Food-drink marketing clarity: transparent packaging boosts sales

The American grocery store is having a moment of clarity. While fraught with technical issues, yoghurt to granola to tortilla chips are showing up in clear packages. The thinking: Shoppers are more inclined to buy when they see what they’re getting.

Transparent packaging, however, is surprisingly hard to make. Food often isn’t ready for a big reveal after a package has suffered shipping, shelf stocking and other jostling. Packaging also drastically affects how long food stays fresh. Light degrades many foods, making clear wrappers especially tricky to use.

Food makers also need to adjust recipes with visibility in mind, making sure fruit pieces are big enough to be seen in yoghurt and tortilla chips remain intact.

General Mills worked for more than a year to put Larabar Uber fruit-and-nut bars in clear wrappers, says JoAnne Garbe, packaging research and development manager for the company.

Her team tested clear films, which are layers of thin plastic fused together to control the flow of oxygen, light and moisture in and out of a package. Each version went into a climate-controlled box to mimic conditions such as grocery store shelves (dark and dry) and a convenience store counter (direct sunlight on a humid day), Garbe says.

“Oil in nuts is particularly tricky because it oxidizes,” when exposed to light, she says.

The effort paid off says Julia Wing-Larson, marketing manager for Larabar. When the clear wrapper version of the bar hit shelves earlier this year consumers said, in surveys, that the bars looked like they tasted better, felt less artificial and the ingredients seemed fresher, she says. The recipe hadn’t changed. General Mills is using more transparent packaging on its other products.

Clear packaging gives products an aura of being natural, something that more shoppers are seeking. Seeing “simple, wholesome ingredients,” can be a powerful motivation to buy, says Wing-Larson. “You eat with your eyes.”

More often, the packaging style is also a weapon against the competition. Coca-Cola’s Simply Orange juice has encroached on PepsiCo’s Tropicana orange juice sales over the past decade in part because it was first to put orange juice in a clear pitcher-shaped bottle. The bottle, marketers say, gave consumers the feeling of drinking something fresh. Tropicana now comes in a clear jug.

New York-based Kind Healthy Snacks, maker of bars and granola, started selling bars in clear wrappers in 2004 to “showcase the beautiful artisanal ingredients,” says Daniel Lubetzky, founder and chief executive of the company. It took several years to find a manufacturer to make a clear wrapper that kept Kind bars from oxidizing, he says. It is the fastest-growing bar brand in the US, according to Euromonitor…..


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Clear packages draw shoppers but are very tricky; what’s best left unseen…. click here for a great graphic on what works, what doesn’t.