Tempt Them to Taste

April 7, 2016

Store Brands | April 7, 2016 – Whether it’s a box of chocolates imported from Belgium or a pasta sauce made from an old-world recipe, a premium food or beverage is meant to be something special. Most retailers offering own-brand items within the premium food and beverage space understand the importance of developing high-quality, taste-tempting products. But too often, those products retail in packaging that sports a mediocre design.

“The package is a vital signature of your brand and an important reflection of the store and the culture you want to present to your loyal consumer base,” stresses Gary Oakley, creative director for Toronto-based Shikatani Lacroix Design. “The visual tone and voice of your package design is a mirror of its personality.”

For the differentiating premium tier, packaging design actually could be the most important marketing vehicle available to retailers, notes Glenn Pfeifer, general manager and executive creative director for Daymon Worldwide’s Galileo Global Branding Group, Stamford, Conn.

“It’s true there is more white space and opportunity to develop new and exciting products in the premium space, and outstanding package design and innovative packaging structures should accompany those product innovations,” he says.

Beware of mistakes

Before engaging a design firm and beginning the packaging design process for a new premium food or beverage, retailers will want to be aware of — and avoid — a few common mistakes. One such mistake applies to the product itself; sometimes retailers erroneously label an unspectacular product as premium.

“The premium tier must be an elevated offering,” maintains Charlene Codner, chief creative officer for Fish Out Of Water Design Inc., Toronto. “It is crucial that the product itself live up to the packaging design.”

Inconsistency from category to category when it comes to implementation of the design is another common misstep, notes Michael Duffy, managing partner of Equator Design, Chicago. Failure to set criteria for the brand — and guidelines and safeguards — can lead to such inconsistencies.

If a retailer’s premium brand has 400 SKUs, for example, the designer could potentially be working with numerous printers, as well as numerous substrates, which will all react to the ink in a different way, he says.

“So you need to design to the shelf without compromise,” Duffy says. “You have to protect that design all the way through the process to make sure the printing is right, the photography is right, the production is right, the brand equity is intact and your 303rd SKU looks as beautiful as your third SKU did.”

Yet another common mistake, Pfeifer says, is the use of sub-par photography. If retailers truly want to succeed within the premium tier, they need to invest in high-quality custom photography for their packaging design.

Many retailers also err in waiting until the end of the development process to consider design, notes David Peters, creative development manager for API, Stockport, England.

“It is essential that the design process start at the beginning of the development of the brand tier and that consistent design effects and visual cues are played across the product range,” he says. “This ensures brand recognition and helps unify the premium positioning with the consumer so they can be clear on why they are paying that bit more for an own-brand product.”

Keep an eye on trends

Retailers will want to pay attention to current and emerging trends, too, when it comes to the packaging design for premium store brand food and beverages.

Duffy notes a significant trend toward food photography that captures the essence of something special.

“That first bite is with your eyes,” he stresses. “You absolutely have to appeal; you have to make somebody hungry, to want to eat it.”

But today’s food photography shouldn’t have a staged or perfect look — that look was the norm in the United States for some time, but has started to change in the past few years, Duffy says. Instead, it should have a natural look and feel — as if the photographer has captured a moment.

“It’s that imperfect perfection, if you will,” Duffy says. “You just capture a moment where that chocolate just drips down from the chocolate cake onto that strawberry; it’s a little bit of a mess; it’s real.”

Oakley points to four trends retailers should consider — “less is more,” “benefits over features,” “luxury creation through choice” and “compelling storytelling.” The first trend calls for a design that’s sleek and sophisticated (or a tad suggestive of chic), but relies on “clean lines and minimalism.” The second requires retailers to emphasize how the product will help and benefit the consumer, while the third involves positioning the product as part of a range of choices. Finally, the last trend calls for articulation of what makes the product different and special.

“Stories are what make us human,” he says. “Brands that connect you to a person, place, event or something bigger are always more likely to be perceived as premium.”

Although high-end luxury finishes such as a gold effect remain in demand, Peters says, satin and matte finishes also are in vogue when a more subtle, rustic or aged effect is desired. And laminates, foils and coatings are increasingly making their way into the consumer packaged goods space. They not only add texture and interest to packages, but also meet the trend toward “more sophisticated ‘haptic’ packaging.”

On the packaging materials side, Pfeifer notes that in the United States, an increasing number of centerstore categories are moving away from rigid packaging.

“Using more film and flexible packaging is not only good for many aspects of the supply chain and merchandising … but also provides the ability for enhanced printing and design techniques,” he says. “When it makes sense in the category, using techniques like metallic inks, high-color and various gloss and matte varnishes can all help in the ‘pop’ factor.”

Codner adds that it is important for retailers to keep up with the “latest and greatest” substrates, printing techniques and sustainability-minded materials.

“As an example, 51 percent of millennials will seek out and pay extra for sustainable products,” she says.

Don’t design in a vacuum

Perhaps the most important consideration is not a trend at all; it’s the consumer.

“With any brand, it’s absolutely critical that you know your consumer,” Duffy stresses.

Codner seconds that sentiment.

“They must appeal emotionally and rationally and find that one insight that compels their consumers to buy,” she says.

To gain that understanding, retailers must do their homework, Pfeifer emphasizes.

“Talk to your consumers and analyze your data to understand their buying and consumption habits, as well as what they consider premium and why they would consider purchasing premium products,” he advises. “From there, follow your strategic brand principles — make sure your private brand portfolio is clear and your brand promises your various brands carry are consistent and credible.”

Retailers then should work closely with their agency or design firm “to craft and gain consensus on a strong creative brief” and then trust that firm to do its job, he adds, even if a new concept makes them a bit uncomfortable.

“Take some chances and use your premium tier brands to break new ground and disrupt your consumers’ experience!”

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