Do consumers hate your food packaging?

By Jenni Spinner contact

- Last updated on GMT

Snack bags that tear apart upon opening are a frequent source of consumer frustration.
Snack bags that tear apart upon opening are a frequent source of consumer frustration.

Related tags: Food packaging, Packaging

Badly designed food packaging does more than frustrate—it can hurt your bottom line.

Packaging helps entice customers to buy your products, but beyond that, they don’t really have much to say about the cans, bags, pouches and other containers.

What they DO have to say, however, is mostly bad.

People take packaging for granted until it fails them—and when it does, it reflects poorly on your brand. If your customers come to view your packaging as being hard to open, prone to breakage, unable to keep the product fresh after the first use, they will turn to a product whose packaging they feel they can actually trust.

“Wrap rage”—frustration with packaging to the point of infuriation—is a spreading phenomenon. A survey by the Cox School of Business indicated that 80% of people surveyed "expressed anger, frustration or outright rage" with plastic packaging.

What’s more, sometimes flawed food packaging goes beyond inducing madness to causing actual injury. A British study reported 60,000 unfortunate souls wind up seeking hospital treatment for injuries incurred by food packaging.

I recently conducted an independent packaging-frustration study of my own: I polled my Facebook friends. While the results wouldn’t be fit for publication in any scientific journal, they do confirm studies that say food packaging can set consumers aflame.

One common object of food wrap rage is the fickle snack bag. My friend Mike remarked that “Sometimes if you start a tear it won't stop, and sometimes you need to get a blowtorch to start to rend it asunder​.”

Also mentioned in the non-scientific Facebook study was overpackaging—consumers can think “overkill” if they see your product has too many layers (seals, under lids, under overwraps, etc.) As Rebecca remarked, “I don't need that much protection for my cinnamon​.”

Another unpopular packaging feature: lift-and-peel induction seals. While food and packaging professionals know they keep the food from spoiling or leaking during transit, consumers tend not to see the benefit—they only see a barrier that can be maddeningly difficult to remove.

Multilayer film lids that split but don’t actually come off the container, easy-open tabs that break apart rather than permitting entry into a frozen pizza carton, outer wraps on pickle jars that defy all attempts to remove them—these all drive consumers up the wall. If shoppers associate frequent frustration with your product and brand, they’ll go somewhere else.

One packaging feature that does get noticed, in a good way: resealable closures. My friend Debra wished that all snack bags bore resealable features, so that she (a) wouldn’t be as prone to overconsuming and (b) wouldn’t have to hunt down bag clips to close them up.

Makes sense—a study by Research Services International indicated that consumers passed over cheese pouches with no resealable closure in favor of packaging with the feature.

It might add to the production cost, but ensuring that your packaging performs well and gives shoppers what they need can be the difference between a sale, and a lost customer.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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