How the Meal Prep Trend is Influencing Package Design

The meal prep phenomenon has spurred some pretty interesting package design trends. Below is a glimpse at our thoughts and insights on the current shift, and you can check out our full article in The Dieline  for more on how design is changing for Instagram’s sake.

 

In the age of Instagram, health-consciousness is at a high. Not only does the food have to be good for you (so that the consumer can look good), but the meals themselves have to be attractive, colorful and ripe for photographing. Of course, preparing such dishes can take up a lot of time, which busy young professionals often do not have to spare. Hence the “meal prep” trend, which has exploded in popularity over the past year or so.

Meal prepping involves whipping up large batches of food that can be packed up and eaten throughout the week, meaning that is not unusual for a young, fit person to spend an afternoon baking a whole pack of chicken breasts or roasting several pans of vegetables just for themselves. Now that more people are condensing the time that they spend cooking into one or two points of the week, brands are seizing the opportunity to cater to meal preppers’ unique needs.

10 Package Design Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

Every designer has encountered some major package design mistakes in their career, so we’ve covered some of the most common (and unfortunate) ones below. Avoiding these common blunders can save your business time, money, and embarrassment later.

Test your packaging with your target consumer groups to ensure it is easy to open, eye-catching, and hits all the right marks. If your packaging doesn’t attract your target market or help your business reach its goals, it may be time for a rebrand.

1.   Overcomplicating Things

 

Simplicity is key to straightforward, streamlined designs. Making the design overly complicated will just confuse customers. You’ll want to leave enough pertinent information to answer your customers’ questions about your product, without overcomplicating or confusing things.

Kraft transformed their clean, long-standing iconic logo into a juvenile, flamboyant logo with nine opposing colors. This resulted in a more expensive, complicated design that just left customers confused. They eventually saw the error of their ways and redesigned the logo and branding to something that better aligned with consumer expectations.

2.   Excess Packaging

Excessive packaging is bad for everyone. Consumers respond negatively to waste, stores don’t like giving up so much shelf space, and the company is losing money on unnecessary packaging.

 

3.   Typos and Misspellings

 

 

This may seem like a fairly obvious mistake, but it’s more common (and costly) than you may think. Nothing breaks down your business’s reputation like a simple misspelling.

 

4.   Blurry Images

 

 

Sierra Mist’s rebrand efforts included a blur effect that just ended up making everything difficult to look at, which was a bigger problem than they may have realized. Based on a 2016 study by The Benchmarking Co. on beauty product packaging and beauty consumers, 83% of consumers said that the name of the product needs to be easy to read.

 

5.   Bad Placement

 

 

Sometimes, the placement of seemingly insignificant things can really throw off the whole design. As is the case with Pampers’ pull-off handles, bad placement can look humorous, phallic, or juvenile, which reflects poorly on the brand.

 

6.   Forgetting Your Loyal Buyers

 

 

Consistency is key to creating a strong brand image and brand loyalty. If your packaging isn’t consistent, it won’t match your overall vision and can leave customers confused.

As in the case of Tropicana, sometimes, big name brands veer too far off the norm and end up turning their backs on their loyal customers. Tropicana was attempting to make more “down to earth” packaging, but ended up with a design that looked more suited to a generic store brand. This left customers puzzled, and sales plummeted as a result.

 

7.   Difficult to Open

 

 

If a package is too difficult to open, consumers may choose a competitor’s product next time. In fact, this issue is so frustrating that it’s been given its own name: “wrap rage”.

 

8.   Outdated Design

 

There is a difference between vintage and just plain old. If your packaging is outdated, it can make your company seem old and insignificant as well. It’s important to keep up with the times so that your brand can continue to stand up to the competition.

9.   No Unique Traits

 

 

With an oversaturated market, it’s important that your product can stand apart from the rest. If your branding looks too similar to the competition’s, you’re missing an opportunity to reach customers from the shelf. While your branding should stay in line with your competitors, it’s important to find the unique traits that help you stand above the rest.

 

­10. No White Space

 

 

Leaving white space is a great way to highlight the most important characteristics of your product. It also keeps things simple and straightforward, so it’s important to leave plenty of it.

Top 5 Sustainable Packaging Designs

Designed in part to help combat the problem of overflowing landfills, sustainable packaging is better for both the environment and your bottom dollar. By reducing the quantity of an item’s packaging and reconsidering the materials used in its manufacturing, CPG brands are able to diminish physical and financial waste. Most importantly, as illustrated in the examples below, sustainable packaging can also be functional, unique, and capable of instantly attracting customers.

1. Tomorrow Machine

 


While some companies have attempted the edible packaging trend, few have been as successful as the concept series This Too Shall Pass. Designed by Swedish design firm Tomorrow Machine, the proposed bio-based packaging uses everything from agar-agar seaweed gel to beeswax. The firm’s vision is to “build a better world through research, new technologies & intelligent material.”

The raspberry smoothie packaging is made out of agar-agar seaweed and water, which shrinks when exposed to excessive heat and time.

 

The olive oil packaging is made of hardened caramelized sugar coated with wax. It cracks open like an egg and the package melts away when it comes in contact with water.

 

2. Innventia

 

 

 

 

Swedish research company Innventia partnered with Tomorrow Machine to create a line of expanding bowls and self-opening packages, which save space and are made of 100% bio-based and biodegradable material. The mechano-active material will react to heat and open itself to transform from a compressed package to a serving bowl once the internal temperature reaches a fixed point.

3. Saltwater Brewery

 

 

Traditional plastic beer rings are harmful to the environment, and particularly to the ocean. Saltwater Brewery worked to combat that problem with unique six pack rings that are not only visually appealing, but also biodegradable, compostable, and environmentally friendly. In fact, the rings are edible to help – rather than harm – the underwater life. Made partly of wheat and barley (which are also used to make the beer), they can break down easily and provide an adequate fish snack. The edible rings are also complemented by the IPA’s aquatic design and name.

4. Fitzroy Navy Rum Bottle

 

 

 

This unique bottle takes the adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” to another level. Design agency Fitzroy designed the luxe rum bottle packaging with unique bottle caps made from melted-down Coca-Cola labels. They turned old, discarded labels into something beautiful enough to be given as a gift. According to Fitzroy, the company is “giving the popular term ‘get wasted’ an entirely new meaning.”

5. Re-Pack Milk

 

 

 

This student project from Brazil reimagines milk packaging as a whole. Milk packaging is traditionally made of a range of different materials that can be difficult to break down and separate during the recycling process. This innovative Re-Pack Milk packaging separates the outer cardboard and inner flexible cornstarch bioplastic packaging for effortless recycling. It also has a simple, straightforward design that stands out among the competition.

Redesigns and Refreshes: Why Change is Crucial

 

Each year, new design trends emerge. It’s important for businesses to keep up with these changes in order to remain competitive, and those that are really good at it can even position themselves as change leaders within their industry. As our Director of Business Development, Kory Grushka, put it: “Be very curious and stay on top of the latest trends and news – particularly in your industry, but also outside of it.”

Adjusting to Fit the Times

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory completely rebranded their packaging and store design to better fit in with today’s aesthetic style and feel. Graphic design studio, Wedge & Lever, took advantage of the new chocolate culture by giving the branding an upscale feel, with a color palette inspired by the chocolate itself.

Rebranding Efforts Often Lead to Huge Success

 

If a brand has become outdated, is declining in sales, or needs to stand apart from the competition, then a rebrand can provide the facelift they need to bring the right attention to the product. Rebranding also keeps customers interested and shows them that people are still hard at work behind the scenes making sure the product is the best out there.

 

Target proved this when they updated their generic Market Pantry packaging to give it a hip, trendy vibe. It now feels like a standalone brand, rather than an affordable generic pick.

 

Each product has its own detailed packaging, down to the type. The heavy typography feels fresh, like something that could be seen on a Brooklyn storefront. The badges for health feel like modern stamps now, instead of boring nutrition facts or your typical callout.

 

 

The Crunchy Oats & Honey Granola Bars now have honey dripping onto the top of the type. With the Toasted Rounds Baked Crackers, the “O” and the round portion of the “D” have treatment that feels like the edge of the cracker. The mixed fruit flavored snacks now have the typography as the teeth of smiling grapes to appeal to kids. On the Woven Wheat crackers box, the type is written so that it looks like parts are weaving in the crackers.

 

Some products (like the marshmallows) are transparent with only the logo and bold type showing, letting the product be the star of the show, and saving ink at the printer in the process. Other products, such as the butter, half and half, cottage cheese, and American singles have very flat packaging focusing on the typography alone.

Holiday Packaging

 

Changing packaging to fit a holiday, theme, or season can lead to huge profits. It can make your product stand apart from the competition and help build brand loyalty with your target audience.

Learn to Accept Change

 

 

While redesigning Campbell Soup Company’s V8 packaging, our research process included multiple store visits to each of the three club store retailers, significant desktop research and interviews of club store industry experts. Further, we audited cross-category products as well as the beverage category, and conducted extensive color studies that ultimately informed the variety differentiation strategy. The final designs focused on color blocking, bold callouts for the brand, varieties and pack sizes, and photo-realistic 3D renderings of the products.

Change can be scary, and with the risks that it carries, it’s easy to see why. But with a clear vision and full understanding of trends and modernity, the resulting redesign should successfully bring a design into the present day.

The Rise of Minimalism in Package Design

The trend for minimalist package design continues to pick up steam, be it forgoing lots of wording, using simplistic designs, going without labels, or even utilizing materials that are plain and simple.

Many companies are opting for clear-cut product labels, which allow consumers to easily identify and differentiate the brands from others on the market. In an era of information overload, savvy CPG brands are realizing that their customers appreciate minimal packaging.

Matt Ramirez, senior designer with Adhere Creative, an inbound marketing and brand development agency in Houston, Texas, said it’s strict limitations or restrictions that sparks creativity.

“Minimalism is the style of the day. Companies can still bend it to fit our needs whether we use color, typography, or simple flat graphics instead of images to stand out,” he said. “Having a roadblock forces us to think up creative ways around it. Having to stand out from the pack with less and less to work with is just another roadblock designers have to think around in a creative way.”

Marketing veteran David Miskin, CMO of Lightstone, first applied the minimalist attitude doing window displays while working at the Gap, and he’s seen minimalism rise in importance over the decades.

 

“I think everybody is familiar with the term ‘less is more.’ It’s important to realize, though, that design is not about less or emptiness, it’s about impact,” he said. “A minimalist philosophy doesn’t just spare space; the designer works using pieces that tell a story. By focusing on what is essential, a designer can better exemplify a company’s or brand’s narrative by focusing on a few points that make a big difference.”

Looking at traditional advertising—whether it was print, television, or billboards—Miskin noted there was such a dominant design across all mediums from the ’60s to the ’80s, that it got to a point where there was so much clutter that designers needed to go to the other end of the spectrum and clean palates again, starting from the basics to develop new concepts.

“In fact, many modern offices have employed streamline, to varying degrees, using negative space to tell the story of their brand,” he said. “In addition, this approach has led to greater productivity, collaboration, and ideas.”

Going Minimalist

 

Some of the design elements that can help contribute to a minimalism feel include using lots of white space, bringing out a message on a small portion of the packaging; relying on bold colors and visibly appealing fonts; or using a simple photo that tells the story you want to tell.

Still, minimalism doesn’t have to be a white background with a gray apple in the middle, either. It can be an orange box with a white swoosh or even a burger made out of the simple bars of the letter “E” in the word “whopper.” All are examples of minimalism however, they use the style in very different ways.

“Color, space, shape, and typography are all very important tools we have at our disposal to make brands stand out and look different while using the same trend to communicate our message,” Ramirez said. “Having a well-thought-out brand identity is an essential tool that we must never forget about. Pepsi and Coca-Cola both use minimalism with simple packaging and on the bottles themselves. However, never in a million years could someone mix them up because they have vastly different typography, colors, and overall brands.”

Miskin said that consistency within a brand is important when pursuing a minimalistic strategy, and the elements of the minimalistic design should be across the board.
“A brand needs to know who they are and not stray too far from their formula,” he said. “By not drifting from their identity, consumers will become loyalists who seek out a brand, quickly recognizing them in a retail space.”

Le Labo, for example, designs all of its fragrance brands in the same way.

“If you look at their packaging, it’s consistent: minimalist across all scents,” Miskin said. “Maison Margiela is a stand-out fashion brand with minimal store build-outs and packaging. Their stores’ design features include books painted white, scraps of wood, reclaimed fixtures, and a consistent grit throughout the stores. Just by going to that white, clean place, they developed such a strong brand.”

Minimalism in Action

 

Another great way to get the most out of a minimalist design is to let a label make eye-catching, bold claims, such as Boxed Water, which simply has “Boxed Water is Better” written in black against a white background.

It was a decision that company CEO Daryn Kuipers said was important to getting its message in front of consumers. Furthermore, the company put great thought into its packaging materials, again opting for a minimalist approach.

“By packaging our premium water in recyclable cartons that ship flat to our regional fillers, Boxed Water minimizes our carbon footprint and increases efficiency compared to bottled water options,” Kuipers said. “The paper for our cartons is sourced from trees of well-managed forests, where new trees are continuously planted to replace the ones harvested.”

 

 

Vodka Mariette is a premium French spirit designed for bold and creative millennial women and a minimalist design was accomplished in-house by Winz Hospitality with assistance from design firm MX Landau.

“To differentiate, an antique neckless carafe was designed in a shape reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower and/or a woman’s body,” said Josh Winzelberg, Vodka Mariette’s president. “It was made completely matte black, opposed to ornate glossy or frosted bottles that are common. Rather than painted décor, a label of quality paper was opted for, similar to wines and champagnes that convey craftsmanship and class.”

Furthermore, the fonts expressed a general contrast, creating the aesthetic of the brand, which is French Modern.

“The female-oriented style of contemporary minimalism with homage to history and craft via details is truly relevant now as a hallmark for the changing landscape of luxury spirits,” Winzelberg said. “This gives the bottle a ‘fresh’ look many others lack.”

The philosophy of minimalism is to omit needless things, so by paring down packaging materials and pairing down the visual aspects of the design, a brand can do wonders and send a big message by doing what’s seen as little.

 

Package Design Trend: Dramatic Callouts

As consumers become more resolute in their preferences for trends that have been growing over the past few years (“simple” ingredients, environmentally-friendly production practices, etc.), brands are responding by dramatically highlighting these traits in their packaging. This has proved successful for many breakout brands, and this strategy should be considered in order to show potential consumers that their needs are the primary concern of the company.

rxbar

 

Protein bar manufacturer RXBAR took a pretty big gamble when they shrunk their logo by 60% in their 2017 package redesign. Their risk paid off enormously – by making the ingredients (which are easy for buyers to understand, a valued feature for modern shoppers) the star of the design, they launched their product into third place in its category.

 chia

KIND chose a similar strategy with their line of pressed bars, minimizing their brand name in order to free up room for the ingredients to shine. The company states that each bar adds two servings off fruit to one’s daily routine, and that the snack is made with just fruit and vegetables or fruit and chia. The packaging callouts emphasize this “simple” makeup.

daytm

This packaging from design agency mousegraphics reads like a recipe, taking what RXBAR has done a step further. While the funky hand-drawn typeface is a little difficult to read, the flavors are easily distinguished because whichever ingredient is most present in each bar gets a corresponding color and small illustration at the bottom. The project won a 2017 Dieline Award for Outstanding Achievement.

halotop

Halo Top majorly disrupted the ice cream category with its loud display of its outrageously low calorie count. The treat is made with stevia instead of sugar, meaning that the brand is able to differentiate themselves from fatty, indulgent competitors. Here, this fact is the hero of the packaging, as the calories-per-pint count is the first thing that draws the consumer’s eye.

water4change

Water for Change, which donates 10 liters of water to villagers in need for every carton purchased, won an A’Design Award for this packaging. The hand-to-hand illustration clearly calls out the value that the product offers beyond its basic function, and floating words like “eco friendly” and “sustainable” further express the image of environmental health that the brand is trying to promote.

 

 

How Packaging Can Tell a Story

Effective product packaging can shout from the shelves, even as they grow increasingly crowded. It can instantly answer any question that consumers might have, so that they easily understand the product. Packaging should tell the story of what makes the brand unique and what the product’s purpose is.

First Impressions Matter Most

Consumers are creatures of habit, so they tend to choose what they know and opt for familiar stories, recognizable brands, and engaging packaging. By conveying a story through packaging, a brand can feel more accessible and relatable, instantly building brand loyalty and enhancing the customer experience.

While you can use more than just the packaging to convey your story, the packaging is usually the first thing people see. Considering that the average first impression is made within seven seconds, it’s crucial to hook your customers immediately.

How to Tell Your Story

The packaging design needs to lead consumers where you want them to go, so they understand the story you’re trying to tell. Through the use of colors, materials, textures, type, and copy, your packaging can evoke certain feelings and emotions that draw consumers in.

story-2

A picture is worth a thousand words, and packaging can speak volumes with no words at all. As an example, Scanwood instantly tells the story of the wood’s history with their simple, yet effective packaging design. The award-winning design from Goodmorning Technology Team appeals to global retail markets by telling a story without using words or any additional packaging. As the team put it: “This branded story is now visible and understandable across all different markets and languages”.

Know Your Target Audience

Once you know your target audience, your packaging needs to resonate with that group of people. For example, emphasizing that you run a family-owned business through approachable, “down home” packaging can entice your customers by making them feel like the product is more relatable and could have been made by someone like them.

story-3

Stonyfield displays this perfectly with their storytelling packaging. By displaying cows grazing in an open field, they instantly tell the story of happy cows on a family ranch. It evokes positive feelings and emotions, making consumers more likely to choose it over the competition. By featuring one of the family farms that supplies milk for Stonyfield, Webb Scarlett de Vlam created packaging that Stonyfield feels “now reflects who we are and what we have stood for for over 25 years.”

story-4

Coca-Cola is frequently referenced as one of the best examples of storytelling through branding and packaging. Their effective personalized packaging instantly encourages sharing with friends and weaves a story in the minds of consumers.

story-1

Holiday and seasonal packaging is another great example of telling a story through packaging. By emphasizing the holiday or theme (such as adding a simple bow or wrapping), it makes the packaging feel special enough to share or gift with others.

Your packaging should share a story with potential consumers about what benefits the product can offer them. Taking the time to create a remarkable design can result in long-term profits, a loyal customer base, and an effective brand culture.

Words of Wisdom from Homaru Cantu

Slide2

Original Packaging that was Better than the Redesign

Package redesigns are famously tricky. On the one hand, updating a product’s look can be an important part of appealing to new consumers and staying fresh in an evolving market. On the other hand, companies risk losing valuable brand equity when they sacrifice recognizable design. When faced with the challenge of a redesign, sometimes brands just don’t get it quite right, and would have been better off sticking with their original look. Here are three recent examples of redesigns that did not deliver the effect that companies intended.

Miracle Whip

miraclewhip

In Kraft’s defense, Miracle Whip was due for a modern upgrade. The redesign that they chose in 2009, however, was uninspiring and bland. It’s clear that they were trying to go more minimalist, but the result made the product look unappetizing and generic, with no indicators of flavor other than the words “The Tangy Original”. Kraft quickly realized the error of their ways, and in 2010 a new design was released that retained more of the fun and color of the original packaging.

Weight Watchers

ww

In 2012, Weight Watcher’s had their logo redesigned by Pentagram. Keeping with the trends of the time, they opted for a gradient and a heavy font, with no space between the words. The company, which sells products related to dieting ranging from books to packaged foods, wanted their new look to highlight the transformation that consumers experience through the brand. What they were not counting on, however, was that a vulgar British slang word was now smack dab in the middle of the logo, which consumers in the U.K. found very difficult to look past.

The Happy Meal

mcdee

Few things are as iconic to the children of America as the Happy Meal box. The simple, sweet design had a lot of personality, and it represented years of brand loyalty that McDonald’s had built with families. In 2014, the company decided to reintroduce mascots into their branding, including a new one in the form of “Happy”, whose realistic smile and crazy eyes terrified consumers. The new boxes quickly became the subject of public ridicule and scorn, inspiring everything from memes to thinkpieces about how McDonald’s had evidently lost their minds.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that all three of these companies – Kraft, Weight Watchers, and McDonald’s – are multimillion-dollar corporations with huge marketing teams and expensive consumer research, yet even they have gotten redesigns very, very wrong. It’s difficult work, and both the design community and the food and beverage industry are still figuring out the best ways of going about it. But for every failure, we all learn a little more about how to do better next time, which is especially true for companies that are as large as these three. If the public disaster of the new Happy Meal box prevented us from having to deal with more disturbing mascots that may have been in the works, then it was worth it.

Pop Culture Packaging: The Impact of TV and Movies on Design

Pop culture has always and will always be a great tool to leverage for information. It is a bridge that connects marketing teams to consumers when updating an old, tired look or developing a new product for a new target audience.

A Yale University study from a few years back revealed that the use of movie and TV characters on food packaging is designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations, making them seem more desirable.

That’s why cartoon characters are often used on packaging to help sell junk food and other foods that companies are trying to appeal to little ones. Not that it’s all bad; for every Fred Flintstone on a cereal box, there is a Dora the Explorer or a Big Bird being used to help sell fruit and vegetables.

But it’s much more than food. Other brands have tied TV and movie character packaging to items such as wine, vitamins and even electronics.Homer-Marge-wine-572x354Tien Nguyen
, lead industrial designer for Studio One Eleven, a division of Berlin Packaging, says that in the past couple of years, the firm has noticed companies of all sizes have been leveraging endorsement from celebrities in the music, TV, and movie industries to gain more brand awareness, and the impact can be seen on packaging.

For example, Studio One Eleven recently launched a multivitamin gummies package with a leading nutritional supplements manufacturer, where they were able to leverage the multi-generational following of the Star Wars saga.

StarWarsVitaminsHero_2a “Our team designed and engineered special-edition overcaps based on the characters from the series to make their products more fun and appealing for kids and adults,” Nguyen says. “We were able to target both young kids that may be experiencing Star Wars for the first time (with the recent launch of Episode 7), and the diehard fans that fell in love with the saga from the original series.”

Davidson’s Organics—the first certified organic, fair trade and specialty tea company in the U.S.— just completed a package redesign for its 400 varieties of teas and accessories, centered around pop culture, such as its teas featuring movie legend Bruce Lee.BruceTea4 “We identified that millennials need to be visually stimulated with colors and buzzwords before they take a look at price and nutrition labels. We identified the words that young and old tea-drinkers look for, and put them on the face of our packaging,” says Davidson’s owner, Kunall Patel. “Pop culture has everything to do with what’s interesting right now. Every company should aim to stay that relevant in today’s fast-paced, social environment. No content is evergreen forever.”

A new energy drink released a few years ago capitalized on popular cartoon character, Popeye, who is known for his incredible strength after eating a can of spinach. That association led to a strong rollout.

“It’s important to stay in touch with the multi-cultural and ever changing lifestyle of today’s consumers, especially for younger and smaller companies. Staying up to date with trends and what consumers want is vital to build brand awareness and ultimately market shares among the larger players,” Nguyen says. “The CPG industry is a very fast pace industry. On average, we’ve seen companies target a complete redesign of both structure and branding within 2-3 years, depending on the breadth of their product portfolio.”

Before the Internet and social media, people were perhaps less informed, or they at least did not have such easily accessed resources to become informed. This led to the need for more content on packaging, as opposed to imaging.

“At that time, in order to create a brand, you first needed to introduce it. And more often than not, your first introduction to a consumer was through the physical handling of your packaging,” Patel says. “Now we’re able to establish brands through videos, websites, online images, etc. This emergence of visual interest has now led to this interest as it relates to physical products and their packaging. Our new packaging paints a picture worth a thousand words about content literally through brand imaging and design.”

Marvel has deals with numerous CPG companies—representing drinks, shampoos and yogurts—and you can find plenty of Pixar characters on packages of similar items when new movies come out.

Packaging that relies on TV or movies to help sell a product is a savvy move by companies, and is a strategy that won’t be going away anytime soon.