Over the past several years, we’ve seen an enormous shift in consumer preferences for food and beverage products. Increasingly, shoppers, most notably younger ones, are walking away from large brands perceived to be processed, artificial or mass-produced in favor of options they feel are more authentic, local and “real.” This war on Big Food has led many leading manufacturers to purchase smaller organic brands: The Campbell Soup Company has Bolthouse Farms, Kashi belongs to Kellogg’s, and General Mills has Annie’s Homegrown. Others have made well-publicized changes to product formulations, such as removing artificial colorings and preservatives. Still, growth in smaller brands continues to far outpace that of familiar big brands — look at craft beer versus Budweiser, Bud Light and Coors Light.
Since packaging is each brand’s embodiment and primary touchpoint, it has an enormous impact on consumers’ perceptions. Thus, it presents both an important opportunity and obligation to send the right messages about product quality, authenticity and health. With that thought in mind, this article focuses on how pack appearance, branding and messaging can work together to convey this message. In addition, we share new research on reactions to healthy food claims, conducted in partnership with leading academics from INSEAD and Vanderbilt University.