How packaging convinces that food tastes better

UK consumer group, Which? has been investigating the effect of food packaging – and it reports (surprise, surprise!) that supermarket food packaging doesn’t just tempt consumers into putting it in their baskets, but it actually increases how tasty they perceive a product to be.

To test the power of packaging, Which? asked two groups of people to taste and rate the chocolate chip cookies from the premium, standard and budget ranges available at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. One group was given the cookies with their packaging and one group tasted the cookies without.

The group that saw the packaging rated all the cookies significantly higher overall, and, crucially, for taste. Both groups ranked the cookies in order of price based on taste and appearance alone, but its test, it says, suggests that the packaging made all the cookies seem tastier.

“To further unearth the tactics behind supermarket food packaging, we also asked an expert panel to analyse the design of some popular supermarket own brand ranges. Our panel found that far from luring you into parting with your cash, on the outside some budget range products may even be designed to put you off, so you’ll choose a pricier alternative instead,” notes Which?

“But with lots of cheaper products, our experts felt the continuing recession means more effort is now being put into making these products more alluring. That’s because tightened budgets mean these products have become more mainstream than they used to be.

“Meanwhile, packaging designed to imply a superior product tries to engage your senses. It usually has a matte rather than shiny finish, or a mixture of textures, and embossing is also common.

“Designers pay more attention to how the different elements of the packaging work together. The writing will be more descriptive and considered and the colouring more subtle.

“Luxury products also often feature clear windows, so you can see the product inside to evoke a sense that the product has nothing to hide.”

Which? shopping expert Matt Clear says: “The continuing recession means that supermarkets have to compete even harder for your custom. One of the ways they do this is by using carefully designed packaging to influence customers’ perceptions of their products.

“With budgets being squeezed, savvy shopping means decoding supermarkets’ packaging.”