By Josh White
The times, they are a-changin’. It’s nearly 60 years since Bob Dylan penned the lyrics, but they couldn’t be truer today. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, we now live in a challenging and complex world where one day you’re planning a spring family vacation and the next you’re confined to home together in isolation, and where a small, unassuming virus has the power to wreak havoc with the world’s most powerful economies.
The more uncertain the world becomes, the more consumers are turning to brands they trust, that are lightening the mood and reminding them that this too shall pass. Based on what I’m seeing, here are the top three packaging design trends that will help to keep any food or beverage product relevant in these changing times:
Simplicity: With so much ‘noise’ going on in the world, saying what you mean and meaning what you say will account for as much as 45 percent of your brand’s image. It’s more important than ever to express the attributes of your brand simply, clearly and concisely, using fundamentals of good packaging design. RX Bar caught the trend early on, with its “No BS” messaging and minimal ingredients list on the outer wrapper of its protein bars. Tillamook dairy co-op also focused on modernized simplicity in its recent brand refresh, adding more visual energy to its logomark by skewing it upwards and introducing a lovely “Ti” ligature flair, and updating its tiny ship weathervane icon. These design elements help to retain consumer confidence by visually conveying the company’s 110-year heritage amid a new, sophisticated look. Both brands are simply and quickly sending the message: you can trust us when we say we use the best, natural ingredients.
Fun: Research shows you have 10 seconds or less to form a first impression of your brand and it starts with packaging. We’re continuing to see a growing consumer base that craves authenticity and will emotionally connect with brands that tell an honest story in a playful way, helping them forget their worries for a while. Smelted, a mobile brick oven pizza maker, recently rebranded with a fun new name and tongue-in-cheek pizza flavors, each supported by its own whimsical character. Not only is the positioning edgy and fun, and aligned with the company’s target audience of young millennials, but it also attracted the attention of a major hotel chain that is adding Smelted to its food court. Similarly, Nightfood Ice Cream introduced fun CraveMonsters™ to its packaging — capricious, open-mouthed monsters for each of its ‘sleep expert approved’ ice cream flavors, sending an amusing message to munchie-hungry consumers that it’s OK to embrace their late-night inner cravings with this product. On the heels of launching its new package, Nightfood was voted as Product of the Year by leading global consumer research firm Kantar and named Official Ice Cream of the American Pregnancy Association.
Planet Safety: With the rise of sustainable packaging and eco-friendly attributes, all brands are being called on to do their part in keeping our planet and customers safe. Being good to the planet is no longer a ‘nice to have’ feature for packaging, but a growing expectation. One company that continues to get it right when it comes to sustainable, safe and beautiful packaging is Maple Hill Grassfed Organic. Its recently launched single serve, SIG combismile milk cartons — made from raw, renewable wood — have minimal impact on the environment and are the perfect companion to the company’s better-for-you regenerative food model. Others at the forefront of sustainable food and beverage packaging are introducing stand-up pouches made of plant-based compostable materials, compostable wrappers, coffee bags with compostable zippers and valves, and biodegradable six-pack rings.
No one knows what tomorrow will bring. But if you focus your design efforts on simplicity, fun and planet safety, your brand will be the safe haven people are craving.
Josh White is Principal and Creative Director of NYC-based brand and design agency, OffWhite Co. With more than two decades of transforming some of the world’s most successful consumer product companies through the intersection of brand strategy, creative product development, innovative packaging and technology, White’s award-winning holistic creative systems have played a key role in reinventing brands and helping clients find the secret sauce to advance their companies to the next level.