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Consumers shift away from healthy products in transparent packages

By Jenny EAGLE , 19-Aug-2013
Last updated on 19-Aug-2013 at 11:15 GMT

How 'healthy' is transparent food packaging?
How 'healthy' is transparent food packaging?

Transparent packaging for food is reportedly more attractive to consumers than opaque food containers, but consumers tend to shift away from healthy products in open-window packages.

The observations are made by Steve Herlehy,account executive at Plastic Suppliers, commenting on a MarketWatch study, published in the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing.

"While many may think the quality and type of food is what draws us to a certain product, the truth is our minds are heavily influenced by the design and packaging that a consumable may come in," said Herlehy.

TV snack food

As part of the study, a number of people were placed in a common snacking environment: in front of the television, where 70% of all snacks are consumed.

Researchers told the subjects they would be evaluating advertisements that ran during episodes of the popular sitcom The Office. Participants were provided with snack foods including nuts, cookies, M&Ms, Cheerios and Froot Loops to munch on while they watched TV.

Some foods were offered in transparent bags, while others in opaque bags. The focus of the study was on the food, not the commercials and the group organizers weighed and counted the contents of the bags before handing them out.

Visual appeal

While the researchers, led by Professors Xiaoyan Deng of Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business and Raji Srinivasan of McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin only measured food consumption and not emotional response.

According to MarketWatch, the researchers found the transparency of food packaging influences snacking habits in different ways depending on the size, visual appeal and healthiness of the food it contains.

One finding was that participants ate less large, visually appealing snack foods (such as cookies) from transparent packages than they did from opaque ones.

It also found small foods like M&Ms were more appealing in clear packaging - participants ate 58% more of the colorful candies from the transparent bags than they did from the opaque bag.

Healthy food

Herlehy added, despite the study being counter-intuitive at some points, including the research's observation that consumers tend to shift away from healthy products in transparent packages - there are valid points that can impact marketing decisions.

For instance, the article suggests, ‘Clear bags make it easier to be tempted by tasty-looking foods, but they also reveal how much you're about to eat. To increase sales, retailers should offer small foods in transparent packages and large foods and vegetables in opaque containers.’
"It will be very interesting to see how manufacturers and marketers use this information, which will no doubt impact their reliance on the flexible packaging industry," said Herlehy.

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