Food packaging design and consumer perception of the product quality, safety, healthiness, and preference: Effect of packaging color on consumers’ perception

by Alex Cosper on February 14, 2022

Consumer perception is everything when it comes to figuring out the best packaging design. Color plays a major role in capturing a shopper's attention, especially for food and beverages. Here's a deeper look at why color is so important in packaging design for a wide range of consumer products.

Option of Transparent Color

Transparent color is often used in food packaging because studies consistently show consumers prefer it. They equate it with healthiness. Being able to see the food, such as cheese in a transparent package, gives consumers a subconscious green light that the food is safe. But that doesn't mean consumers think the food they can't see is unsafe. Transparent packaging serves as confirmation that consumers can see the food appears to be safe.

The topic of food quality is becoming more pronounced this century as consumers explore more healthy choices. At the same time, consumers who want to jump on the health food bandwagon don't necessarily read ingredients or study how food affects health. Many of these consumers base their food purchasing decisions on simply what appears to be safe and healthy packaging.

When consumers seek to purchase fresh produce, most prefer transparent packaging. This claim is supported by a series of studies in the past few decades, including Duizer (2009), Venter (2011), and Norgaard Olesen and Giacalone (2018). Consumers like transparent packages because it allows them to inspect the food without touching it.

Mixing Materials and Colors

Not only does the color of packaging matter to consumers, so does the material. In many cases, consumers expect a certain combination of color and material for packaging. A Turkish study found that consumers who buy cartons prefer red, green, and white on the packaging. Meanwhile, most consumers who favor plastic and metal packaging have no color preference and don't appear to be affected by color as much.

In general, consumers aren't that picky on a conscious level about the colors and materials of packaging. But on a more subconscious level, purchasing decisions are partly shaped by lifelong personal associations with colors and materials.

Many people perceive metal as the strongest form of packaging, partly because it physically is in conventional markets. This perception comes from years of comparing metal with plastic and other materials. People are more likely to repurpose metal containers for durability reasons than plastic containers, which clearly degrade faster.

Tapping Into Color Perceptions

Certain colors have universal meaning based on the masses being taught similar associations. Most people, for example, automatically associate the color green with earthy images like plants. But some people who were raised in horror films might associate green with slimy monsters.

Color perception is learned by individuals from their own unique experiences. It's safe to say no two people have the exact same perceptions associated with the color purple. When it comes to food, many people associate light colors with healthier choices. Part of this perception comes from familiarity with existing packaging.

The science of colors involves measurements of wavelength and saturation. The human mind does not calculate these measurements but instead associates colors with emotions through experiences. Many people may share color perceptions because they've been through similar experiences and make similar associations.

A recent study (Shen, 2018) found that consumers take more time to decide on red labels than blue labels. This longer response time allows people to consider more product features. When the color of the packaging matches the consumer's expectations, consumers tend to have a better visual fixation on the item.

Since most consumers aren't scientists who do their own studies on food safety, it's fair to say that many rely on packaging cues to form judgments about food safety. They might read news articles about food safety, but for the most part, people rely more on their perceptions than investigative research. 

Packaging designers should take note that package color can be a major factor that attracts consumers to a grocery or retail outlet at the point of sale. Store shoppers spend more time fixated on colors they already perceive as attractive, according to studies by Bix and Venter. People are more likely to buy packages based on color if the color matches their perception of the product.


At the core of many purchasing decisions is consumer perception related to personal associations with color. New packaging design concepts are created all the time, especially when an established brand introduces a new product. Through color, packaging designers can communicate directly with their target market, as long as the color scheme is supported by existing mass perceptions.


Topics: Metal Packaging, Colors & Emotions, Multisensory Packaging Design

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