Food Packaging: More Than Just a Box

When it comes to food, packaging is an ever-evolving blend of art and science. Let’s look at some of the factors that go into great customer-facing design.

Structure: First and foremost, the package has to protect the product and prevent contamination. But there are other considerations, too. How will the product be sized within the package? Some packaging is designed to be over-sized to create an illusion of size or volume. Other packaging is “right-sized” to reduce costs and environmental impact.

Materials: What substrates are being used? When choosing between paper and plastic, consumers’ evolving preference for sustainable packaging is tipping the scales towards paper and paperboard, even for many foods and beverages.

Food type: Some foods will dictate the structure and materials used. In other cases, clients have options. Today’s move toward beverages, including water, juice, and even wine, in paperboard packaging is proof that consumer trends play a powerful role.

Shelf life: What shelf life is required? Shelf life is impacted by many factors, including the substrate, the structure, and the temperatures to which the package will be exposed, as well as the type and quality of the product inside.

Design/Aesthetics: Food packaging has become a mini-billboard to advertise the product. Prioritize great design for your package as much as you would for any other printed piece.

Environmental concerns: What is the environment in which the food will be shipped, displayed, or stored? Extremely high or low temperatures, high humidity, direct exposure to sunlight, and other factors can significantly impact packaging design.

Ease of use: Who is the target audience for the product? Does it need to provide protection against little hands? Or be easy-open for older ones? Is this a luxury product? Or a quick “on the go” grab to be opened on the way out the door?

Distribution cost: Certain packaging types provide high levels of protection, such as glass or metal, but increase shipping weight and cost.

Disposal: Can the packaging be recycled? Or do the requirements of food type, shelf life, and accommodation for environmental conditions require non-recylable materials? If the packaging is recyclable, indicate this on the exterior of the package. Shoppers look for recycling symbols both before and after the sale.

With so many factors playing into packaging design, your choice of vendor is critically important. Choose someone who can help you balance all of these factors to create a package with the perfect balance of practicality and effective marketing!

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