September 26, 2014

4 Things the Produce Aisle Can Teach You about Packging Design

4 Things the Produce Aisle Can Teach You about Packging Design

How often do you really look at the structure of the produce aisle? Have you ever noticed that the layout of the produce is a pretty solid indicator of the overall level of quality of the entire store? In your higher-end supermarket chains, the produce section will often be pleasingly lit, sometimes with glossy, wood-paneled floors and well organized heaps of glistening fruit and vegetables. Lower end stores tend to favor the fallout shelter look.

There is much to be learned from the produce aisle when it comes to marketing and packaging design. Well composed color layout, simplicity, consumer appeal, and the union of luxury and need are all factors that meet in the produce section — far more so than in any other department. Here are a few things that we’ve learned from well-structured produce aisles — apart from the fact that, against all odds, kale has become a legitimate consumer attraction.

1. People Love Freshness

Where would you rather be — in a lovely, sun-drenched meadow filled with bright and fragrant flowers, or a canning facility in the City of Industry? Wouldn’t you like your product to evoke the image of a pleasant field, rather than the sterile and depressing manufacturing plant from whence it undoubtedly came?

Whether it is an actual food product, or just a product that wants to make consumers think of food, the package design has to tell the consumer that the product is relevant, new and at its absolute peak. Using agrarian symbology can help a product seem natural and even healthy. Even though the product might not literally be edible, using a packaging concept that gives the impression that the brand is hip, clean and up-to-date can help the product stand apart.

2. Less Packaging Is Often More

Citrus fruits, bananas, ears of corn, and pomegranates all come in their own, nature made packages — minimalist packaging at its finest. Naturally, not every fruit or vegetable is so considerate, but the packaging demands of fresh produce generally aren’t very elaborate. Grapes only require mesh bags; berries are packaged in lightweight and breathable baskets. As a matter of fact, the less processing performed on an article of produce, the less packaging it requires. When consumers see a piece of fruit that is enclosed in multiple layers of plastic, they might be swayed by the convenience the package may offer, but a significant segment of today’s market is disdainful of products that seem heavily engineered.

3. People Love Cute Things

And while we’re talking about minimalist packaging…

Say what you want about the antioxidant benefits of produce, one of the biggest selling points of many fruits and vegetables is their cuteness. Why else would anyone buy “Patty Pan” squash, baby bananas, baby pumpkins, baby carrots, “Cuties” oranges, or any other in-smallened vegetation? It certainly isn’t because of flavor or price points, as anyone who has ever eaten a Patty Pan squash casserole can tell you.

4. Organic Products Are Popular

Organic produce sections have gotten bigger and bigger in the past decade. What was once a very small and easy-to-miss specialty section has grown into the prestige seating arrangement of the produce aisle — kind of like Lakers’ courtside seats for avocados.

Product marketing, as we have noted time and time again, can be greatly benefitted by environmentally friendly packaging design. If you have two competing products on the shelf and the only discernable difference is that one product is packaged in an eco-friendly way, quite a few customers will reach for the eco-friendly bottle, box or jar. This is due either a legitimately sincere belief that the ecologically responsible packaging is the healthier choice, or deep-seeded first-world guilt. Either way — more money for you!

Packaging design companies aren’t the only ones who love fruit — great artists have been using fruit bowls as models for centuries, and for good reason. You see, fruits and vegetables — through thousands of years of natural marketing evolution — have designed themselves to appeal to the masses (bushes and trees were the very first supermarket shelves, after all). If your packaging design company can develop a packaging solution that mimics the apple’s inherent ability to entice, you are probably looking at a pretty darned good concept.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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