Marketing from the Grocery Aisles: Art of the Grocery Store

Nutritionist recommend adding as many “colors” into your diet as possible: Red, green and yellow peppers, orange and yellow squash, purple cabbage, dark green kale, red beets, and rainbow of fruits. No doubt, when prehistoric farmers started selling their excess produce, instead of saving it for their families or adding to the community hoard, they recognized the benefit of presenting their most colorful, blemish-free fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains.

Warhols_campbell_soupEarly corn was a mosaic of yellow, orange, amber, and mauve kernels. One of the world’s most ancient crops is cow or black-eyed peas, cream-colored beans with a black patch of color. Vibrant berries, melons, fruits, seeds, and flowers, which grew in the wild supplemented the diets of early man.

It’s no wonder color impacts our perception of food. The study of color in food packaging has become a science. To catch shoppers’ attention, and make a products stand out from competitors, red is the most commonly used color in food packaging. Consider the iconic, red, Campbell Soup labels, which were made famous by Andy Warhol paintings.

More recently, Brendan O’Connell, an American painter, has gained notoriety painting people shopping at Walmart stores, and products on the stores’ shelves. O’Connell has visited dozens of Walmarts, creating colorful paintings of Tide detergent, Velveeta cheese, Crisco shortening, Clorox bleach, Coca Cola, and Pine Sol cleaner, along with people examining products and pushing carts down the aisles.

There’s no denying the artistry (or at least the graphic design) that goes into food packaging creates indelible pictures in our minds. Close your eyes, and no doubt, you can recall the color of a box of Cheerios versus Coco Puffs, Ritz Crackers versus Triscuits or a Healthy Choice versus Banquet frozen dinner,

Research has found that most people respond to colors in the same way. This is why certain colors are used to create desired perceptions, such as:

  • Yellow is used to make an item appear larger
  • White is typically chosen for bathroom products or to denote a low-fat version of a product
  • Black denotes luxury or premium quality (consider the packaging of dark chocolate bars)
  • Green is used for low-fat, low-calories foods
  • Blue (like the ocean) is incorporated into packaging of seafood
  • Gold is used to showcase a product as inexpensive

soda_can_evolutionPrior to 1950, most items were packaged in functional wrappers. With impulse purchasing almost 75% of consumer spending, package design has become crucial. The more appealing a box or can of food, the higher the probability, it’ll end up in the shopping cart. The label on even a pedestrian product, like canned tomatoes, can influence ones purchase.

It’s been determined the average life span of a package is two and a half years. Products in packaging that hasn’t been updated can be perceived as uninteresting, and won’t be purchased as often as those in refreshed packaging. While most brands stick to the same color scheme when redesigning packaging, the tones of the primary color may evolve. Consider 7up packaging becoming more emerald versus dark or sea foam green.

While Orange Crush has stuck to the color orange, they’ve significantly evolved the graphic design, having at one time a starburst, orange blossoms, and horizontal lettering.

Next time you’re shopping, taka closer look at the colors used in the packaging of the products you purchase. Did they impact your purchase decisions?


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