The packaging of human impulses is what drives food brands, especially in the gourmet sector. With 40,000 choices at typical supermarkets, U.S. consumers often can't decide what they want and buy products on impulse. In other words, consumers are forced to narrow down choices, but it ends up being due to more than just the information on the package. Taste and design are the major components that resonate with affluent individuals.
The term "gourmet" carries a clear perception of "good quality," with the understanding that the product will likely cost more than a generic item in the same category. Food products tend to be within the budget of most mainstream consumers, although affluent people are able to purchase gourmet food more often. There is an understanding across the culture that gourmet is associated with high income professionals. During booming economic periods the issue of "good taste" becomes a wider concern.
Regardless of what's happening in the economy, elites form attitudes that assert exclusive membership. So if a gourmet product becomes too mainstream, elites may find new brands or flavors to embrace. One of the ways in which elites separate themselves from lower classes is to use rational evaluation, rather than festive indulgence to define good taste. By practicing restraint, they are able to maintain high aesthetic standards.
The common perception of the term "gourmet" is that it relates to luxury and the tastes of an elite group. In order to attract the attention of consumers, luxury food packages must deliver both a unique aesthetic and pleasurable eating experience. The consumer must feel that they will join a rare and special class for making the purchase. They must also get a sense that the food will measure up to the image the package paints and will be as good or better than cheaper versions of the product.
How Gourmet Packaging Gets Noticed
With thousands of items available at any given supermarket, different packages must speak to different groups, based on demographics and lifestyles. Here are factors that help sell genuine gourmet products:
- quality materials and ingredients
- elegant typefaces
- artistic illustrations
- rich colour schemes
The packaging of upscale merchandise must use methods that stand out from cheaper items. It must remind the consumer of a great experience as well. Designers establish techniques driven by symbols and other visuals that are perceived as good taste at a subconscious level. Since food items are in a commercial category that most people can afford, people are not as budget-conscious compared with higher priced merchandise. Research by Bourdieu (1984) supports the theory that the purchase of any food product seems trivial to most consumers, causing people to view experimenting with gourmet food as having minimal risk.
A higher education level is implied by gourmet packaging, as if it's reaching for "people in the know." There's a common perception that gourmet goes along with people who are more educated about the world's many choices. To some degree the people that gourmet food attracts consider themselves to be tastemakers or seasoned authorities on good taste.
It's possible to reach the lower or middle classes through gourmet food, but the packaging can't afford to cut corners on style. The packaging must convey a sense of higher expectation and reward. Affluent people are still the obvious prime target for gourmet markets since they have the capacity to make it a part of their regular lifestyle. The package must evoke an attitude of exclusive membership and it must be congruent with the reading skill levels of the target audience.
Colours are important because they affect how people perceive food. As a packager of gourmet food, you cannot allow it to look like popular conventional packaging. Successful gourmet packaging uses elements that are very different from those used to sell frozen foods. Not only must the packaging colours appear appetizing, they must look as though they were designed with special care. The typeface on cheap candy has a cartoon-like quality with bright colours, whereas gourmet food packaging usually looks less flashy and more classy.
Luxury foodstuffs must be packaged in a way that sends a message more about good taste than a matter of economic concerns. It needs to make the consumer feel confident about spending extra money on something that will bring them unique pleasure. Designers need to understand consumer perceptions that go along with affluent attitudes.
References and Further Reading
- Read more on Luxury Packaging by Alex Cosper
- Gourmet Foodstuff - Packaging Our Impulses (2004), by Liz C. Throop
- Definition: Luxury Foodstuffs (retrieved 17.10.2017), Wikidata
- Luxury branding: the industry, trends and future conceptualisations (2015), by Yuri Seo and Margo Buchanan-Oliver
- Food packaging: The medium is the message (2010), by Corinna Hawkes
- More articles on Chocolates , Biscuits and Confectionery packaging, by Alex Cosper and Dawn M. Turner
- Multisensory design: Reaching out to touch the consumer (2011) by Charles Spence and Alberto Gallace
- Assessing the influence of the color of the plate on 2 the perception of a complex food in a restaurant setting (2013), by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Agnes Giboreau and Charles Spence
- Does the weight of the dish influence our perception of food? (2011), by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Vanessa Harrar, Jorge Alcaide and Charles Spence
- The weight of the container influences expected satiety, perceived density and subsequent expected fullness (2011), by
Betina Piqueras-Fiszman and Charles Spence