Thirsty for Knowledge

June 22, 2012


“In the shop, that’s where the real battle happens,” says Steve Kelsey

In the grocery aisle, the competition can be fiercer than a finale of “Project Runway,” the fashion design reality TV competition. Products are lined up next to their competitors with little to no opportunity to express why they should be the consumer’s choice. In food, drug, convenience and mass merchandise channels, one of the best ways to grab the consumer’s attention is with package design.

“In the shop, that’s where the real battle happens,” says Steve Kelsey, innovations director for PI Global. “You can do some very provocative stuff and very powerful stuff in advertising, but actually on the shelf [is] where the consumer makes up their mind, so from that perspective, the [package] has to work incredibly hard.”

Designing for demographics
As competitive as the shelf can be for beverage-makers, developing a one-size-fits-all package is easier said than done. Like the beverages themselves, packaging trends are subject to demographic population shifts, according to a January Mintel report titled “Beverage Packaging Trends.” The market research firm’s report finds that those who are older than 55 cite simple and easy-to-read beverage labels as being important. It adds that these consumers pay close attention to health claims; however, they do not believe this information is easier to find on a beverage label than on other packaging. The 55 and older consumer age group also is more likely to recycle than its counterparts. In contrast, Mintel found that those who are 25 years old or younger show a high acceptance for stylish, unusual designs, and they are less likely to rate health and nutrition attributes as important. They also do not rate functional packaging and recyclable packages as important.

Mintel also noted the increased acceptance and action toward recycling by the Asian population. Although this demographic remains small, it is growing faster than any other race, with the Asian community in the United States estimated to grow more than 31 percent from 2006 to 2016, the report states. This demographic expressed a willingness to buy eco-friendly products if they were less expensive, but also a willingness to pay a premium for eco-friendly packaging. However, like the older consumer age group, Asians identified more challenges than the average consumer in finding and identifying calorie and sugar content of beverages when looking at the label, according to Mintel.


We design with the strategy of a simplified communications hierarchy

Ingredient callouts
With a burgeoning natural and organic beverage market that offers products that contain fruit and vegetable juices, package design can be utilized to communicate a product’s nutrients and value-added ingredients.

“We design with the strategy of a simplified communications hierarchy, so consumers understand what servings of fruits and vegetables they will be enjoying with each product purchase,” says Jackie DeLise, vice president of new business development at HMSDesign. “Additionally, the visual metaphors represent the benefits of the product.”

She adds that when developing beverage packaging, the visualization of ingredients, for instance, communicates an appetizing appeal through photography or illustration that sets the standard for the brand from a taste standpoint. And with the proliferation of new product offerings within the beverage market, brand manufacturers are tasked even more to meet consumers’ evolving beverage needs, particularly in the premium refrigerated juice segment, she says.

“The category trend is toward a visual simplicity to allow the consumer the ease of shopping — and shop-ability in the category — to be confident in their brand selection based on the quality impression,” DeLise says.

Capitalizing on the label

Women tend to have a greater interest in diet and nutritional claims in food and beverage products

Consumers also echo the sentiments for simple and easy-to-read information on beverage labels. In Mintel’s “Beverage Packaging Trends” report, 79 percent of all respondents identified the most important feature of beverage labels as being easy to read without clutter. The report also found that 72 percent of respondents want to easily identify whether a beverage is all natural, which can have an inherent audience.

“Women tend to have a greater interest in diet and nutritional claims in food and beverage products, so it’s expected that they over-index in being able to easily tell if a product is all natural [in addition to] its nutritional content per serving and per container,” the report states.


But beyond a simplified, clean layout of information, design firms also are seeing an opportunity for package design to expand beyond the label through augmented reality or quick-response (QR) codes.

“The thing that’s really interesting is integrating these codes and symbols, which are not difficult to print, into beverage pack labels so we can have a very direct link between the pack design and what’s happening in the rest of media — the digital world that brands are creating for their consumers,” PI Global’s Kelsey says. “… It gives us the opportunity to do interesting things with games, promotions [and] all sorts of brand extensions.”

The increased extension of brands through packaging is a trend that market analysts see expanding in the future. Karine Dussimon, senior packaging analyst with Euromonitor International, foresees the use of packaging as an initial platform that takes consumers to an online marketing campaign, a social network page or the brand owner’s website by using QR codes to better reach consumers who are increasingly connected.

Environmental impact
Beyond communicating a brand message to consumers, package design also has a higher calling to deliver on environmentally friendly designs.

“Continued and increasing concern over packaging’s impact on the environment has encouraged a number of [fast-moving consumer goods] multinationals to further their development of more sustainable packaging solutions, such as lighter or even plant-based bottles,” Euromonitor’s Dussimon says. “In the case of lighter bottles — be it plastic or glass — it is often an investment in terms of research and development to solve the technical challenge that it represents, but it also often turns into a gain for all parties.”

The incidence of environmental concerns varies by region, she says. For instance, North America and western Europe are the most prominent, but in developing areas such as China, it is becoming more important.

Size selections
To reach a variety of households and consumers, manufacturers design multiple package size formats. In its “Beverage Packaging Trends” report, Mintel identified that multi-serving packages for beverages are the most popular at 94 percent purchase incidence with single-serving and multi-pack beverages recording 89 and 88 percent purchase incidence, respectively.

Touting the least expensive cost for each serving, multi-serve containers accommodate the need for large quantities of the household’s most consumed beverages, such as milk, juice, juice drinks and carbonated soft drinks, according to Mintel. However, the market research firm found that multi-serving and single-serving containers are purchased somewhat less frequently by consumers who are younger than 65 than by younger demographics. The multi-serve packaging format, however, showed strong appeal to older consumers, likely because of its ability to accommodate smaller households, and because older consumers tend to be highly price-sensitive and prefer cost efficiency.

For multi-packs, aluminum cans are the most frequently purchased container, according to Mintel. Multi-packs also address the need for large quantities. For example, many juice product multi-packs contain 10 to 12 single-serve juices.

It’s a long way down the beverage “runway,” but package design can help put some spring in a product’s step to help it stand out from the rest.