A new Wall Street Journal Article highlights the sales benefits of putting food in clear packaging. It describes the successes many companies have had in increasing sales, but also the problems they have faced when switching over. Clear packaging is a way to showcase food and to convey transparency: what you see is what you get. Customers associate clear packaging with natural, appealing, fresh products, even when the recipe hasn’t changed.

Companies have blown past their competition just by changing the look of the product and the amount of visibility.


But clear packaging isn’t always an easy fix to boost sales. Here are some of the problems companies have faced when designing clear packaging:

1. The product still has to look good on shelves after it’s been shipped and stocked. It also has to look good in different display environments. What looks great in a natural grocery store with climate control may not look appealing on a gas station counter in direct sunlight.

2. Clear packaging has to preserve the product for its shelf life, in all environments where the product is sold. Given that light degrades food, this poses design problems that go beyond the superficial. It’s also why some types of food do not look better in clear packages.

3. Showing too much can be bad. No one wants to see the empty space at the top of a sealed package, or the chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag. Graphics, see-through windows, and other adjustments can help, but stay away from revealing products that look factory made or messy.

4. Since more companies have been shifting to clear packaging, it’s important to preserve the uniqueness of the product.

Coca-Cola’s Simply Orange juice succeeded in part because it was the first to put its juice in pitcher-like containers. Tropicana has since switched over in order to complete. But sometimes the best way to compete it to stand one’s ground. Hillshire Farm switched its lunch meat to clear tubs and lost money because the packaging no longer had its traditional red lid. Switching back revitalized sales.

5. Designing and testing clear packaging can be expensive. Companies should weigh the benefits of additional sales against the possibility that switching their packaging will be a costly dead end.

Here is a link to a WSJ Lunch Break featuring Sarah Nassauer as she talks about clear packaging for food.

Interact on Shelf is a design firm that works exclusively with grocery brands.

What makes us different is that we study consumer culture, design trends, industry innovation and many other dynamics that shape opportunities for your brand in order to create iconic work that’s designed to sell in a retail environment.

If you think you could benefit from partnering with a young, energetic bunch like us, you know what to do.  Contact us!

By Blake Mitchell

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