The Power of Packaging

For all of our talk about the quality of food, it seems as if how the food is packaged is just as, if not more than, important as the food itself. Just ask Tropicana.

After its package redesign, sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line plummeted 20% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, costing the brand tens of millions of dollars. On Feb. 23, the company announced it would bow to consumer demand and scrap the new packaging, designed by Peter Arnell. It had been on the market less than two months.

Twenty percent!! That kind of sales loss would put smaller companies out of business. Keep in mind that the orange juice itself stayed the same, all that changed was the wrapping it came in.

This is the sort of thing that affects buying patterns all of the time, even with food with no packaging whatsoever. Ask any produce manager about oranges, apples, or even carrots. Food has to look a certain way for people to buy it. Sometimes something looking good is far more important than tasting good – which explains about 80% of “fresh” tomato sales.

The way food looks is a powerful influencer, even amongst people who one would think would know better. I don’t remember the specifics of an article I read (I think it was in Kitchen Con by Trevor White, but I’m not sure), but there apparently was a test where roast chicken was served in two different environments. One was what one might consider “lower/lower-middle class” – on paper plates or plain dinnerware. The other was more upscale – fine china, fine silverware. The gist of the report was that it was the same recipe and same chicken, but people preferred the chicken that was served in a more upscale manner. Our biases presume that because something looks better, it happens to taste better.

We human beings are such dupes at times. Tropicana has found this out the hard way.

h/t Slog