Food Packaging: 6 Rules to Get Shelf-Ready

How do you make your food packaging great?

The average supermarket in the U.S. holds roughly 40,000 different items (FMI Food Marketing Institute). That’s 40,000 different food packaging designs.

This stands the reason that great design—among other key things—is a necessity when you want to ‘raise your hand’ in the crowd of 40K and say Pick me!.

These six simple rules will help ignite excitement for your brand and get you shelf-ready for your shining moment in front of that magical audience, your consumer.


Be Clear & Simple

Put simply, this rule is designed to help answer two things:

“What’s the product for?” and “What’s the brand behind it?”

Oh, and, keep in mind. . . you have less than 4-seconds for the consumer to digest that info. Any longer, and you’ve probably lost them. That’s about all the time they are willing to give you on the shelf. Moving on. . .


Be Honest

Misleading your consumer leads to disappointment.

Disappointed consumer = bad brand image.

Don’t leave a sour taste in their mouth.
Photography is key. When showcasing your product on your package, consumers assume some liberties will be taken with the presentation of your goods in order to make them look their best—but, it’s easy to cross the line into “What the hell were they thinking?!

Translation: if you have a sad little wafer-thin tiramisu dessert snack, don’t advertise it as a 3-story luxury high-rise with glorious layers of moist cake and frosting.

Come on! Really?


, 2020



Be Authentic

If you want to set your brand and your food packaging apart from the sea of consumer goods, be authentic. Period.

What does this mean, you ask? Know your product advantages and study the market. Use [authentic!] photographic representations of your goods if your market leans more illustrative in its style. And vice versa.

Branch out in your research. Put on your Dora the Explorer hat and dig in! Don’t just look to your competition for inspiration. If you sell high-end cheeses, maybe try gaining some design inspiration from wine labels.

For more info on being authentic in the marketplace, read about ‘product misrepresentation’ and three other food packaging design mistakes.


Be Impactful on the Shelf

Don’t look at your product in a vacuum. Ever.

Your initial design inspirations may lead you in a direction that feels just right. But, if what we learned from Goldilocks is true, then—your first choice might not always be the right one.

Have you tested your food packaging on the shelf next to the competing brands?

How does it look now?
Can you even find it?
Why the hell did I used red?!?

Our eyes detect patterns when feverishly coming the aisles. If your spaghetti sauce label is red, and so is your ‘enemies’. . . well then, you’ve lost the pattern—and the win.


Be Extendable


Simply put—good packaging design should allow for easy variations without losing its visual appeal (Peter Vukovic, 99designs).

Now, you can’t always predict the future, but, in this case, you should try. Let’s say you sell PopTarts. If somewhere down the road there is a chance you will add a ‘Chicken & Waffles’ flavored pastry to your lineup. . . you’d better be prepared to have a unique color and a cute little icon for it.

Having a visual system that allows for changes is critical for future line extensions.


Be Practical

We’re not just talking about pretty labels any more. The shape, size, and functionality of the actual product container need to make sense with what’s inside. It should also make it easier to use, carry, and store.

“Practicality is the most overlooked aspect of packaging design” (Peter Vukovic, 99designs). Sticking to the basics can be a good thing—but, it can also mean you aren’t striving hard enough to be innovative. For more inspiration on this, look what Birds Eye® did when they made our lives more convenient by creating the Steamfresh bag, or what Heinz® did when they turned our world upsidedown with their brilliant new bottle design.


That’s it. Six simple rules for you to follow to obtain a more shelf-worthy show-piece in stores that will help navigate the masses to your brand.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our food marketing firm, please reach out to the NewPoint team. If you are interested in more food brand marketing topics, please visit our Food for Thought page or check out NewPoint’s Patrick Nycz’s book: Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain.