Sonoco has found that food packaging with a natural appearance has a positive effect on shopper attention – good news for products like EcoTect, its uncoated and recycled paperboard.
The US packaging company found that EcoTect-packaged products captured consumers’ visual attention faster, longer and more frequently than other products. Sonoco conducted a study at Clemson University in South Carolina, which included eye-tracking in a simulated grocery setting as well as survey data from 60 participants.
Sonoco claimed the study showed that packaging with a “distinctive, natural look” enhances product attributes like organic and natural, helping brands stand out on the retail shelf.
Since the USDA set formal standards for organic foods the market has taken off, posting growth of 10% ore more each year for most years since 2000. Sonoco’s research revealed that almost 90% of consumers purchase organic or natural products at least once a month, and an additional one in three claimed to buy these products at least once a week.
“This consumer preference is driving market growth and increased competition, making factors that affect purchase decisions – like packaging – increasingly important,” it said.
Outlining the findings of its research, Sonoco added: “Food packaging serves to contain and protect food products, of course, but its role doesn’t end there. Packaging for premium natural foods is also an opportunity to communicate key factors, including quality, consumer values, and trust.
“As consumers place increasing value on natural and organic products, manufacturers and retailers are seeing unprecedented growth in premium brand sales.”
The Hartsville-based packaging company has spent much of the past two years focusing on its perimeter offer, the edges of the retail store usually accounted for by fresh produce: in March, it agreed a $150 million deal to acquire Highland Packaging Solutions, which makes thermoformed plastic packaging for dairy products and fresh food, following similar moves for California-based Peninsula Packaging and Illinois’ Clear Lam.
In 2017, it expanded its ClearGuard portfolio with the launch of pouches for liquid or more viscous products that it said would help preserve the shelf-life of the contents inside; as consumers demand more minimally processed food products with fewer additives, preservatives and unfamiliar ingredients, packaging companies are responding by finding ways to keep food fresh naturally.
Among the other findings from Sonoco’s research are that natural-looking packaging, like EcoTect board, holds consumer interest – an average of 1.52 times as long as the control brands tested – and retains it: the EcoTect packages were looked at more frequently than the control packages, for an overall average of 1.53 times as often.
The eye-tracking simulation used specialised glasses to measure where consumers looked when confronted with an array of products across cereal, rice and granola.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020