Food and Drink Packaging Essentials

Food and Drink Packaging Essentials
February 7, 2017 John McCallum

Food and Drink Packaging Essentials.

Stand out on the shelf has long been a major point in any packaging design brief, but what if, in the future, your food or drink brand won’t appear on a shelf? Will the next generation of packaging briefs say ‘stand out on the internet’?

There are a number of factors that influence and drive pack designs and they can usually be distilled down to cost, technology, legislation, protection, fashion and subjectivity. These factors will continue to drive packaging. Subjectivity in particular will remain as long as human beings are part of the process. There is nothing anyone can write that will stop the CEO of a company picking red over blue because their daughter prefers it. I stopped being exasperated a while ago at clients asking random employees their thoughts on a finely crafted piece of design as if they might somehow have a special insight not available to professional designers. Everyone’s a critic, get used to it or find another profession.

Cost remains a huge driver in design, after all very few clients approve new packaging that put their costs up. However, when combined with new technology, cost neutral leaps can be made in packaging. I’ve been watching with interest the use of laser tattooing on fruit for example. I think the jury is still out on how consumers react to it, but it’s a wonderful example of technology changing packaging. Advances in printing and material as well the increased mechanisation of packaging will always lead to innovation and change, designers like nothing better than being able to try something new.

What effect ‘Brexit’ will have on legislation around food and drink in the UK is something many in the industry are watching with interest. The chances are it won’t have much, if any effect, in the short term, and anyone wanting to sell into the EU is still going to have to abide by EU legislation in the future. So don’t expect a major changes coming from the direction.

For us what is interesting just now is how people will actually purchase products in the future and how this might change packaging. I was reading recently about ‘essentialism’ in packaging design. The idea being that where minimalism strips away anything that isn’t essential, essentialism focuses solely on what is essential. Yeah, it’s a subtle difference, and I’m in danger of turning this into a Pseuds Corner piece but a good way to think of it is as the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter style. The US painkiller brand Tylenol made great use of this style with their children’s medicine range. Focusing the packaging on the essential message of the product led to an eye-catching pack but also leaves the consumer in no doubt as the what the product does. This is increasingly interesting in the online shopping age. The nuances and subtleties of packaging can be lost when you’re viewing a low-resolution picture of the product on your mobile phone.

Tylenol Packaging

This packaging for American brand Tylenol focusses on the product benefit, clearly demonstrating essentialism and eye-catching product design.

If we reach a point in the future where more of our everyday shopping is done online than in-store, and that seems likely, then we might see packaging trends move to bolder messages and brighter colours. Of course the internet allows for more information to be made available on a product such as reviews of the product to sit beside it, product stories and messages shown as secondary text rather than on the actual product. Indeed we might see the same brand have one design for online only and another for products still going onto the shelf.

Packaging design remains one of the most important, if not the most important, communication channels a brand has. That’s not going to change whatever else does.

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