Little consumers have big impact on food packaging

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

Goodwin Design Group helped Ian’s Natural Foods design and launch a line of kid-friendly products, including frozen meals, snacks and other nibbles.
Goodwin Design Group helped Ian’s Natural Foods design and launch a line of kid-friendly products, including frozen meals, snacks and other nibbles.

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Designing food and beverage packaging and products for kids calls for a balanced approach.

For 17 years, Goodwin Design Group has helped deliver child-focused food/beverage products and packaging for General Mills, Campbell’s, Hain-Celestial and others big-name clients. In this second of a two-part series, founder Bill Goodwin explains the influence kids have on household purchasing decisions, and what goes into successful kid-friendly packaging.

Purchasing power

Children may be the smallest consumers, but their impact on purchasing decisions and product development is immense, Goodwin told

Kids have the power to impact entire product categories, and packaging in particular plays a major role in the success or failure of brands today​,” he said.

A prime example of kids’ influence on packaging is beverage packaging, Goodwin said.

Gallon-sized jugs are optimal for distributing milk to the masses and meets the needs of most families, but they’ve fallen out of favor because kids can’t manage their ungainly size and weight​,” he said.

Additionally, categories that begin as kid-targeted can expand beyond to appeal to older consumers, Goodwin said. For example, fruit purees in pouches, originally launched for toddlers, now are found in packaging aimed toward grownups; the same is true of single-serve pre-packaged fresh fruits and other items.

Multifaceted approach

Beyond colorful packaging, successful kid-focused product packaging requires a big-picture approach, ensuring things like the right packaging materials, structure and other factors are in place.

In package and structure design, material plays a critical role​,” he said. “Print quality, for example, is a variable we take into consideration on nearly every package execution, and it demands mastery to deliver optimal results​.”

Dialogue leading to executing kid-focused packaging, Goodwin said, also involves the kids and families the products are meant for.

Understanding the needs and desires of our consumer is a must to ensure we deliver the best form and functional benefits​,” he said.

Busy families, busy kids

As convenience packaging is growing in favor among adult consumers worldwide, it is becoming more prevalent in packaging of kids’ products, Goodwin said.

Convenient offerings like packaged meal solutions, crockpot and skillet kits, as well as myriad side dishes in standup zipper pouches, have seen a surge at retail​,” he said. “Families have welcomed these offerings to their tables, as they are easier alternatives to traditional dinner preparation​.”

Also, Goodwin pointed out, many kids enjoy helping their parents in the kitchen, so packaged meals, kits and other items can appeal to the little chefs.

Convenience-minded products for kids can serve a number of purposes—including getting fussy eaters to nibble, and cutting down the amount of time in the kitchen to give families more time together.

Most kids wish they had more free time to just play and have fun, to be kids, and their parents agree,​” Goodwin told FPD. “Opportunities abound to meet the needs and desires of modern families, to deliver greater convenience and make it all more fun; those who do will make the short list of family favorites​.”

Healthy kids

Health-conscious foods for kids also have proliferated, Goodwin said. Parents are looking to provide their wee ones with healthful snacking alternatives, so kid-focused packaging helps encourage them to reach for good-for-you options, instead of junk food.

Go -packs and snacks solutions have driven category growth, and the trend to convenience on the go will only continue to grow​,” Goodwin said.

Making the connection

In order to resonate with child consumers, Goodwin said, a product and its packaging must be in tune with its audience.

Effective packaging for kids must present the proper character, tone and story via visual messaging, to deliver on what we call the 5 E’s: to engage, emote, entice, enhance and endure​,” he said.

However, the products also must connect with other family members, who help purchase the products and may even consume the items themselves.

We live in an era of sharing​,” he said. “Today’s kids and families share nearly everything, and they share things with their friends more than in the past--yet everyone has come to expect products to be specifically tailored to them​,” he said.

Brand success of a product, whether for kids or adults, can hinge upon recognizing opportunities to meet these convergent needs, Goodwin told FPD.

Doing so will require unprecedented insight, consumer understanding and empathy​,” he said.

In order to strike the balance between all these needs, and still ensure the brand owner’s goals are being met, requires collaboration at all stages of product development between Goodwin’s team and its clients.

It helps build consensus, and we document the process as a supporting story for others in the client organization, other influencers and decision-makers​,” he said. "Surprises are best discovered together, and avoiding unpleasant surprises is critical​.”

Kids around the world

When designing food/beverage products for kids in different countries, Goodwin told FPD, challenges can be complex—for example, many products require packaging that is bilingual, or even trilingual. However, the differences go beyond mere language barriers.

Other countries expectations and requirements demand unique solutions​,” he said. “In Asia and most of Europe the use of pouches and Tetra Paks are nearly ubiquitous and expected, where here in the US to a large degree they are just beginning to be accepted by consumers​,” he said.

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