The Many Factors to Consider When Deciding the Best Packaging for Your Food Product

Package design is a powerful factor in consumer buying decisions but food safety and materials cost are big considerations.

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By Anand Srinivasan

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What persuaded you to buy the products you just did? Off-hand, some reasons may be the advertising message, the brand reputation and probably testimonials from other customers. But interestingly, a study published at the University of Delaware found that the color of the packaging accounts for close to 85 percent of the reason why someone purchases a product. Would you buy an organic food item if its container box was black and not white or green? Perhaps not.

While color plays a very important part in purchasing decisions, there are other equally significant factors that contribute to successful packaging. I asked several entrepreneurs who run successful food businesses to explain how they decide on packaging, be it the use of glass bottles over plastic cans, or going with plastic covers over tetra paks.

Here are a few factors to consider:


No two products are the same. If your product is fragile, then your packaging needs to be sturdy. If you are offering frozen food, then you will have to offer the food in a package that can be reheated. If you process hot fluid items, you should consider packaging it in a glass bottle over plastic in order to prevent contamination.

Related: 3 Ways to Optimize Packaging to Protect Your Products


Sometimes, what you ideally need is not something you can afford. When Matt McKee, the founder of Caliwater cactus water launched his business, he wanted to package his product in a Tetra Pak. But at an MOQ (minimum order quantity) of 205,000, Tetra Paks seemed unaffordable for a startup manufacturer. Matt worked around this roadblock by launching in PET bottles until business grew enough to justify production on Tetra Pak.


If you sell food, then the packaging should trigger your appetite. When Michelle Adams launched her French Macarons business, Michelle's Macarons, they created a "window" so people could see the food item they are buying. This, in a way also helped underline the quality of the product, which she says is quite important.

Align with price point.

This is an off-shoot of the product perception. According to Mark Aselstine, the marketing director at Uncorked Ventures, a premium wine seller from California, the package material should reflect the price point you are selling your product at. His company sold wine baskets in the $125-$175 price bracket and Mark says the traditional wicker baskets would not have justified the cost of their gift baskets. The company settled on hard wood boxes with imprinted logos which, which cost significantly more than the alternatives but seemed to fit the price point better.

Related:5 Creative Packaging Ideas to Delight Your Customers


How easy is it for the customer to use your product is an important factor to consider while design a package. When Lisa Hennessy, the owner of Your Pet Chef launched her personalized dog food business, she delivered the food in reusable containers that could be rinsed and returned for future delivery. This was environmentally friendly but not convenient for customers. This drove her company to replace containers with quart sized Ziploc bags that are recyclable and also easy to dispose.

So, how do you go about this entire process? Randy Shaw, the CEO of Assemblies Unlimited provides me with following step by step guide:

Step 1: Consult a local contract packaging professional to gain some insight into the most cost effective and popular packaging materials in the space you are competing. This will also help you with identifying the best materials and structures, as the best solutions are based on the type of equipment and automation that is necessary.

Step 2: Hire a good graphic designer who has prior experience in retail. They will help you design your retail package based on your vision of the product, the image or personality you like the product to have, the ideal customer, price point, perceived value, where the product will be sold, your existing product name, logo and also based on the information you want on the product.

Step 3: Creatively negotiate with vendors based on your volume requirements. Whether you are looking to buy corrugated, chipboard, rigid containers or flexible packaging, low volume orders will mean higher prices regardless of the source. This can be a barrier to entry for many new "wantrepreneurs" and tip the cost model upside down in the early stages.

Find a supplier who wants to not just be a vendor, but also a partner. Such partners are ready to absorb some of the upfront tooling and miscellaneous charges if you promise them a larger buy after the first order.

A food package conveys a message to the consumer through its graphics, colors and copy. Getting it right is something that can make or break your food business.

Related: Innovative Ideas in Product Packaging

Anand Srinivasan


Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a free-to-use project management tool for small and medium businesses. He is the author of How We Did It.

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