The psychology of food brand packaging


Picture the scene: you’re in the supermarket faced with five or six different brands of tinned baked beans. Your head is telling you that they all taste the same, in fact some of them may have even been packaged in the same factory, and part of you feels that you should just choose the cheapest option. However, you feel inexplicably drawn to one particular brand and you’re not quite sure why. That’s the result of a lot of time, effort, and research by the brand; and you’ve just proved that their theory has worked.

Food brands invest thousands into marketing their products, and the packaging design must fulfill a number of functions:

  • The packaging is the physical representation of a brand's personality and one of their key identity tools.
  • It helps to draw the consumer’s attention to a specific product in a crowded retail space, and differentiate a product from its competitors.
  • Packaging helps to position a product within a certain category and perceived value.
  • It acts as a protective container, preserving the food and providing key information.
  • Groundbreaking packaging design can help to influence the way a product is consumed, thus shifting behavioural patterns in consumers.
  • Food packaging shows consumers the level of modernism and creativity that the brand might possess.

What constitutes good food brand packaging?

There are a number of factors that manufacturers must take into account when it comes to designing packaging that will make their food products stand out and appeal to consumers:

  • Colour: This is the most important visual cue for packaging design as consumers only have a matter of seconds to make a purchasing decision and colour registers much quicker than text or graphics. Different colours are associated with different emotional states, so things like sweets tend to be in bright, happy coloured packaging; while dipping oils are often in earthy coloured containers to attract the more discerning, sophisticated customer.
  • Graphics: The logo, typeface, illustrations, and other graphic design elements of packaging also help to communicate the brand’s attributes and personality to the consumer.
  • Shape and function: The main purpose of packaging is to protect the food during transit and prolong its shelf life in store and at the customer’s home. It’s important to consider how the food will be prepared by the consumer too; for example can it be microwaved in the packaging? If it needs to be poured into a pan or jug is your packaging easy to pour from? As for the shape of the packaging, consider the ergonomics of how the consumer will use it, as well as any messages you want to convey. Crosse and Blackwell’s waistline range of tinned products are packaged in cans that are slightly hourglass shaped to symbolise their slimming potential.
  • Imagery: Obviously the most important! A great photo of your food looking delicious can help to influence the consumer’s decision once they’ve been attracted to your product enough to hone in on it on the shelf.


If you’d like to learn more about the food photography services we offer here at Stephen Conroy Food Photography. Please take a look around the website, and don’t hesitate to contact us.


Stephen Conroy
Food Photographer & Director