Branding the box has gone mainstream, providing a great communication channel for showcasing the company’s logo and expressing the purpose of the business or relaying what the brand stands for. Chirine Salha, senior consultant at Ulysses Consulting, lifts the lid on the latest trends.
Branded packaging has become a serious investment consideration, evolving way beyond containers for food items. Today, it has developed to become a great marketing tool and businesses should be prepared to take advantage of this trend. Branded packaging is the ultimate mobile advertising device, with the ability to reach several audiences simultaneously and spread brand awareness via something as simple as a delivery bike nipping around town. There are several key factors contributing to the influence a fast food or grab’n’go item can have on the consumer, including the way it is packed, preserved, transported and showcased, while reducing costs and assuring quality. These include:
The convenience factor
For time-pressed consumers, convenience is king. In terms of food packaging, this could mean adding features to facilitate handling, carrying or eating on the go. QSRs are taking note of this: KFC introduced its Go Cups, a cup designed to hold chicken items and fit inside most car cup holders. The cups even have a divider for a potato and are designed so that most of the food sits above the rim, meaning consumers don’t have to dig in too deep. Similarly, with increased portability in mind, McDonald’s launched the McBike package, designed especially for cyclists. The packaging allows the customer to carry a burger, fries and a drink in a foldable case that can be hooked to the handlebar.
The look and emotional engagement factor
To be successful, the packaging must be functional, but also visually appealing. So much goes into creating a design that appeals directly to consumers’ emotions. Three packaging design trends stand out: the minimalistic futuristic look; the vintage look evoking happiness and nostalgia; and the gradient colors look that is catchy and captivating. All designs tend to address simplicity, with the most relevant information printed in bold and big fonts, rather than cluttered designs with an overload of information. Keeping the design simple not only makes the packaging look clean, but also reduces the cost. By embracing a minimalist design, McDonald’s new Take Out bag displays a fresh outlook for the fast food giant, offering greater transparency in its communication.
Besides the visuals, the touch experience is gaining momentum, with a great deal of focus on the ‘unboxing user experience’. Details, such as soft-touch coating, embossing, foil layering can give packaging that extra wow factor and associate it with luxury. Packages that deliver enjoyable tactile and visual experiences are most likely to leave a memorable experience in the mind of the consumer by making the packaging part of the eating experience. Transparency in the information provided on the packaging is also an important factor. People are conscious of what they eat, and clean and transparent labeling can help consumers make a knowledgeable purchase. This is especially true for healthy food deliveries that clearly indicate the contents of each box and stick to their promise of delivering healthy packaged meals daily.
Eco-friendly packaging solutions
The worldwide trend is ‘less in the way of plastics and single use materials, more in the way of recycling and sustainable food packaging’. Today’s consumers want to know that their purchases are making the world a better place. There are plenty of creative ways to go easy on the earth. We are now seeing greater use of paper packaging than ever before. For example, plastic food trays are being replaced by biodegradable meal trays. A lot of research is also going into edible food packaging with zero waste, such as beeswax wraps, milk proteins films, fruit jellies and seaweed wraps. McDonalds is trying to make strides with its Pack-Up initiative, aiming to reduce waste with recyclable plates. A proposal has been made to test a collection of takeout containers made from polypropylene that can either be washed and reused or recycled in a flagship store in Paris.
Technology is now being embedded into the packaging. Smart packaging is a good way to differentiate a brand, by providing the consumer with more functionality and convenience. Color-changing smart labels that can be scanned using a smart phone to provide information about freshness and staleness on products such as salad boxes will soon be commonplace. Another example of smart packaging is The Dunkin Donut Smart Cup which uses temperature-sensitive ink that indicates when the hot beverage is safe to drink. A wonderful branded packaging effort was the Budweiser initiative used during FIFA 2018, when the beer cups were embedded with LED light which were activated by noise. The louder the cheering, the more the lights glowed.
Besides the desire for technology, Millennial and Generation Z also aspire to acquire personalized products. Technology has helped food packaging personalization to become a growing trend. The success of Coca Cola’s personalized bottles printed with names is evidence of the ease with which such ideas can become a reality. Manual customization is a cheap and easy option for making food packaging stand out, whether on special, themed occasions or day to day. Ideas can include the use of customized stickers, tags and stamps with the logo or a tagline of the business brand. Personalized texts and jokes, common in pizza boxes with small windows, for instance, go a long way in establishing a connection and personal moment with the customer.
“Recognizable branding is key to ensuring brand familiarity and vital to driving sales. In a food & beverage business that is increasingly being dominated by delivery and grab-and-go items, the importance of packaging can’t be overstated”