too.

Clear And Consistent Branding

Whether you are a company with dozens of products on shelves already or entirely new to the business, it is vital that your packaging has clear and consistent branding.

Ideally, you want all your packaging to have a kind of “visual DNA” (which includes the design of the product logo) that makes it so that customers can instantly recognise you and not confuse your products with those of another firm.

Achieving this can be a challenge: it is not always clear whether a style falls within the boundaries of your brand design language or not.

Before designing any packaging, many food companies develop a “brand style guide.” The purpose of this document is to set the parameters of all branded materials so that they are consistent with one another. Style guides include things like the precise colours that you will use, the type of tone you will adopt, and the typefaces on your products.

Creating a consistent brand is essential because it breeds consumer confidence. The more familiar a customer is with your brand, the more that they will trust you.

Eye-Catching And Memorable

While growing brand trust is important, it is not the only consideration. You also need products that are eye-catching and memorable. Remember, your product will most likely have to sit alongside dozens of others. You don’t want customers’ eyes to gloss over yours because your competitors have better styling.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my brand stand out?
  • What will people notice about my brand that others do not have?
  • Does my brand stying clearly communicate my unique selling points?

Understand Your Target Market

Different audiences look for different things in food packaging. Products aimed at men will have a vastly different appearance from those that target women and a wide range of food and drink products for the family are bought by mums.

You also need to consider the reasons why people might buy your food products. For instance, if you want to create packaging for a cereal company, you’ll need something that appeals to children. Likewise, if you’re going to sell “family packs” then you’ll need to adjust your packaging to target families. You need a clear brand strategy, helping you to identify target audiences and how to reach and attract them to your brand.

Choose Packaging That Is Distinct From Your Competitors

Those new to the food industry need to consider the competition.

Ask yourself: what do your competitors’ products look like on the shelf? The visual appeal of your rivals matters. Ideally, you want to design packaging that complements the product but is distinct from your opponents.

Smart companies evaluate their competitor’s packaging for weaknesses and then use that as a springboard to create more compelling packaging options for their brand.

Remember, they could be stocked very close to your products. Your packaging, therefore, needs to offer some unique visual cue that will encourage shoppers to skim over your competitor’s products and pick yours off the shelf.

Convey Key Information Quickly And Effectively

Customers don’t spend a lot of time browsing when shopping for food products. Often, you have just two or three seconds to convey critical information. If it takes customers any longer than that to understand what is inside and whether it is the right product for them, they may move on to something more familiar.

Ensure that your packaging tells the customer whether your product is essential or luxury. If relevant, also make sure that you clearly mark it for women, men, children or families. Use the packaging design to convey information so that customers can understand it in a matter of seconds.

Specify what it is and, if necessary, whether there are any benefits of choosing the product.

Also, list the flavour and provide visual or written instructions for how the customer can use it. For instance, if you’re selling a spice mix, you might want to write “tastes great in soups.” If you’re selling microwave macaroni, then a simple statement such as “microwaves in two minutes” can provide all the info that customers need.

Include A Packaging Window

Packaging windows show off the product directly. This type of packaging is great if your food product is attractive in its natural form.

Some products that require preparation are better served by quality photography to show the customer what the fully-prepared product will look like.

Use Recyclable Materials

While you do not necessarily have to choose recyclable materials, customers are increasingly coming to expect them. Paper and cardboard are easy to recycle, but you need to be careful with plastics: not all are.

Also, if you have an eco-conscious brand image, you may want to consider using recycled plastic in your packaging. Recycled plastic is made of micronised plastic particles that are then melted down and reforged into the shapes you need to contain your food products. It is, therefore, a great way to cut down on plastic waste.

Avoid Over Packaging

Be mindful to not over packaging for the sake of it: the lighter your packaging design, the better. Remember, conservative packaging design reduces material use and CO2 transport emissions, see our case study for Garçon Wines and how they created an innovative wine bottle design from recycled plastic and massively reduces CO2 from transportation.

Does your food or drink packaging fulfil all of the above? If not, then it might be time to talk to us for a review.

Here at Toast we would review your existing packaging design against your known buyer personas and give you an independent assessment of its effectiveness. If there are areas that could be improved we will identify how their expectations can be met and apply this understanding to your packaging design.

Do you need help with your branding?

If you would like to discuss your branding, logo or identity project, call us on 01295 266644 or complete the form.