The Essential Rules of Food Packaging Design

Let’s face it – you put months or years into perfecting your product; pound the pavement getting it into the best boutique grocers or chain supermarkets; get your pricing strategy just right; but what the consumer sees and judges after all this effort is – your food packaging design. Packaging design is a crucial part of whether your product makes or breaks it in the big wide world of FMCG. You might use the best tasting combination of unique ingredients, give the biggest nutrient hit, or provide people the ease and comfort they need when heading home after a long day at work, but if your food package doesn’t reflect this well, or it doesn’t stand out on a busy shelf, or is simply too similar to a cheaper option, why would anyone buy it? Successful food packaging design stands out, connects with people, is authentic, unique and answers what they’re looking for. And it does all of this in an instant. It takes years to learn and perfect this craft, but luckily for you, we’re here to share our essential rules of great food packaging design to get you started.

Food packaging design rule #1: Do your research

We know – after months of market and consumer analysis and testing, you’re all researched out, but do us a solid and take the time to research from a brand and packaging perspective. What are other companies doing in the space? Who is doing it well, and why? What semiotics apply to the category? Are there certain colours, fonts, materials and structures that best reflect your product benefits? What white space opportunities are there for your food package to own? Sultry Sally Potato Chips is a great example of a food product that, through copious amounts of research, sought to fill a glaring gap in the market – low fat potato chips. 97% fat free, gluten and preservative free, but still full of flavour, our client got the product just right. What they needed was high-impact food packaging design that reflected their key message – high flavour, low fat. in 2008, Sultry Sally Potato Chips filled a gap in the market for a healthy, tasty snack. Our food packaging design appealed to an audience searching out a healthier food alternative on shelf The illustrated character clearly enjoys her chips guilt-free and helps the product stand out in the crowded crisp market. The silver bag reflects better for you, subliminally enticing those after a healthier snacking option.

Food packaging design rule #2: Know your story

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of branding, dating back to many moons ago when our ancestors sat around the fireside having a good yarn. Fast forward to today, and the same basic principles apply – great brands are built on great stories that create connection, warmth, trust and, most importantly, authenticity. It’s crucial that you know your story before you start to build your brand or packaging – who are you and why are you in the food business? What does your food product deliver that no other product can? How do you do it better? Where does your passion for food come from? How do you create or cook your product? Is there anything unique about your methods or recipes? What do you want your customers to tell their friends about your food? Many people starting out in the food business don’t believe they have a story and that it’s all about the product, but by asking the right questions a great story always emerges. The Casa Gusto brand design and food packaging is centred around the story of their father who followed the circus around Italy Casa Gusto didn’t believe they had an interesting story for their range of imported Italian food and ingredients – until we began talking about how their father first discovered the products whilst following the circus around Italy in his twenties. The Casa Gusto brand identity and food packaging designs were built from there. View full project.

Food packaging design rule #3: Understand your target consumer

With so many packaged food options available in-store or at the click of a button online, you need to really know your ideal customer in order to build a brand that talks their language, makes them laugh or feel good about their purchasing decision, and ultimately leads them to pick up your product over the competition. Doyles on the Beach – Sydney’s oldest fish’n’chip shop – approached us because their existing customer base had been loyal to them for decades and, well, they were getting old. Doyles needed to refresh their food packaging to appeal to a younger demographic, without losing their sense of quality, heritage and story dating back to 1885 when they used to catch their product by hand line. We created reinvigorated takeaway food packaging design with typography, graphics, and language from the late 1880s to bring the Doyles story to life in a contemporary way, and solely used the iconic Doyles blue to drive the idea of a fresh, seaside dining experience. View the full project here. Doyles on the Beach wanted to update their brand design and food packaging to appeal to a younger audience, whilst retaining the heritage of the brand

Food packaging design rule #4: Make the most of the space available

Most food packages only have very limited space, so you need to use it intelligently. There is nothing worse than a food label that is crammed with “key” messages or overloaded with unnecessary details. Use the category codes and semiotics from your research phase to get your message, benefits and brand story across without taking up precious space. The package design we created for the Guzman Y Gomez range of sauces featured photographs of real team members taste testing each product in the range. We captured their facial expressions after trying a teaspoon of sauce to authentically portray the flavour and intensity of the product in a fun and unique way that celebrates the character of the GYG brand identity without having to type out the full brand story on the bottle label. The Guzman Y Gomez sauce packaging designs feature real employees tasting the food product on the label

Food packaging design rule #5: Create a smile in the mind

With all this research we keep banging on about, it’s easy to forget that consumers are people too. Nothing will help them remember your food packaging design more clearly than connecting on an emotive level – and what better way than with a smile? When Sumo Salad wanted to drive a greater sense of freshness, connection to the farmers and community, and create a unique language for their food branding, we decided to disrupt and get a giggle by giving the ingredients real character. The Sumo Salad packaging design features fresh ingredients with fun facial expressions to bring character to the food packageWe designed packaging stamps and badges to further reinforce the key brand messages on the box


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Whether you’re a brand manager looking to reinvigorate a multi-national food brand or an entrepreneur with the beginnings of a dream, as one of Australia’s leading brand agencies, you can talk to us. Contact us today to see how we can build the best brand and food packaging solution for you today.