Four Branding Trends from Expo West 2017

Chris Burton, our Art Director, travelled all the way to Anaheim last week for Expo West 2017. The four-day event is the country’s largest natural foods show, and it gives industry professionals the opportunity to see what’s in store for the future of organic foods. Shifts in consumer tastes usually lead to major design shakeups, and here are four of the biggest packaging trends that we noticed.

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With consumers becoming increasingly interested in buying local small-batch products, branding is taking on a distinctly “handmade” look. Handwritten logos, drawings, and rough edges are all major trends, as brands are moving away from the overly polished “hipster” look of the last few years in favor of appearing wholesome and healthy.

ProteinFotoJet Collage2 Protein is in everything right now, from plant milk to pancakes (FlapJacked wins best name). As a result, we’re seeing categories looking a lot more diverse than they have in the past. For example, protein-packed cookie brand Bite Fuel is using a very heavy black font in all of its branding, which is unrecognizable from the bright colors and gentle script of more familiar players like Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos.

With this sudden interest in protein, we’re also seeing more artisanal varieties of meaty products like beef jerky. Duke’s came to Expo West with dried brisket and Cajun-style dried sausages, with elegant packaging that highlights the seasonings and flavor additives over the meat.

This protein phenomenon is manifesting itself in two ways – products that traditionally would not contain much protein are being set apart with strong, commanding designs, and products that have always been known to be great sources of protein are trying to appeal to new consumers.

 

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Consumers want to feel closer to the food that they eat, which means becoming more comfortable with the animals at the source. Meats, cheeses, and flavored snacks are all beginning to feature realistic depictions of livestock, sometimes using straight-up photographs.

Meat-and-dairy-free products are using images of animals as well. Los Angeles’s Kombucha Dog, for instance, puts photos of homeless dogs from local shelters on their labels, using store shelf space to help them find homes.

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Mascots were all over the place this year, which is interesting for a natural foods show – mascots are most commonly associated with sugary cereals and fast food. Brands are now recognizing that mascots can help build relationships with consumers, who can feel personal and emotional connections to them. They can also considerably boost a brand’s recognition potential, which is especially attractive for new products in crowded categories.

 

Colors that Yell

With the trend of minimalist, stark packaging still going so strong, some brands are pushing back with designs that scream from the shelf. Hot pink, blood orange, teal – all are showing up in product categories that have never gone so bold. We know that color choices evoke different emotional responses for consumers, and playing with combinations can help shoppers connect with brands. Clashing colors are also usually more memorable and therefore are great for brand recall, especially when the colors are unique to the product.

Using loud, expressive colors is a way for brands to differentiate a special edition product, allowing them to break out of their standard molds and appeal to new groups. This can be highly effective for brands looking to target younger consumers, who are appreciative of companies that are willing to take on a little edginess and aesthetic risk. Large brands looking to emulate the look and feel of small brands should take note of how the following companies have successfully crafted exciting packages by taking chances with color.

 

Harper Macaw

Last spring, D.C. chocolatier Harper Macaw released a series of bars inspired by the election. Naturally, the wrappers use bold reds and blues, and the result is gorgeous and striking. Rather than feeling like political cartoons, the chocolates are elegant and find the beauty within the absurdity of our current political climate. For a time that has been so stressful and dividing, at least we got a little something sweet out of it.

 

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Bud Light

Bud Light is now the official beer sponsor of South by Southwest, and the funky, psychedelic cans that they issued in limited release last year were such a hit that they are coming back for the 2017 festival. With bright blues, orange, yellow, red, purple, green, and a shock of black, the packaging perfectly captures the vibe of the festival and of the famously “weird” city of Austin.

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Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP

Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP sticks out like a sore thumb among competitors, with a heavy fuchsia font that pops (pun intended) against solid feminine backgrounds. This is a great example of how color clashing can be used in a way that is playful without being childish – this design communicates maturity while remaining effectively eye-catching. The color choices here indicate that the snack is something indulgent and luxurious, a cut above all of the Orville Redenbachers and the Act IIs.

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Wild Leaf

Most tea brands try to communicate the same themes: tranquility, peace, smoothness, etc. Wild Leaf has decided to take an entirely different approach, with wild colors that would be striking on their own and are even stronger when put together. Energetic and youthful, with a large callout for its specific properties, it’s certainly more fun than your grandma’s Lipton.

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Ciao Bella

The bright, beautiful color palette that Ciao Bella used for their line of gelatos is a great example of risk paying off. Brands of ice cream and similar treats often struggle with how to clearly target adults, and the rainbow of color could have easily made it seem like it was a dessert for children. Instead, the careful color pairings elevate the packaging to a new level of sophistication, while still looking just as visually interesting and trendy as competitors like Ben & Jerry’s.

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5 Emerging Packaging Design Trends

While each client and project are different, knowing what design trends are more popular can get you going in the right direction and will give you an idea of how consumers will interact with the product. Consider mobile-engaged packaging, personalized packaging, and digital print to create more personalized experiences for consumers. To engage consumers on a personal level and provide them with an experience through packaging, consider the following packaging design trends.

Simplicity

t-shirt-packaging-design-the-t-shirt-01Consumers are overwhelmed with the choices available to them, so sometimes, it’s best to just keep things simple. Clean, clear labeling and minimalist packaging can help to get the point across quickly, with no fluff. It also creates brand transparency and increases buyers’ confidence. When consumers are looking for products that can simplify their lives, they are attracted to minimal packaging that is simple (not boring) and instantly answers the questions they are asking. By identifying what the consumer needs and expressing how your product can fulfill that need (in no uncertain terms), your packaging will be more powerful and instill trust with your audience.

Geometric Shapes

jeannieburnside_meld_5Screen-Shot-2016-01-15-at-2.50.19-PM-768x321Geometric patterns and shapes are visually appealing and can fit nearly any product. Using familiar colors and shapes can provide a simplistic approach that reaches consumers in a nostalgic way.

Vintage

038a433ff8e7485a5846c156265aea80static1.squarespace-2Old-fashioned packaging design focuses on the good ole’ days. Modernizing old design trends and presenting vintage packaging, with emphasis on calligraphy and letterpress, will relate your packaging to something of higher value.

Enhanced Shelf Life

05967f81b443a987d367f4763a7ba606Most designers believe in the standard that your packaging should be able to stay on the shelf for approximately three to five years. However, it can remain on your customer’s home shelves for just as long. That’s why it’s important to design unique packaging that looks good both in the store and at home. By accounting for how it will look on the shelves in the store, you can attract more new customers. By accounting for how it will look on the shelves at home, you can keep your current customers satisfied. It also encourages consumers to leave the packaging out on the counters more often (instead of hiding them in the cabinet), which results in free advertising for anyone who sees the item.

Sustainable Packaging

c8371dabd11828690cc7e2df6231717apd-19Sustainable packaging offers a more environmentally friendly option, which can still be functional and beautiful. It can also empower social consciousness overall. Choosing green, socially responsible packaging is good for your business, the environment, and your bottom dollar. Successful sustainable packaging needs to be less disposable and have the smallest possible impact on the environment. This can include using recycled materials to produce the packaging and/or encouraging customers to repurpose the packaging after the contents are gone.

Have you noticed other emerging design trends that we missed?

10 Package Design Trends for 2015

Package design trends tend to change every year and while some trends can come and go, we have highlighted 10 of our favorite trends below, which we believe are here to stay.

1. Bold Shapes and Colors

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Featuring bold geometric inspired patterns and an array of eye-catching colors is one way to instantly grab your audience’s attention.

2. Transparency

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Opaque white typography is typically printed on transparent items, which allows the product inside to be showcased. It is simplistic, modern, refined, and lets the product speak for itself.

3. Kraft Paper

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Kraft paper has been an increasingly popular packaging material choice since 2013. The sustainable material can serve as the perfect canvas for a designer to explore their creativity.

4. Globalization

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Packaging inspired by shipping, freight, and travel reflects its global nature and adventurous spirit and appeals to a wider audience. Referencing particular destinations around the world, or flavors from those areas of the world, on your packaging can also transform any ordinary item into a gift.

5. Black Contrast and Black Matte

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Black, white, and pure contrast instantly attracts the eye, so they don’t need to rely on bright colors or imagery to stand apart from the other items on the shelf. Black matte is also seeing its way into this trend, especially when it comes to liquor and beer packaging.

6. Watercolor

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Watercolor tends to evoke a feeling of calm, so adding watercolor based illustrations can make customers want to sit back and relax with the products.

7. Pure White

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Beginning with a pure white canvas and layering colors on top can really make them sing. The result is a bold design that is colorful, but refined.

8. Bring Life to the Product

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Using whimsical illustrations, pastel colors, and fun imagery can make customers feel good about the product before they’ve even used it. The branding should be able to engage with the consumer from the shelf so they are more inclined to choose it.

9. Sustainable and Green Packaging

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More and more people are doing their part to help the environment. Choosing green, socially responsible packaging is good for your business, the environment, and your bottom dollar.

Most designers believe in the standard that your packaging should be able to stay on the shelf for approximately three to five years. Unless your business has the funds and time for rebranding efforts more often than every three years, it is important that your packaging has staying power.

10. Convenience

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Approximately 1/3 of the U.S. population is currently made up of the “New Millennials” or “Gen Y”, which are people born between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s. They have a heavier reliance on convenience and are willing to pay a bit more for higher quality and convenience, like packaging that is more lightweight, contains fewer materials, or has that DIY feel.