August 8, 2017

Critical Food Packaging Design Recommendations

Product packaging can serve as an important point of competitive differentiation for brands that know how to use it to their advantage.

As we know, the primary goal of food packaging design is to move the item from the retail shelf into the customer’s cart. It’s a simple concept that belies how complex packaging design can be. With our consumer-oriented culture and global supply chains giving customers thousands of choices in the grocery store, brands have to work harder than ever to get noticed through the noise.

Food Packaging Recommendations

Packaging influences brand value. With this in mind, food packaging must clearly convey the value proposition of your product. Sure, it needs to look good, but its primary goal is that of communication between brand and consumer: Buyers need a reason to choose your product over the one sitting next to it on the shelf. All packaging must clearly and honestly state the benefits of the product in an eye-catching way.

To accomplish this, brands need to have a clear understanding of their products, their target markets, and how their offerings differ from the competition. We’re talking, here, about brand identity—the strategic positioning that your company identifies with and that drives your growth. This overarching factor will influence each of the packaging decisions to come:

Food Safety

Obviously, food packaging decisions must guarantee that the product makes it from the manufacturer to the customer in one piece. Design considerations aside, this is the number one goal of food packaging.

Packaging Style

Food safety is a given, but the packaging style chosen affects more than just the safety of the contents. Different types of packages will ship differently and may create logistic headaches for the transportation and distribution partners in the supply chain. The packaging style chosen will ideally keep food fresh while still being easy to transport.

Product Information

There’s a fine line in packaging between minimalist design and overloading the customer with information. Your packaging should explain the key value proposition of the product without forcing customers to read through a wall of text. For example, if your coffee is organic, let them know! But don’t go too far with this—customers don’t need to know that the beans were shady side of the hill.

Shelf Appeal

What makes customers want to pick this item instead of your competitor’s? Shelf aesthetics are a big consideration in packaging design, and there’s no one right answer. Some brands use high-contrasting colors and wild fonts to catch the eye. Many use images of the product itself or of brand mascots (a la Jolly Green Giant). These considerations should be aligned with your brand identity as described above and provide clear distinctions between your products and the competition’s.

Packaging That Sells

Overall, the most important takeaway for designing food packaging that sells is to feature any and all information that highlights how your product is differentiated from others on the shelf. Knowing your market is key, here—if packaging designers know what motivates their target audience, they’ll know what elements to include to help motivate them to purchase.


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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