Breaking Down Callouts in Package Design

As we pointed out in our 25 Package Design Trends for 2018 article, dramatic callouts have been one of the most prominent and successful recent trends in package design. From Halo Top to RXBAR, several brands have seen sales skyrocket after redesigning their packaging to strongly feature a callout.

There are several different kinds of callouts that designers can use, and they all accomplish a different objective and target a different kind of shopper. Before incorporating a callout into a packaging project, designers should be aware of these distinct types of callouts and measure them against the brand’s ultimate goals.


Calorie Callouts

Calorie callouts can be very effective for brands that are targeting dieters. As seen with Halo Top ice cream, whose sales grew 2,500% in 2016 post-redesign, large calorie callouts can also be especially helpful for brands selling in very competitive categories. Packaged ice cream is considered a fairly cutthroat industry, and when Halo Top was a newcomer to the frozen aisle, its distinct calorie callout immediately alerted dieting shoppers that there was now an option for them.

The brand’s trademark design features a huge calorie callout front-and-center, with a smaller (but still pretty huge) callout referencing its protein richness.


Ingredients Callouts

Not to be confused with diet snacks like Halo Top, health snacks as a category have seen incredible growth and influence in the past few years. This means that shoppers are paying closer attention to what’s in their food, and have become wary of artificial sweeteners and chemicals that lower the product’s calorie count but offer no real nutritional value. Today’s shoppers don’t just want to be thin; they want to be truly healthy. For brands that adhere to this philosophy of fitness, strong ingredients callouts that highlight the natural elements in the snack can make it very attractive to health-conscious shoppers.

This was certainly true for RXBAR, whose success post-redesign was so great that it contributed to this trend emerging across categories. Immediately following the debut of the redesign at Expo East 2015, RXBAR was selling into Wegmans, Whole Foods, Publix, and Trader Joe’s. In an interview with Entrepreneur, founders Peter Rahal and Jared Smith explained their decision not to use a laundry list of claims and instead follow up their ingredients callout with a second callout, “No B.S.”:

“What we struggled with is the claims are outrageous. It’s gluten free, soy free, dairy free, all natural. The list of claims are like 20. That shit doesn’t matter. That’s why our approach to how we work and everything is “no B.S.” That just became a kind of a quirky master claim essentially.”

Juice brands have also made excellent use of the ingredient callout trend. Juices tend to be very colorful, and brands that combine screenprinting with ingredients callouts reap the dual benefits of being eye-catching and playing up their product’s “natural” status.


Ethical Callouts

As consumers care more about where their food comes from and about the impact that brands have on the world, package design that employs striking ethical callouts can effectively win over shoppers’ hearts. One of the most extreme examples of this on shelf today is This Bar Saves Lives, which explicitly lays out their mission right in their name. On the box, they have a large callout that further illustrates the brand’s charitable values, stating that they feed a child in need for every bar purchased. The in-your-face branding has earned the snack bar hordes of loyal followers, as well as a team of celebrity partners that regularly plug the product.

This kind of ideology does not necessarily have to be baked into the brand from the start; strong ethical callouts work great for limited campaigns as well. One of our favorites was this project from Hornall Anderson and UK-favorite HP Sauce, promoting “Movember”, a popular event in November in which men grow mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The agency completely wrapped the bottles in slogans, making the message impossible to miss.


Better for You Callouts

“Better for You” / “BFY” claims position a product as a healthier alternative to other options in the category. The key to using this callout is to be clear, concise, and to steer clear of overpromising. Cordial brand Elderbrook openly mocked that last point, with their own large callouts claiming that they aren’t the kind of magical health potion that other BFY beverages often claim to be – they’re just better than soda.When Hatfield approached the team here at Works Design about designing their new uncured line of meats, we did a ton of research on what “uncured” really means, and how to best communicate its benefits to consumers. Ultimately, we decided on a large callout that spelled out that the meat had no nitrates or nitrites, in addition to having no hormones. This hierarchy demonstrates to shoppers that may be unfamiliar with curing that having no nitrates or nitrites is just as important as being free from other types of additives, including hormones.

We also decided to combine the BFY messaging with heritage branding, going for a very rustic aesthetic and including the year of the company’s founding. With this line and with other Hatfield products that we have designed, we always go back to their tagline “Family owned. American Made.” to guide the look and feel of the packaging.

Callouts have become very popular in recent years, and understanding why they succeed and what they communicate is vital for correct execution. Designers want to make sure they are reaching the right audience and delivering an accurate message, and not bombarding shoppers with clunky claims. As the founders of RXBAR said, consumers don’t want a laundry list of hard-to-understand promises or “B.S.” – they want to know immediately what the product is and why they should buy it. When used properly, callouts can be one of the most effective tools a design team has for targeting shoppers.

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