In the 1990s, grocery stores carried around 7,000 different products. Today, they carry up to 50,000. 

It’s tough for brands to stand out. 

Smart brands know that strong food packaging design and package graphics are more important than ever to help fight for consumers’ attention.

With the increasing popularity of online grocery shopping, many brands are forced to rethink how they package designs for maximum impact on a small screen.

Michael Ruhlman, author of Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, says that a combination of online services and increased options has changed how consumers buy food.

We tend to walk by so many different things without thinking of them, just grabbing what we typically grab. But now I see the bewildering variety of foods that are available to us not just occasionally but seven days a week, pretty much whenever we want them.

Help your products stand out among the 50,000 others lining the shelves with these 6 effective tips for great food packaging.

1. Clarity

Unless a packaging design catches their eye, most people choose between products that fit their requirements.

But most food packaging designs make this choice difficult.

Take juice packaging as an example. There are healthy juices, kid’s juices, and sugary juices–often on the same shelves. The packaging typically varies to help consumers identify a sugary drink for kids from a healthy green blend.

But what happens when another product’s packaging looks similar to a kid’s juice?

Consumers become frustrated.

According to a study on consumer judgment and decision making, shoppers can make decisions in about a third of a second. After that brief moment, they’ve already made up their minds–and aren’t happy to find out that they were wrong.

Take Fabuloso as an example. At first glance, it looks like a fun, sugary juice made for kids. The packaging is colorful with fruit clearly displayed on the label.

But Fabuloso isn’t a juice at all. It’s a cleaning product!

In small letters cluttered on the label, the package describes the content of the product. But the packaging had already taken effect. In those first few moments, the consumer didn’t understand that Fabuloso is meant for cleaning.

Compare that to the packaging for juice smoothies. These bottles are also colorful and feature fruit, but clarifies the product by including the product description near the name. The label is also simpler, giving consumers a clear picture of the product and the brand behind it.

For more examples of clear packaging designs, check out Why Branding Your Small Business is Important and What You Can Learn From Brandless ( and be sure to understand current trends by reading Biggest Product Packaging Design Trends in 2018 (

2. Integrity

For consumers to buy your product again, they have to trust your brand.

A large part of that trust is keeping the integrity of your product intact.

While most brands will edit images of their product for the packaging, some brands will dramatically change how that product looks.

This is a problem for many reasons, but most importantly, it creates a false expectation about the product that the product can never meet.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid editing product images–it just means to be careful to not falsely advertise your product on its packaging.

3. Authenticity

Keep your packaging design consistent with
your brand.

If your brand is more natural and down to earth, bright primary colors will look out of place and feel fake.

On the other hand, keep an eye out for what competitors are doing. If you aren’t the only brand in your vertical that is natural and earthy, a splash of color might help your product stand out from your competitors’ products.

Being different within the context of your brand is one of the best ways for consumers to feel like they are buying specifically from you.

4. Shelf Impact

But designers and brands aren’t the only ones thinking about food packaging design.

Grocery stores and other food retailers constantly think about packaging design, and even pay attention to the way that products are displayed on shelves. This is called “shelf impact.”

When grocers consider product placement, they take a look at the way that different packaging designs look together and the patterns that they create. When placing certain products next to each other, the look of the packaging can change.

In such cases, sometimes less means more.

For more on this, read 8 Powerful Psychology Principles Behind Great Product Design (

5. Versatility

It’s also important for food packaging designs to be versatile. There’s a reason why the number of products in grocery stores has grown so quickly, and it’s because brands keep expanding their product lines.

With food products, this is as simple as adding a new flavor.

But with so many expansions, a different label design for each one is not only more challenging but also more confusing. Instead, the best food packaging designs are adaptable to a variety
of products.

Successful food packaging designs are made with a formula in mind. The best designs serve as a template that can keep consistency within a line of products, whether through layout or color.

6. Usability

Lastly, food product packaging needs to be usable. While it’s easy to only consider the label, the container itself is just as important.

When you make your product more usable, you make it even more appealing to consumers.

With all of these values in mind, designing great food packaging becomes a lot easier.

Focusing on these tips as a guide can help your food packaging stand out.