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Thinking inside the box: How seeing products on, or through, the packaging influences consumer perceptions and purchase behaviour

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Images of food constitute salient visual stimuli in the mind of the consumer. They are capable of promoting both feelings of hunger and the desire for food. It should not, then, come as any surprise that many product packages present the food contained within as a salient aspect of their visual design. Conventionally, this has been achieved primarily by the use of attractive visual imagery showing the product on the outside of the packaging. Nowadays, however, developments in packaging are increasingly enabling designers to add transparent elements, thus allowing consumers to directly see the product before purchase. Yet relatively little is known about the effectiveness of product imagery as compared with transparent packaging. In this review, we address the various ways in which seeing (images of) food influences the consumer. The implications for packaging designs which include: (a) images of food, and (b) transparent elements, are investigated. Guidelines are also provided for designers and brands on the ways in which to take advantage of these effects of being able to see the food.
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THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
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Thinking Inside the Box: How Seeing Products on, or Through, the
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Packaging Influences Consumer Perceptions and Purchase Behaviour
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Gregory Simmonds A
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& Charles Spence A, *
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A Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology,
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University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3UD, UK
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* Corresponding author. E-mail address: charles.spence@psy.ox.ac.uk.
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PLEASE NOTE
This is a pre-proof, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in
FOOD QUALITY AND PREFERENCE following peer review. The post-proof version
of record may have minor alterations.
The DOI of the version of record is: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.11.010
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
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Abstract
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Images of food constitute salient visual stimuli in the mind of the consumer. They are
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capable of promoting both feelings of hunger and the desire for food. It should not,
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then, come as any surprise that many product packages present the food contained
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within as a salient aspect of their visual design. Conventionally, this has been
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achieved primarily by the use of attractive visual imagery showing the product on the
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outside of the packaging. Nowadays, however, developments in packaging are
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increasingly enabling designers to add transparent elements, thus allowing
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consumers to directly see the product before purchase. Yet relatively little is known
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about the effectiveness of product imagery as compared with transparent packaging.
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In this review, we address the various ways in which seeing (images of) food
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influence the consumer. The implications for packaging designs which include: (a)
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images of food, and (b) transparent elements, are investigated. Guidelines are also
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provided for designers and brands on the ways in which to take advantage of these
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effects of being able to see the food.
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Keywords: Packaging; Packaging design; Transparent packaging; Food aesthetics;
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Consumption.
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1. Introduction
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Packaging is far more than merely a convenient means of getting a product to the
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store/consumer without damage (see Hine, 1995; Spence, 2016, for reviews). Over
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the past couple of decades, it has increasingly been realised that product packaging
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constitutes a powerful marketing tool in its own right (e.g., Rundh, 2005), and as
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such requires the same attention and techniques used in other areas of marketing to
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maximise commercial success (see Ahmed, Ahmed, & Salman, 2005). As such, the
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effects of packaging should be of great importance for designers, marketers, and
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brand managers alike. It has been estimated that: over three-quarters of food/drink
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purchase decisions are made at the point of sale (Connolly & Davison, 1996; POPAI,
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2014; see also WPP, n.d.); 90% of consumers make a purchase after only
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examining the front of pack; and 85% of consumers make a purchase without having
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picked up an alternative product (Urbany, Dickson, & Kalapurakal, 1996). Making
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purchase decisions is no simple matter either the average consumer will typically
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buy only 0.7% of the available products in-store over the course of a year (Catalina,
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2014), despite having a range of over 30,000 products from which to choose (e.g.,
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Sainsbury, n.d.). As a result, consumers must find, evaluate, and compare the
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products that they want from the vast range of products available in-store. There is
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rarely the opportunity to sample products in-store, and so consumers must make
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these judgments concerning the likely taste of the food based on the packaging and
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branding. According to Glanz, Basil, Maibach, Goldberg, and Snyder (1998),
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consumers primarily buy foods and drinks based on their expected taste and flavour
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(see also Food Processing, 2013), thus it is important for designers and marketers
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to: (1) grab the consumer’s attention; and (2) create positive associations and
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THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
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expectations in their minds (such as the expectation of a great taste/flavour
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experience) in order to ensure the long-term commercial success of a product.
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Packaging can help achieve these goals both at the point of sale and the point of
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consumption (see Hawkes, 2010; Hine, 1995; Spence, 2016, for reviews). However,
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there are many options and parameters of packaging design to consider when it
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comes to ensuring that the packaging transmits the most effective messaging,
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captures the attention of the consumer in-store, and achieves its full potential as a
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tool with which to enhance product experience. A number of studies have been
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conducted over the last few decades in order to identify how the various elements of
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product packaging contribute to these effects. Such studies have investigated
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elements of packaging including the main colour of the packaging (e.g., Danger,
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1987; Gimba, 1998; Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence, 2011), packaging shape
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(Lindstrom, 2005; Meyers, 1991; Velasco, Salgado-Montejo, Marmolejo-Ramos, &
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Spence, 2014), weight (Kampfer, Leischnig, Ivens, & Spence, submitted; Piqueras-
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Fiszman & Spence, 2012), shape curvature (Becker, van Rompay, Schifferstein, &
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Galetzka, 2011; Salgado-Montejo, Leon, Elliot, Salgado, & Spence, 2015), and
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typeface (Velasco, Woods, Hyndman, & Spence, 2015), to name but a few (see
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Spence, 2016, for a review). Furthermore, a growing body of research suggests that
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the sight of food is capable of triggering a diverse range of neurological and
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physiological responses, which include increased hunger, more favourable taste
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evaluations, and the priming of reward networks (see Spence, Okajima, Cheok, Petit
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& Michel, in press, for a review). However, to date, comparatively little research has
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been conducted to investigate the confluence of these two streams of research. That
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is, the effect of seeing a product on subsequent product evaluations.
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Packaging can enable the consumer to see the product contained within in one of
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two ways. Either through images of the product printed on the packaging, or through
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transparency as an element of the packaging. The prevalence of the latter approach
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would appear to be on the rise, and a trend that is set to continue (Mintel, 2014).
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Estimates from the US suggest that transparency is present in between 20% to 77%
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of all packaging, depending on product category (20% of chips, 20% of cookies, 23%
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of crackers, 77% of nuts; Deng & Srinivasan, 2013). See Figure 1 for examples of
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packaging that feature product imagery or transparency.
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[Insert Figure 1 here]
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This review investigates the evidence concerning how food imagery, either delivered
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through food images on pack, or else via the use of transparent windows, can
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influence the consumer. This review also provides guidelines as to how this effect
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can be levied to the benefit of packaging designers and brand managers.
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2. The effects of seeing food
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According to the extant literature, images of food tend to constitute salient visual
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stimuli (see Spence et al., in press, for a review). As such, it would seem natural that
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this could offer food companies a relatively cheap and easy means of attracting the
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attention of the customer in-store.
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Testing this hypothesis, Nijs, Muris, Euser, and Franken (2010) combined eye-
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tracking with a visual probe task in order to identify whether images of food (e.g., of
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chocolate, a donut) would capture attention more effectively than neutral images
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(e.g., a stapler, or paperclips). These images were matched in terms of their shape,
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colour, background colour, and position. Attention was robustly captured by food
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images in all participants
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. These results were supported by a P300 peak after the
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presentation of food stimuli. This particular Event-Related Potential (ERP) is thought
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to be related to the orienting of selective attention (Cuthbert, Schupp, Bradley,
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Birbaumer, & Lang, 2000). Thus, as these images were task-irrelevant to the visual
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probe task, it would seem that images of food do indeed involuntarily capture
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people’s attention.
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di Pellegrino, Magarelli, and Mengarelli (2011) used a similar paradigm (again using
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a visual probe task) in order to investigate whether such attentional capture caused
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by images of food was contingent on relative food preferences. The results
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demonstrated the same pattern of attentional bias towards food cues before eating.
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However, if the participant was tested on the visual probe task after having eaten a
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food that had previously been seen in a separate cueing task, then the effect of
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attentional capture of this same stimulus was markedly reduced. Yet for foods seen
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previously but not eaten, attentional capture remained at the same level. Such
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results highlight the fact that attentional capture by food imagery may be modulated
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by the phenomenon of sensory-specific satiety (see Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence,
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2014). This phenomenon suggests that satiety is specific to different sensory food
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characteristics such that one may still be motivated to eat some food type (e.g.,
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sweet foods) even after being sated on another (e.g., savoury foods). A similar
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mechanism of heightened cognitive bias towards food cues has also been identified
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in participants who were hungry (Piech, Pastorino, & Zald, 2010); those who are in a
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Note that these results were found regardless of whether the participant was overweight/obese, or normal-
weight; and whether they were hungry (following a 17-hr fast), or satiated.
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
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bad mood (Hepworth, Mogg, Brignell, & Bradley, 2010); and those who are
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overweight (Werthmann et al., 2011).
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A potential explanation for this attentional capture comes from a recent paradigm
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shift that has taken place in attentional theory. Traditionally, attentional control was
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thought of as being governed dichotomously. That is, on the one hand by exogenous
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selection, which is caused involuntarily by feature properties present in the
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environment, such as distinctive colours, shapes and movements. On the other, by
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endogenous, or voluntary selection, guided by an observer’s goals (see Theeuwes,
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2010, for a review). However, a revised framework has introduced a third factor:
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namely, selection- and reward-history (see Awh, Belopolsky, & Theeuwes, 2012).
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Previously-rewarded or selected targets can elicit attentional capture, even after long
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periods of extinction, or when not goal-relevant (e.g., Anderson, Laurent, & Yantis,
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2011; Anderson & Yantis, 2013; Camara, Manohar, & Husain, 2013; Chelazzi,
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Perlato, Santandrea, & Della Libera, 2013). Food seems to be an inherently
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rewarding stimulus, especially when they taste pleasant. This association between
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food and reward can be explained through positive reinforcement, such as from
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eating/smelling/etc. pleasant foods; as well as through negative reinforcement, from
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the avoidance of feelings of hunger (see Berridge, 1996; Rogers & Hardman, 2015).
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Indeed, a cognitive bias towards food cues has been identified (Brignell, Griffiths,
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Bradley, & Mogg, 2009), as well as preferential visual processing for images of foods
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that have a higher-fat and higher-carbohydrate content (Harrar, Toepel, Murray, &
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Spence, 2011). As such, it is perhaps not so surprising that food stimuli should be so
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effective in terms of commanding our attention.
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Viewing food seems to have effects other than simply just attentional capture.
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Wansink, Painter, and Lee (2006) found that presenting sweets in clear as compared
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to opaque jars resulted in significantly higher consumption. When a jar was close
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and transparent, participants ate an average of 7.7 sweets per day, as compared to
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4.6 when it was opaque. And when it was placed 2 meters away, the same effect
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was also found: an average daily consumption of 5.6 when visible, and 3.1 when
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opaque. This effect was so strong that the participants themselves noted that the
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sweets were both significantly harder to resist and more attention-capturing when in
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a transparent jar. As reported in Wansink (2004), a similar effect was found when
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participants were provided with sandwich quarters: if they were in a transparent
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wrap, participants consumed more, as compared to a non-transparent wrap
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condition. Furthermore, Bodenlos and Wormuth (2013) identified that food does not
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have to be accessible to cause this effect. Participants consumed more calories after
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watching a food-based programme, as compared to a nature program, thus
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supporting recent claims that the rich and rapidly growing world of ‘gastroporn’ may
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be driving us to increased levels of food consumption (see Spence et al., in press,
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for a review). Passamonti et al. (2009) found that such sensitivity to food was also
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especially potent when viewing appetising as compared to bland food images, and
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concluded that “external food cues, such as the sight of appetizing food can evoke a
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desire to eat, even in the absence of hunger” (Passamonti et al., 2009, p. 43).
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A number of neurological substrates have also been identified. In a comprehensive
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meta-analysis by van der Laan, de Ridder, Viergever, and Smeets (2011), fMRI data
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from participants viewing food vs. non-food images found multiple foci of activation
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in, for example: the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, an area associated with judging the
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expected pleasantness of food; the lateral occipital complex, associated with
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heightened attention and visual processing of emotional stimuli (such as food); the
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middle insular cortex, an area thought to be involved in food cravings or imagining
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the taste of foods; and the amygdala, which is well documented in its involvement
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with reward processing (see Figure 2). Research by Volkow et al. (2002) found
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heightened dopamine levels in the dorsal striatum, and suggested that this region is
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likely involved in generating food motivation when viewing food images. These
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neurological activations provide further evidence that viewing images of food can
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lead to preferential attentional processing, as well as presumably influencing
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evaluations of the product and its packaging. Thus, using food imagery as a
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graphical component on packaging could be a powerful tool in the designer’s
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arsenal.
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[Insert Figure 2 here]
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Aside from increased consumption, other effects of seeing foods have also been
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identified, such as increased craving for food, increased hunger, and changes in
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salivation (see Spence, 2011; Wansink, 2004, for reviews). Indeed, Rogers and Hill
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(1989) identified that overconsumption due to the presentation of appetising food
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was preceded by increased ratings of hunger and salivation. Increased hunger and
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food cravings have, in turn, have been found to promote purchase intentions
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(Pachauri, 2001; Wilcock, Pun, Khanona, & Aung, 2004), thus suggesting there
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could be a clear pathway from seeing images of a food product to being more likely
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to purchase it. As such, using food visuals would seem like a potentially powerful
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means of attracting the consumer’s attention and influencing their subsequent
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purchase behaviour.
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Understanding this effect with respect to packaging design is crucial, such that
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designers and marketers can provide consumers with what they want, thus satisfying
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consumers as well as potentially increasing sales volume, as well as for public health
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policy-makers to make decisions regarding the circumstances under which seeing
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foods on packaging would be appropriate (see Hawkes, 2010, for a commentary on
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the rationale for regulating packaging designs for products aimed at children).
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Consumers are increasingly demanding to see what they are buying either on, or
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preferably through, the packaging, with 54% of consumers agreeing it’s important to
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be able to see a product through the packaging itself (Mintel, 2014). This appears set
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to be a trend that will continue to grow in the years to come (see also Mintel News,
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2014).
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3. Food imagery on product packaging
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Although the field of research concerning the use of food imagery on product
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packaging is still relatively modest in size, there are nevertheless already some
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important lessons to be learned. First, that on-pack product images can provide an
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effective means of communicating with the consumer. For example, in Schifferstein,
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Fenko, Desmet, Labbe and Martin’s (2013) study, food imagery on-pack was seen to
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help inform consumers concerning key product information. Members of a
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representative consumer panel were recruited to investigate the sensory
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experiences of a product at various stages, ranging from evaluation through to
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consumption. Packages used during experimentation either had large visuals of the
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product on the packaging, or else had no graphic at all. The results revealed that a
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majority of the consumers (85.1%) relied on looking at the packaging in order to
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determine what to expect from the product at the point of purchase, and almost a
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third (28.7%) would use the image to infer what the product would taste like.
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Underwood and Klein (2002) found that packages incorporating an image of the
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product transmitted information about the brand not just the product and were
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capable of giving rise to, or manipulating, brand beliefs. In this study, consumers
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who placed the most importance on these brand beliefs formed more favourable
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evaluations overall if the packaging incorporated an image of the product. As such,
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the evidence that has been published to date suggests on-pack product imagery is
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an important way for consumers to gain an understanding of a product from its
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packaging, and a potential way in which to give clarity to product and brand
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positioning.
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Venter and colleagues (2011) suggest that this product information obtained from
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imagery also enables more direct comparison of products, as well as attracts the
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consumer’s attention. In an exploratory study, consumers’ perceptions of food
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packaging were investigated through 25 semi-structured interviews. Ambiguous
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packaging was on-hand to prompt discussion. Content analysis was conducted on
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coded responses. The results revealed that consumers were attracted to images of
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the product on pack. This was found to act as a key source of information for many
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consumers, allowing them to identify product features through a trustworthy source
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and compare different products in the category. Some participants identified that the
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same effect could also be achieved, if not augmented, by the use of transparent
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packaging, but that this would only be relevant for visually-appealing products.
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Moreover, this insight is consistent with findings from the Mintel (2014) Food
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Packaging Trends report, where it was found that consumers especially older
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consumers find transparent packaging helpful in terms of gauging the freshness of
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products, enabling health-conscious and quality-seeking shoppers to find exactly
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what they want (see also Mintel News, 2014).
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Food imagery may also be capable of enhancing later perceptions of the food, as
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well as increasing the propensity for the consumer to purchase the product. In order
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to test this notion, Mizutani and colleagues (2010) manipulated product imagery on
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packaging in order to try and understand whether a product image could influence
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flavour evaluation in the case of orange juice. Images were attached to cups, used
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as a proxy for packaging, with the image attached varying along two dimensions:
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congruency (whether all of the images in the set were of oranges, or random neutral
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stimuli), and valence (whether all images were pleasant or unpleasant, e.g., fresh or
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rotten). Those juices which were presented with pleasant images were judged as
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tasting fresher and more palatable, and those presented with congruent images were
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judged as having better aromas. Such results suggest that product images on-pack
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provide a simple but effective means to favourably influence later product
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evaluations.
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In addition to this enhancement of product evaluations, product imagery has also
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been shown to increase purchase intentions. For example, Gofman, Moskowitz,
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Fyrbjork, Moskowitz, and Mets (2009) found that the presence of a product-related
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graphic (in this case, an image of either grapes or a wine bottle) on the front-facing
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facet of boxed wine helped to increase purchase intentions significantly, as
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compared to when no product graphic was displayed. Furthermore, the colour of the
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product image seemed to influence the magnitude to which purchase intentions were
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increased. A purple wine bottle graphic convinced a greater number of respondents
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to state that they ‘would buy’ the boxed wine, as compared to a green bottle graphic
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which was otherwise identical. Similarly, Piqueras-Fiszman, Velasco, Salgado-
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Montejo, and Spence (2013) identified that replacing textual information regarding
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the ingredients with visual information on the front of packaging was also capable of
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influencing purchase intentions. Their results revealed that the flavour-relevant
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imagery accounted for 59% of the relative importance of willingness-to-try ratings, as
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opposed to the textual information. This translated into an average 1.32-point
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increase on a 9-point purchase intent scale when the image was present, hinting at
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just how impactful graphics on front-facing facets of packaging can be on the
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intentions of the consumer.
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However, while there may be compelling reasons to advocate the use of product
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imagery on packaging, care must be taken not to negatively impact the packaging
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aesthetics. Prior research suggests that aesthetically pleasing packaging designs
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can increase desire to own the product (Norman, 2004), encourage willingness to
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pay a higher price (Bloch, Brunel, & Arnold, 2003), and increase preference over
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well-known brands (Reimann, Zaichkowsky, Neuhaus, Bender, & Weber, 2010).
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Perhaps this should come as little surprise, as the halo-effect has long been known
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to cause otherwise-unjustified positive inferences about people or things that are
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deemed attractive (e.g., Bloch, 1995; Pritchard & Morgan, 1996; Reichert & McRee
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Walker, 2005). Furthermore, changing packaging designs for well-established
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brands has the potential to remove elements of the design that consumers rely on to
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identify the product. As Lee, Gao, and Brown (2010) reported, Tropicana (a global
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juice brand) saw a drop of 20% in the sales of their orange juice in the US after
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redesigning the juice carton. An image of an orange was replaced with an image of a
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glass of orange juice, in an effort to show consumers the appetising ‘inside’ of the
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orange (i.e., the juice), not the relatively less appetising ‘outside’ of the orange (i.e.,
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the peel). This simple change reportedly resulted in consumers not being able to find
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the product, as the previous design had become integral to the identification of the
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brand, and represented an estimated $27.3 million loss in revenue due to reduced
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sales. As such, thorough market research is strongly recommended for any potential
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redesign of packaging, in order to identify what the impact will be on consumer
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evaluations and purchase behaviour, and thus to ensure market success and
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mitigate loss.
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A further constraint on the use of product imagery would be to make sure that such
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imagery is not perceived as dishonest. Underwood and Ozanne (1998) highlighted
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how effective packaging must ultimately communicate effectively to consumers. In
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six interviews in which participants were guided through a store, opinions were
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recorded concerning the packaging of around 50 products that the participant
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selected themselves. One key theme that emerged was that participants often felt
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tricked or duped by packaging, such as by images that were perceived as being
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intentionally misleading (e.g., images that had been overly digitally enhanced, or had
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‘healthy’ visual cues when this could not be justified by looking at the product’s
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nutritional content). The researchers theorised that it is in the interest of the brand
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manager to follow four norms for the development of packaging design: the norms of
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truthfulness, sincerity, comprehensibility, and legitimacy. Respondents actively
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avoided those products that defied these norms, resulting in their feeling deceived.
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Thus, while product imagery does seem to convey many potentially positive benefits,
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care must be taken to avoid over-emphasising the product visuals, and so, being
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potentially dishonest. Conversely, using transparent windows as part of product
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packaging has been suggested to help dispel any such perceptions of deception,
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instead helping to make the brand seem honest (Burrows, 2013).
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4. Transparent packaging
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Rather than showing an image of the product, it is becoming increasingly viable to
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show the consumer exactly what’s inside the packaging by using transparent
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elements in packaging. The field of research investigating how transparent
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packaging influences consumer evaluations and behaviour is, though, still in its
325
infancy. However, it is important to understand the impact of such packaging on
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consumers in order to determine whether it is an effective or worthwhile design
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decision, especially given its increasing prevalence, as mentioned previously.
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Previous findings regarding the features of packaging design which have the
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capacity to influence consumer evaluations and purchase decisions allow predictions
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to be made about those features of transparent elements which may elicit similar
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effects. For example, a general preference amongst consumers for rounded shapes
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(as compared to angular shapes) has been noted (see Bar & Neta, 2006), which
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leads to higher purchase intentions for packages that display rounded shapes (see
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Gómez-Puerto, Munar, & Nadal, 2016, for a review). In addition, rounded shapes on
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packaging have also been found across several studies to promote evaluations of
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sweetness for the product inside, with angular shapes promoting evaluations of
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bitterness and sourness (for reviews of these taste-shape correspondences, see
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Spence, 2011; Spence & Deroy, 2013; Spence, 2012; Velasco, Woods, Deroy, &
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Spence, 2015; and Velasco, Woods, Petit, Cheok, & Spence, 2016). Certain benefits
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are afforded if the taste expectations promoted by the angularity of shapes in the
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packaging design matches that of other expectations, or the consumer’s later
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experience of the product. Specifically, such a correspondence has been found to
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result in consumers experiencing less confusion regarding the product (Piqueras-
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Fiszman & Spence, 2011), associating the product with more positive emotions
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(Salgado-Montejo, Velasco, Olier, Alvarado, & Spence, 2014), being able to locate it
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faster (Velasco et al., 2015; see also Sunaga, Park, & Spence, 2016), and rating the
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taste of the product as more liked and more intense (Barnett & Spence, in press;
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Okamoto et al., 2009; for a review, see Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence, 2015). As
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such, one might expect that the angularity of the shape of a transparent window to
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have an impact on consumer evaluations and purchase decisions in a similar
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fashion. Note that it is not the intention of this review to list the effect of every design
352
element on the consumer. However, other dimensions of transparent windows (or
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transparent packaging more generally) that might feasibly be thought to influence the
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consumer, based on prior findings, might include: the position of the transparent
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window (e.g., Deng & Kahn, 2009; Westerman et al., 2013), the orientation of the
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transparent window (e.g., Shen, Wan, Mu & Spence, 2015; Velasco, Woods &
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Spence, 2015), the colour of the transparent window (e.g., Piqueras- Fiszman &
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Spence, 2011; Spence, Levitan, Shankar, & Zampini, 2010), the colour contrast
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between packaging and the product (discussed later), the size of the transparent
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window (e.g., van Rompay, Hekkert, & Muller, 2005), and the aesthetic/visual
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balance with other design elements (e.g., Bloch, Brunel, & Arnold, 2003; Norman,
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2004; Reimann, Zaichkowsky, Neuhaus, Bender, & Weber, 2010).
363
The remainder of this section will focus on reviewing those studies that have
364
assessed these elements with respect to transparent packaging. Investigating how
365
transparent window tint and shape may impact consumer evaluations, Engels (2015)
366
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
17
revealed that the coloured tint of the window itself (when presented as a part of
367
cardboard packaging) is not of great importance to product perceptions. However,
368
coloured windows were found to lead to more positive ratings for perceptions of taste
369
and post-taste purchase intent if the window colour contrasts well with the colour of
370
the product. Interviews with experts (presented alongside the same research)
371
revealed that the latter agreed that tinted windows would be obstructive to the goal of
372
letting the consumer see what’s inside, and so would avoid using them, perhaps
373
except for more creative/limited edition designs. Furthermore, the results suggested
374
angular (vs. rounded) windows can result in more positive ratings of pack
375
attractiveness, the perceived and actual taste perceptions of the product (both pre-
376
and post-taste), as well as, importantly, purchase intent. However, it should be noted
377
that the greater benefits conferred by angular windows here contrasts with prior
378
research, suggesting a general preference for rounded shapes (Bar & Neta, 2006;
379
Westerman et al., 2012). While untested, it can be speculated that angular windows
380
may only confer such benefits for penne-shaped pasta, due to some attribute such
381
as its shape, size, or taste. Indeed, previous findings regarding shape-taste
382
correspondences (as already discussed at the start of this section) might well predict
383
that the most effective window shape may vary by product category. As such, the
384
careful choice of window shape could be used to tap into such shape-taste
385
correspondences, and potentially influence consumer product evaluations. This is
386
definitely an area that is deserving of future investigation.
387
Transparent packaging has also been identified as having an impact on the amount
388
of food consumed from the package. Deng and Srinivasan (2013) reported that
389
participants consume significantly more by weight (as much as 69% more) from
390
transparent packaging as compared to opaque, plain packaging, but only in the case
391
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
18
of visually-attractive foods (e.g., Froot Loops, which are a variety of bright, attractive
392
colours; vs. Cheerios, which are a homogenous beige). However, this also seems to
393
be specific to smaller food items: the consumption of individual M&Ms compared to
394
larger M&M cookies elicited very different results in transparent packaging. That is,
395
the participants consumed 58% more M&Ms when they were presented in
396
transparent as compared to opaque packaging, but ate 28% less M&M cookie(s)
397
under the same conditions. A further caveat is that consumption seems to become
398
reduced for healthier foods when presented in transparent packaging: that is,
399
participants ate 78% fewer carrot sticks when presented in transparent as compared
400
to opaque packaging.
401
Deng and Srinivasan (2013) also posit a theoretical model to explain why
402
transparent packaging increases consumption under certain circumstances. They
403
suggest that being able to see the food increases its salience (the salience effect),
404
but at the cost of being able to see how much has already been consumed (the
405
monitoring effect). Whichever effect is greater dictates the likelihood of consumption
406
(and thus purchase intent), where the salience effect will increase consumption, and
407
the monitoring effect will decrease it. Empirical testing confirmed this hypothesis, and
408
thus suggests smaller food items should be presented in transparent packaging, and
409
larger or healthier foods in opaque packaging, in order to drive desire to consume,
410
and thus purchase intentions, up.
411
Billeter, Zhu, and Inman (2012) assessed the effect of transparency in packaging
412
with respect to consumer purchase decisions. This was achieved by comparing
413
product evaluations for both opaque and transparent packaging designs. The results
414
revealed that transparent packaging led to: inferences that the product was more
415
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
19
trustworthy (even after controlling for freshness and quality judgements); greater
416
consumer preference; and greater purchase intent. Further, a visually unattractive
417
(‘puke’ green) product gave rise to reduced trust in the product if presented in
418
transparent packaging. Note, however, that several of these findings were based on
419
inedible products, such as liquid detergent, so cannot be directly extrapolated to
420
edible goods. Nevertheless, such results do suggest tentatively that transparent
421
packaging is only truly effective when the food presentation is visually appealing.
422
Furthermore, Chandran, Batra, and Lawrence (2009) also compared transparent and
423
opaque packages, with the aim of investigating how perceptions of quality and
424
product trust impacted purchase intentions for both familiar and unfamiliar brands. In
425
an exploratory study, for an unfamiliar brand of mouthwash, participants evaluated
426
the product being of significantly better quality if it was in transparent packaging, and
427
would pay significantly more for it. However, for a familiar brand (i.e., Listerine
2
), the
428
product was thought to be of significantly worse quality when in a transparent bottle,
429
but with no significant difference for purchase intentions compared to the opaque
430
pack. Qualitative analysis of open-ended questions suggested this effect was due to
431
consumer scepticism over the contents of an unknown brand, which transparent
432
packaging helped to alleviate. However, for known brands, there was no distrust of
433
the product contents regardless of the packaging. Two further studies determined
434
product trust was indeed a mediating variable in the process of making inferences of
435
product quality from packaging. Specifically, when packaging was consistent with
436
recorded consumer expectations for the packaging (i.e., that toilet bleach should be
437
presented in opaque packaging), product trust was high, leading to perceptions that
438
2
Interestingly, the vast majority of Listerine’s products have been sold in transparent packaging since the
inception of the brand. Currently, only the premium ‘whitening mouthwash’ range is sold in opaque packaging,
which might provide one explanation as to why opaque packaging for Listerine may be seen as related to higher
quality products.
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
20
the product was of higher quality. However, when such expectations were violated
439
(i.e., that cough syrup should be presented in transparent packaging), trust was
440
lower, as were perceptions of quality. While it should again be noted that none of
441
these products are to be ingested, nor designed to optimise product taste, some
442
important learnings can still be gained. First, that transparent packaging is capable of
443
manipulating perceptions of product quality and product trust through being able to
444
directly see the product (in agreement with the results from Billeter, Zhu, & Inman,
445
2012; see also Sogn-Grundvag & Ostli, 2009), which influences purchase intentions.
446
Second, that the degree of product trust mediates perceptions of product quality,
447
such that when product trust is high, perceptions of quality will likely also be high.
448
Finally, that transparent packaging might be most effective when consumers are
449
unfamiliar with the brand. That is, consumers could use the opportunity to see the
450
product to judge its quality, and then use this judgement to inform their purchase
451
decision.
452
The link between the use of transparent packaging and perceived healthfulness of a
453
product has also been investigated, but with somewhat contradictory results. In an
454
exploratory study outlined in Sioutis (2011), participants were recruited online and
455
had to rank different packaging designs for either a cereal or an orange juice product
456
in order of perceived healthfulness. The designs varied across four variables, each
457
having two levels. These were: colour (green vs. red), shape (square vs. rounded
458
packaging), graphic (product image vs. image of a landscape), and visibility
459
(transparent window vs. no window). Conjoint analysis
3
was used to interpret the
460
results, finding that transparent packaging was judged to be more healthful
461
3
Conjoint analysis is a widely-used technique in market research, and uses preference scores for different
possible designs of a product. The results ultimately provide an estimation of how much value consumers
implicitly ascribe to each attribute manipulated.
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
21
compared to non-transparent designs. Furthermore, visibility was found to be the
462
most important factor for perceptions of healthfulness within the cereal designs
463
(contributing 39.8% of the total importance for all attributes), and the second most
464
important for the orange juice designs (23.2% of total importance). Yet while these
465
initial findings suggest transparency could be a promising way to highlight the
466
healthfulness of a product, subsequent research has found orthogonal results. Riley,
467
da Silva and Behr (2015) also investigated whether the use of transparent packaging
468
(amongst other design elements) could affect perceived healthfulness of a product.
469
Similarly to Sioutis (2011), a conjoint analysis was used, investigating the level of
470
information (showing a product description vs. not showing a description), imagery (a
471
flavour-relevant drawing or image vs. a transparent window), the presence of an
472
organic logo (present vs. not), and packaging colour (green vs. orange). Three
473
different product categories (coffee, carrot soup and carrot baby food) were judged
474
on packaging design preference in terms of healthfulness. The results suggested
475
transparent windows were slightly less preferred to show healthfulness for all product
476
categories tested, with an image instead being the preference. In addition, these
477
‘visual’ aspects were found to be of relative importance, second only to the level of
478
information present on the packaging. That is, having detailed product information
479
on-pack was found to account for a most of the relative importance for preference
480
judgements (40.1% for baby food, 48.8% for soup, and 40.1% for coffee), with
481
imagery/transparency following as the second most important attribute (20.4% for
482
baby food, 19.1% for soup, and 22.0% for coffee). Thus, while transparency may be
483
preferred when it comes to showing healthfulness in some categories, it appears
484
imagery would certainly be more beneficial in others. Perhaps one explanation for
485
these results is that those products that were perceived as less healthful within
486
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
22
transparent packaging had less aesthetically pleasing products to showcase. For
487
example, the carrot soup product used was a dark brown colour, which may have not
488
matched expectations of bright and vibrant colours for a fresh and healthy product. In
489
addition, the coffee beans shown through a window looked much lighter than one
490
might expect coffee beans to, which again may have reduced the impression of
491
wholesome and healthy produce. Indeed, making judgements for the healthfulness
492
of coffee beans may have not been an intuitive task for participants, since coffee
493
itself typically contains very few calories assuming nothing is added to the drink
494
afterwards and that no other ingredient has been added to the beans during
495
production (as would seem uncommon). Since participants performed a forced
496
choice task (and one where the resulting scores did not signify any specific quantity
497
between ranks, only the ranks themselves), these results might feasibly have been
498
inflated if the designs were actually judged to have performed very similarly, but
499
participants were unable to reflect this in their responses. It is clear that further
500
investigation is required before the impact of transparent packaging on judgements
501
of product healthfulness is fully understood.
502
It is also important to note that the use of transparency in packaging has been found
503
to have negative impact on product perceptions under certain circumstances. For
504
instance, Vilnai-Yavetz and Koren (2013) report an experimental study that
505
investigated the mechanisms responsible for a ready meal brand seeing a 30%
506
decline in sales after incorporating transparent elements in their packaging design
507
for a boiled vegetable product. After surveying consumers in a supermarket, the
508
results were consistent with the sales data, in that participants were significantly less
509
likely to purchase the new transparent packaging design compared to the original
510
opaque packaging. Furthermore, the transparent variant received significantly worse
511
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
23
scores for perceived aesthetics and product quality, but was rated as having
512
significantly higher perceived instrumentality (i.e., how functional or ‘easy to use’ it
513
was). A mediation analysis showed both perceived aesthetics and perceived product
514
quality mediated the relationship between packaging type and purchase intentions,
515
with perceived product quality having a very strong impact on purchase intentions (β
516
= 0.62), and perceived aesthetics having slightly less influence (β = 0.25). Note that
517
this effect of transparent packaging resulting in lower purchase intentions may be
518
attributable to how the transparency was incorporated, where the whole of the plastic
519
lid of the product was made transparent, allowing full view of the boiled vegetable
520
ready meal inside. Thus, consumers perceiving the product to be visually
521
unappealing (which the significantly worse perceived aesthetics scores might
522
suggest) might be a likely explanation for the reduced purchase intentions, and gives
523
further evidence to previous research that suggests transparent packaging only has
524
beneficial effects for visually attractive products. In addition, a similar case study has
525
also been reported by the Wall Street Journal (see Nassauer, 2014), where a brand
526
of lunch meats replaced a red lid with a fully transparent alternative. Sales volume
527
dropped for the product with the new packaging design, reportedly due to consumers
528
not being able to find the product at the fixture without the characteristic red lid.
529
When the packaging was reverted to the original design, sales began to rise to
530
previous levels. This example hints at just how impactful simple changes to
531
packaging design can be, and that transparency has the potential to harm purchase
532
intentions in some situations.
533
So what can we conclude about the inclusion of transparency as an aspect of
534
packaging design? First, that it’s capable of driving increased consumption of the
535
product, supporting the evidence of the effects of food image presentation discussed
536
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
24
earlier. Second, that it can lead to an increase in purchase intent, in the perception of
537
brand transparency, and it can modify expected and actual taste evaluations. These
538
effects are thought to be moderated by the desirability, or visual attractiveness, of
539
the product itself (as suggested by results of Deng & Srinivasan, 2013; and Vilnai-
540
Yavetz & Koren, 2013). Third, that transparent packaging is likely to be especially
541
impactful for brands consumers are unfamiliar with, as it gives them the ability to
542
assess the quality of the product within more easily. Fourth, that transparent
543
packaging can also lead to more negative product evaluations (such as perceived
544
healthfulness, aesthetics, and quality) and purchase intentions depending on the
545
brand, the product category, and how visually appealing the product is. As such,
546
transparency in packaging seems a promising tool to be able to increase product
547
evaluations and purchase intentions under certain circumstances, but new
548
packaging designs should still be subjected to extensive consumer testing before
549
being implemented to ensure the results are indeed beneficial.
550
Some of these benefits of transparency in product packaging might also be
551
explained by higher-level, or more abstract, accounts. For example, adding
552
transparency may have symbolic value, aside from the visual effects of being able to
553
see a product, which leads to inferences and evaluations regarding the product. In
554
language, the notion of ‘transparency’ is synonymous with ‘openness’,
555
‘trustworthiness’, and ‘comprehensibility’. Furthermore, transparency may promote
556
representations of ‘being able to see (understand)’ something. The field of cognitive
557
semiotics might argue that, by an observer recognising an element of packaging as
558
transparent, corresponding semantic or metaphorical representations (such as those
559
listed above) might also become activated, and transfer the same meaning of these
560
representations to the product itself (see Brandt & Brandt, 2005; Burrows, 2013;
561
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
25
Zlatev, 2012). Alternatively, through a brand actively choosing to show consumers
562
what is within the package, they potentially give the impression that they have
563
‘nothing to hide’, thus leading to a similar effect of increased perceived
564
trustworthiness. Indeed, the previously discussed findings from Billeter, Zhu, and
565
Inman (2012) are consistent with such theories, given that participants inferred that
566
the products (and their respective brands) shown in transparent packaging were
567
more trustworthy. Having said this, showing the consumer the product upfront may
568
reduce any anticipation or ‘intrigue’ consumers might otherwise feel when opaque
569
packaging is used. For instance, Patrick, Atefi and Hagtvedt (in press) recently
570
reported that opaque packaging may allow the product to be ‘unveiled’, the act of
571
which was found to increase perceived product value. In the same article, they also
572
reported that transparent packaging removed this effect, and resulted in a
573
significantly lower perceived value. While such results and hypotheses may shed
574
some insight into the mechanics between transparent packaging and consumer
575
evaluations, a wider range of higher-level accounts have not yet been empirically
576
tested in the research that has been published to date. This, then, certainly seems
577
like a niche that future research should fill to broaden our understanding of the
578
impacts of packaging design on the consumer.
579
Further investigation is certainly needed in order to fully validate these findings, and
580
doing so is essential to our understanding of whether transparent windows are more
581
efficacious as compared to their more traditional graphical counterparts. In addition,
582
much of the research in the field thus far has used very plain packaging (either plain
583
cardboard boxes or brown paper bags), or otherwise relatively basic mock-ups of
584
product packaging designs. Thus, the application of these findings to current
585
packaging design for actual products may not be expected to yield similar results,
586
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
26
and highlights a need for experiments using more ecologically-valid stimuli. So, while
587
it would certainly seem that transparent packaging confers a wide array of potential
588
benefits, more research is needed before we can fully understand the phenomenon
589
and thus make more informed recommendations.
590
591
5. Further implications of transparent packaging
592
In addition to the empirical evidence highlighting the benefits of transparent
593
packaging, there remains some more pragmatic considerations and implications of
594
the use of transparency or windows as part of the design of packaging.
595
One such consideration might be that the product, or the arrangement of the product
596
as seen through a transparent window, may not be as visually appealing as intended
597
once it reaches the store shelf. As an example of this, covering a window in
598
cardboard packaging with a thin or non-rigid plastic window may be likely to reduce
599
the overall structural integrity of the packaging, thus potentially leading to an
600
increase in the number of products damaged in-transit, or more complicated shipping
601
requirements. Naturally, using a thicker, more robust plastic pane would help to
602
resolve this issue, but at an expected additional cost. Further, products may become
603
dislodged or disordered inside their packaging during haulage, potentially making
604
them less visually attractive. If the consumer can see this, they might be less likely to
605
purchase a visually unappealing product (as discussed previously), or one that is
606
damaged. Even in the case of products such as cereals or crisps, any settling of the
607
food(s) within the package may serve to make the product look denser or less
608
appealing than intended, especially if some of the product disintegrates during
609
transit. To combat this, the products would need to be tightly packed in order to
610
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
27
ensure little gets dislodged in the event that the package does get shaken or
611
disturbed. As far as the settling of the product is concerned, windows would be best
612
placed away from the very lowest portion of the packaging, where the accumulation
613
of dust, broken bits, or settling may be visible for some products. Conversely, placing
614
a window in the upper portion of a pack may not show any of the product at all if it
615
has settled below this level. As Stuart Leslie, founder of ‘4sight’, a New York design
616
firm, said recently in a Wall Street Journal article (Nassauer, 2014): You don't want
617
to hit people over the head with, 'Look, there are 2 inches of space on the top of this
618
container'”. As such, the position of the window is critical and needs to be carefully
619
considered, as several experts also suggested during the interviews in Engels
620
(2015). Lastly, if the product has a mix of different elements, such as cereals with
621
currants or nuts, the consumer may expect to be able to clearly see these through
622
any transparency in the packaging if not, they may feel deceived, and their
623
perception of the product may suffer. Indeed, reformulations to recipes with visibility
624
in mind may be necessary to ensure that the product looks appealing, will remain
625
intact, and clearly showcases all of the ingredients that the product claims elsewhere
626
to contain (see Oster, 2014).
627
Another important consideration for the inclusion of transparent elements into
628
packaging would likely be cost. From a rudimentary search online of ready-to-use
629
packaging with and without windows, packaging with windows seems to be
630
consistently slightly more expensive (some 10-30% for pre-assembled paper bags,
631
from the author’s own research) than their windowless counterparts. Equally, adding
632
a hermetic seal to ensure food safety can further increase the cost, although some
633
categories, such as chilled pizzas or cereals, can avoid this by packaging the
634
product in a plastic wrap to achieve a seal, and not covering any window with plastic
635
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
28
to mitigate costs. This being said, with recent advances in the field of die-cutting and
636
the services now proffered by packaging solutions companies, transparency as part
637
of packaging now offers equivalent levels of food safety. Furthermore, transparent
638
elements can reportedly be built in for marginal extra cost if producing packaging is
639
produced on a large scale. According to one source, the cost of adding transparency
640
can mostly be offset from any cost of embossing or foil decoration that would be
641
used to attract attention in place of the transparency (Greasley, 2012). Note also that
642
some categories may not be suited to the incorporation of transparent packaging for
643
reasons of spoilage. Examples of such product categories include those which would
644
oxidise in contact with sunlight, such as cream-based liqueurs, or those where raw
645
ingredients might discolour, such as for potato tubers (see Martin & Sheppard,
646
1983). However, perhaps transparent packaging will, in the future, be able to give us
647
advanced warning of spoiled food. For example, researchers at the Fraunhofer
648
EMFT have developed a transparent film that changes colour if the meat inside has
649
gone off (Fraunhofer Mikroelektronik, 2011).
650
Further implications for the use of transparency in packaging design include the
651
additional design opportunities that using windows, specifically, could bring. For
652
example, there are opportunities to design windows to take advantage of the benefits
653
of relevant shape symbolism (e.g., Ngo et al., 2013; Spence, 2012; Spence & Ngo,
654
2012; Spence, Ngo, Percival, & Smith, 2013). As suggested by the research
655
reported by Fairhurst, Pritchard, Ospina, and Deroy (2015), sweeter-tasting products
656
will be better suited to have packaging designs featuring rounded windows, and
657
sour- or bitter-tasting products with a more angular one (as discussed already). As a
658
further example, a leaf-shaped window may well instil in the mind of the consumer
659
the notion that the product is natural or fresh. As an extension of this, using any
660
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
29
transparency at all has the capacity to signal a premium offering, innovativeness and
661
modernity in a product and brand (especially if transparent packaging is not a
662
‘category-norm’; see Burrows, 2013); as well as the notions of freshness (see also
663
Nikolaidou, 2011), honesty, and quality assurance already discussed in Billeter, Zhu,
664
and Inman (2012). Additionally, the benefits of transparency could also be
665
augmented by using product visuals alongside, although careful steps would need to
666
be taken to avoid a design that appears too visually-cluttered. There are, however,
667
also risks of using such packaging when trying to convey the legacy of a brand, thus
668
consumer testing of new packaging design concepts would still be advisable. For
669
instance, one manufacturer was reticent to use too much transparency, to avoid
670
undermining the heritage which the packaging originally conveyed, and for which the
671
product was known (Murray, 2016). Conversely, a best of both worldsapproach
672
might also be effective in some situations: for example, in by using a very narrow
673
transparent area, or a semi-transparent element, to elicit perceptions of mystery or
674
intrigue by ‘not giving it all away’ at the point of sale. See Figure 3 for some recent
675
examples of creative designs that have used transparency.
676
[Insert Figure 3 here]
677
One further aspect that is also worth noting is that the impact of a transparent
678
window is likely to be moderated by the main colour of the packaging around it. The
679
field of visual attention has long held colour to be a key component of attentional
680
capture, being especially capable of attracting our attention if the contrast between
681
foreground-background is greater (e.g., Treisman & Souther, 1985; Folk, Remington,
682
& Wright, 1994; Theeuwes, 1994; see Wolfe & Horowitz, 2004, for a review). Indeed,
683
high contrast between packaging colours has been found to attract the attention of
684
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
30
consumers to a product (Bix, Seo, & Sundar, 2013; though see also Sunaga, Park, &
685
Spence, 2016) as well as to important elements in advertising (Schindler, 1986) In
686
addition, the perceived attractiveness of vegetables has recently been found to differ
687
depending on the background colour the vegetable is presented on, with quite
688
different background colours proving optimal for the vegetables tested (see
689
Schifferstein, Howell, & Pont, 2016) . Given that visual attention is attracted to
690
regions of high contrast, perhaps this could play a pertinent role with respect to
691
transparent windows. For example, orange-coloured baked beans, visible through an
692
otherwise-teal container (as is the case with Heinz products) would likely make the
693
product stand out more and attract attention. Examples of other brands that could
694
use transparency to leverage high contrast between packaging- and product-colour
695
might include Cadbury’s (purple packaging, with brown-coloured chocolate) and
696
Barilla (dark blue packaging, with light-yellow pasta). However, where the product
697
and the packaging have low contrast, such as pasta in beige packaging, say, the
698
effect may be lessened. If transparency is used, a strong contrast between product
699
and brand colours would likely be beneficial. However, while likely an important
700
consideration, this has yet to be addressed by research so no clear guidance can be
701
offered at this point (though see Lyman, 1989).
702
There can also be functional benefits to transparent elements of packaging: using a
703
narrow strip of transparency can help the consumer to monitor how much of the
704
product has already been consumed. Furthermore, transparent elements allow an
705
easier means of assessing whether or not the food has spoiled, thus potentially
706
reducing the amount of food wasted by disposing of it simply when the printed expiry
707
date is met, not when it is actually inedible. Such benefits may not be so impactful at
708
the point of sale, but could certainly bring added value to the consumer at home.
709
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
31
One must also be aware of a recent demand from consumers to be able to recycle
710
product packaging, which may deter them from purchasing some plastic packages
711
(e.g., Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, & Oskamp, 1997; Rokka & Uusitalo, 2008).
712
Note that transparent windows and plastic packaging can now be readily obtained
713
from recycled plastics (such as rPET), which could help mitigate such problems of
714
recycling (see Mintel, 2016, for a review). Additionally, providing clear and
715
comprehensive recycling instructions may help alleviate any concerns consumers
716
have regarding recycling and packaging waste (Langley, Turner, & Yoxall, 2011).
717
718
6. Guidelines
719
Based on the empirical evidence reviewed here, we would offer the following
720
guidelines:
721
Use product imagery as an effective means of capturing the customer’s
722
attention, enhancing their perception of the product, and increasing purchase
723
intent.
724
Product imagery, if used, should avoid being disingenuous or overly digitally-
725
enhanced, as consumers will be unlikely to purchase again if the design
726
ultimately gives rise to a negative disconfirmation of expectation(s).
727
Use transparent packaging, only if the product is not visually unappealing, in
728
order to promote consumption, perceived quality and brand trust and higher
729
purchase intentions, especially as the consumer demand for transparent
730
packaging is currently on the rise.
731
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
32
Thorough market research should be used in order to test any new packaging
732
designs, in order to fully understand the likely impact on consumer
733
evaluations and purchase behaviour.
734
Previous findings can also be taken to suggest that: (1) angular windows would likely
735
be preferred by consumers compared to rounded windows; (2) coloured tints for
736
transparency are unlikely to have a negative impact on consumer evaluations or
737
behavioural intentions; (3) transparent packaging is likely most effective for brands
738
which a consumer is unfamiliar with, in order to allow them to gauge the quality of
739
the product prior to an initial purchase; and (4) that perceived product healthfulness
740
can be strongly influenced by the presence of transparent packaging, but whether
741
this is beneficial or detrimental to the product likely depends on the product category
742
in question and how appealing the product itself looks. However, these findings have
743
yet to be tested robustly through the use of several experiments and product
744
categories, and caution would be advised in treating these as guidelines.
745
7. Conclusions
746
In summary, the research clearly suggests that enabling the consumer to see the
747
product, either through, or on, the packaging has a marked effect on consumer
748
behaviour. As such, the correct use of product imagery and/or transparency as part
749
of packaging design plays a critical role in influencing the success of products in the
750
marketplace. However, the existing literature regarding transparent packaging
751
currently remains scant, with many areas in need of further investigation. Some of
752
the questions that have yet to be answered properly include the following: How does
753
the size and position of transparent windows on product packaging mediate any
754
effect on consumer perceptions and purchase behaviour? Does the use of
755
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
33
transparency raise the accepted price (or willingness-to-purchase) of the product?
756
(And does that benefit outweigh the additional cost?) Would any benefit be conferred
757
by using both transparent packaging alongside product visuals? Does the colour
758
contrast between the contents of the packaging (as seen through a window) and the
759
rest of the packaging influence/modulate these effects? These are just some of the
760
research questions that will need to be answered carefully in order to benefit
761
designers, marketers, and those with an interest in public health alike.
762
Fortunately, the means of answering such questions are becoming increasingly
763
accessible. As Woods, Velasco, Levitan, Wan and Spence (2015) highlighted
764
recently, the use of online research testing methods is becoming an increasingly
765
valid and viable methodology for perceptual research, and even preferable
766
compared to laboratory research in many respects. In addition, understandings of
767
multisensory perception (especially between vision and taste) are growing fast, and
768
will help identify further avenues for understanding consumer psychology (see
769
Velasco, Woods, & Spence, 2015; Velasco et al., 2014; for a couple recent
770
examples). Indeed, as more and more brands incorporate multisensory aspects into
771
their packaging design (Johnson, 2007; Spence, 2016; Spence & Wang, 2015), the
772
capacity and demand for such research will likely increase dramatically, and this
773
demand needs to be both acknowledged and met by the academic literature.
774
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
34
775
Acknowledgements
776
777
CS would like to thank the AHRC grant entitled ‘Rethinking the senses’
778
(AH/L007053/1) for supporting this research.
779
780
Author’s contributions
781
782
GS and CS both contributed to the writing of this paper. Both authors read and
783
approved the final version of the manuscript.
784
785
Funding sources
786
787
This research was supported by an AHRC grant entitled ‘Rethinking the senses’
788
(AH/L007053/1) to CS.
789
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THINKING INSIDE THE BOX
35
791
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Figure Legends
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Figure 1 (a): Examples of front-facing product imagery as part of packaging design
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in four Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) food categories; (b): Examples of
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transparency as part of packaging design in four FMCG food categories.
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Figure 2: Activation Likelihood Estimation meta-analysis results, showing brain
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regions with significant maxima (p < .05, FDR-corrected for multiple comparisons,
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cluster size > 100 mm3). Circled regions show a presence of these foci in at least a
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third of all studies analysed. Red regions highlight the difference in activation
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between different image presentation conditions. Combined, these slices show the
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regions most activated when presented with images of foods. Slices A-D highlight
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the difference in activation between food vs. non-food image presentations.
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Specifically, the labels show: (A) a cluster from the left posterior fusiform gyrus to the
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middle occipital gyrus; (B) the right posterior fusiform gyrus; (C) the inferior frontal
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gyrus of the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex; and (D) the left middle insula. Slices E-F
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highlight the difference between hungry vs. satiated state. (E) shows a cluster from
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the right parahippocampal gyrus to the right amygdala; and (F) shows a cluster in the
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inferior frontal gyrus of the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Finally, (G) shows a cluster
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between the hypothalamus and the caudate, from image presentations of high
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energy vs. low energy foods. Reprinted with thanks from van der Laan, de Ridder,
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Viergever, and Smeets (2011), Figure 2.
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Figure 3: Examples of innovative transparent packaging design across several
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FMCG food categories.
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Figure 1(a).
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Figure 1(b).
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Figure 2.
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Figure 3.
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... At the same time, sustainable packaging can also be associated with potential sacrifices, such as in terms of perceived aesthetic quality. For example, biodegradable and compostable materials tend to be cloudier and opaquer than conventional plastic, whose transparency is associated with an attractive, fresh and trustworthy product (Billeter et al., 2012;Guillard et al., 2018;Simmonds & Spence, 2017;Sirviö et al., 2013;ten Klooster, 2008). This change in appearance, due to a change in material type for environmental reasons, may confront consumers with a trade-off, where aesthetic quality must be compromised for a (potentially) greater material sustainability. ...
... biodegradable and compostable) may have unavoidable consequences for the perceived appearance of the packaging (bio materials tend to be more opaque than conventional plastics) (Steenis, 2019). This may affect consumer perceptions and evaluations of the aesthetic quality (benefit of attraction) and even its perceived ability to properly preserve the content (benefit of preservation) (Billeter et al., 2012;Granato at al., 2022b;Lin & Chang, 2012;Pancer et al., 2017;Simmonds & Spence, 2017). Moreover, although they might be more sustainable, packages with a reduced amount of material, such as a lightweight flexible foil instead of a rigid lid, are perceived as less convenient, since they are non-re-closable and less practical for on-the-go consumption (Granato et al., 2022b). ...
... transparent as plastic) (Magnier & Schoormans, 2015) and 2) due to the fear of a reduced consumer acceptance. Companies, for example, fear that consumers would not accept the opacity of a biodegradable packaging, distinct from the transparency of conventional plastic, associated with a fresh and trustworthy product (Billeter et al., 2012;Simmonds & Spence, 2017). While, on the one hand, this imitation practice prevents from potential negative associations of eco materials, on the other hand, it carries some disadvantages, as it risks to hide packaging cues that signal distinctiveness to consumers (Heidbreder et al., 2019;Magnier & Schoormans, 2015). ...
... L'emballage transparent est un moyen d'établir une relation de confiance entre les industriels et les consommateurs conduisant à une plus grande intention d'achat (Billeter et al., 2012;Connolly, 2014;Pal et al., 2018) et à une plus grande satisfaction (Kim & Lee, 2015). Bien que certaines études aient étudié l'impact de l'emballage transparent sur la perception de la naturalité (Pal et al., 2018), sur la perception de la qualité (Batra et al., 2010Nikolaidou, 2011Connolly, 2014 ;Simmonds et al., 2018 ;(Pal et al., 2018), sur la consommation alimentaire (Deng & Srinivasan, 2013), sur l'attractivité du produit (Ježovičová et al., 2016;Sabo et al., 2017;Simmonds et al., 2018), sur la confiance perçue (Billeter et al., 2012) et sur l'intention d'achat (Billeter et al., 2012;Sabri et al., 2020;Simmonds & Spence, 2017, peu d'études se sont penchées sur l'impact de l'emballage transparent sur la perception du caractère sain du produit et du plaisir qui en découle. Selon une étude exploratoire menée par Sioutis (2011), les emballages de produits dotés d'une fenêtre transparente laissant apparaître le produit sont jugés plus sains que ceux dans les emballages opaques (Sioutis, 2011). ...
... D'un côté, Sioutis (2011) (2015) ce qui pourrait expliquer ces résultats contradictoires (Simmonds & Spence, 2019). Une autre explication pourrait éventuellement être liée à la taille des fenêtres originales utilisées par Riley, Da Silva et Behr (2015) qui était peut-être difficile à identifier en tant qu'élément transparent (Simmonds & Spence, 2017). Ainsi, selon Simmonds et Spence (2019), d'autres études sont nécessaires pour connaître l'impact de l'emballage transparent sur la perception de produit sain étant donné que les résultats sont contradictoires (Simmonds & Spence, 2019). ...
... En plus des résultats contradictoires, ce qui diffère dans notre étude par rapport aux recherches antérieures est le fait d'étudier trois conditions de transparence (opaque, semi-transparent et transparent) afin d'attester du caractère sain du produit. Le but de cette étude est donc de combler ce manque dans la revue littérature marketing car il y a très peu de recherches sur la perception de produits alimentaires sains (Riley et al., 2015;Simmonds & Spence, 2017) bien que la santé soit une source d'innovation de plus en plus en vogue dans le marché mondial des produits agroalimentaires (Meziane, 2007). De plus, il existe très peu d'études qui se réfèrent à la façon avec laquelle l'emballage doit être conçu pour mettre en avant l'aspect sain d'un produit. ...
Thesis
Dans un contexte anxiogène lié aux diverses et successives crises alimentaires, les consommateurs sont devenus plus soucieux de leur santé, se préoccupant de plus en plus de ce qu'ils mangent et de ce qu'ils boivent se traduisant par une demande croissante de vouloir voir le produit avant de prendre leur décision d’achat. Ce travail doctoral examine l’impact de la transparence de l’emballage et de la texture d’un produit alimentaire sur l’évaluation d’un produit. Un plan expérimental a été retenu, avec 3 conditions de transparence (opaque, semi-transparent, transparent) et deux conditions de texture visuelle du produit (rugueux vs. lisse). L’influence du degré de transparence de l’emballage et de la texture d’un produit est étudiée au moyen de trois études par une approche aux méthodes variées, à savoir 3 types de produits différents (compote de pomme, confiture de fraise et cookie au chocolat), la manipulation de la transparence de manière graduelle et l’utilisation de différents types de matériaux (emballage en verre, emballage en plastique). Les résultats de cette recherche prêchent en faveur de l’utilisation des emballages transparents et montrent que plus l’emballage est transparent, plus le produit est perçu sain, de qualité et de confiance, ce qui apporte des réponses aux managers et aux politiques publiques qui souhaitent positionner leurs nouveaux produits alimentaires selon l’axe « santé » mais aussi restaurer ou encore améliorer cette relation de confiance avec les consommateurs.
... At the same time, sustainable packaging can also be associated with potential sacrifices, such as in terms of perceived aesthetic quality. For example, biodegradable and compostable materials tend to be cloudier and opaquer than conventional plastics, whose transparency is associated with an attractive, fresh and reliable product (Billeter et al., 2012;Guillard et al., 2018;Simmonds and Spence, 2017;Sirviö et al., 2013;ten Klooster, 2008). This change in appearance, due to a change in material type for environmental reasons, may confront consumers with a trade-off, where aesthetic quality must be compromised for a (potentially) greater material sustainability. ...
... biodegradable and compostable) may have unavoidable consequences for the perceived appearance of the packaging (bio materials tend to be more opaque than conventional plastics) (Steenis, 2019). This may affect consumers' perceptions and evaluations of the aesthetic quality (benefit of attraction) and even its perceived ability to properly preserve the content (benefit of preservation) (Billeter et al., 2012;Granato et al., 2022b;Lin and Chang, 2012;Pancer et al., 2017;Simmonds and Spence, 2017). Moreover, although they might be more sustainable, packages with a reduced amount of material, such as a lightweight flexible foil instead of a rigid lid, are perceived as less convenient, since they are non-re-closable and less practical for on-the-go consumption (Granato et al., 2022b). ...
Full-text available
Article
Sustainable food packaging alternatives represent an ever-expanding trend on supermarkets' shelves. Despite the technological efforts, a higher sustainability level often comes at the expense of other (perceived) benefits which consumers might not want to sacrifice. While the balance between the benefits and drawbacks of “cleaner” packaging production is central to the designers’ perspective, it is generally overlooked in consumer research. This paper investigates how European consumers cope with product-packaging decisions, when these involve a compromise. Through an online survey with 5035 consumers in five different European countries, our results show that the sustainability appreciation can spill-over to other conventional benefits, such convenience, aesthetic quality or the perceived ability of the packaging to preserve the content. By contributing to sustainability literature and, in particular, to the understanding of the halo and spill-over effect of sustainability, this study shows that positive associations triggered by eco-design elements (e.g., a biodegradable and compostable material) absorb and filter out negative experiences, preventing consumers from perceiving certain drawbacks. This research also provides valuable practical implications to marketers and product designers, by demonstrating how different product categories, packaging types and consumer characteristics, in terms of gender, age, nationality, values and lifestyle, influence product-packaging decisions and their inherent trade-offs.
... most red foods are sweet, and thus it is always considered to be sweet). There is an association between specific colors and specific product attributes in the mind (Simmonds & Spence, 2017). People often have certain expectations when they see the color of a food (Higgins & Hayes, 2019), which can influence the perception of sweetness (Spence, 2019). ...
Article
Sugar, as an essential component of beverages, not only provides sweetness in beverages but also plays a significant role in their flavor, texture, and preservation. In recent years, global sugar consumption has continued to increase, causing a variety of health concerns. Currently, there is growing awareness of the adverse effects of high-sugar consumption. Since beverages are the primary source of daily sugar intake, sugar reduction in beverages is imperative. In this work, the necessity of sugar reduction in beverages was first introduced. Furthermore, four primary sugar reduction strategies (direct sugar reduction, multi-sensory integration, sweeteners, and sweetness enhancers) employed in the beverage industry were systematically summarized. Each sugar reduction strategy was critically compared, while the current research progresses as well as challenges were discussed. The application of sweeteners is the most effective and widely used strategy for sugar reduction in spite of flavor and health concerns of sweeteners. Meanwhile, multi-sensory integration is also a promising strategy for sugar reduction. In addition, different evaluation methods (chemical, cell-based and sensory methods) for sweetness were overviewed. Given the current challenges of sugar reduction, the prospects of sugar reduction in beverages were also discussed. The present work can provide the current progress for sugar reduction in the beverage industry.
... For example, labelling could be a suitable nudging approach to lead a shift towards sustainable behaviour [3]. In the food packaging context, images and/or labels provide a simple communication method for consumers by giving information, highlighting key characteristics, eliciting positive associations as well as influencing consumers' feelings, perception, purchase intentions, evaluation, and consumption [13][14][15]. However, all labelling on sustainable packaging must be clear so as to identify the benefits to consumers and thereby maximise success in modulating behaviour [16]. ...
Full-text available
Article
There is a growing emphasis on sustainability; however, not all food packaging fits this remit and consumer knowledge is typically lacking. This paper investigates UK consumers’ understanding, perception and preferences relating to sustainable food packaging and the impact that adding information to this packaging has on consumers’ behaviour. Consumers (n = 405) completed an online survey covering the following sections: (1) sustainability habits and knowledge; (2) utilising images to understand the role of labelling; and (3) determining key sustainable packaging attributes. Consumers regularly recycle plastic, cardboard, metal, paper, and glass, as well as showing willingness towards recycling; however, they lack knowledge of the correct recycling procedures. Labelling was successful in changing consumer behaviour and encouraging more sustainable choices. Consumers identified key sustainable packaging attributes as biodegradability, disposal methods, renewable sources, recyclability, no excess packaging, and product quality. The main themes from this survey relate to consumers typically being confused about recycling and often lacking knowledge about sustainable materials. More targeted education is needed to help consumers, coupled with additional support from companies and governments, to ensure consumers can make sustainable choices.
... Referring to tactile indicators to food products or their packaging, it is the touch experienced through hands or lips that can potentially help the food industry to increase satisfaction with products and the intention to buy [33]. Indeed, product packaging examined through touch is more and more often believed to be an effective marketing tool [37], which is related to a rapidly growing interest in studies tied to product packaging design [38]. ...
Full-text available
Article
In this manuscript, the authors aim to explore sustainable consumer behaviour during shopping at a self-service store with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). An innovative combination of virtual reality (VR) equipment and an electroencephalogram (EEG) was used in the study. The objective of the study was to gather information as to how consumers make shopping decisions when buying fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). The studies conducted so far have used either VR or EEG. To the best knowledge of the authors, no results of a study from the FMCG sector using both these devices simultaneously have ever been published. The results of the pilot studies are presented in the paper. The presented results constitute a part of a wider research project within the scope of which a triangulation of the research methods was used, enabling deeper analyses to be conducted of conscious and non-conscious aspects of the study subjects. The authors analysed primary data indicative of sustainable consumer behaviour. Descriptive statistics, including such measures as a mean value, standard deviation, and correlation analysis, as well as the Valence/Arousal Index, were used. The conducted studies provided knowledge of sustainable behaviour for two types of consumers—non-routine and considerate. Moreover, emotion indicators for FMCG products were defined, out of which the highest satisfaction was recorded for salmon as a product.
... Food pictures, mostly depicting fruits and vegetables, was the most prevalent healthrelated cue. This kind of visual cue has been reported to increase healthfulness perception and purchase intention (46)(47)(48)(49) . Results from the present work showed that pictures of fruit and vegetables were frequently included on food packages even if they only included flavorings. ...
Article
The information included on food packages has a crucial role in influencing consumer product associations and purchase decisions. In particular, visual and textual cues on processed and ultra-processed products can convey health-related associations that influence consumer healthiness perception and purchase decisions. In this context, the present work aimed to explore the use of health-related cues on the packages of processed and ultra-processed products sold in Uruguay to provide insights for policy making. A total of 3813 products from 34 different food categories found in four of the most important supermarket chains in Uruguay were surveyed. The textual and visual information included on the packages as well as the nutritional composition of the products were analyzed. Results showed that 67% of the products included at least one health-related cue. Pictures of culinary ingredients, natural and minimally processed foods were the most frequent health-related cue, followed by references to naturalness and claims related to critical nutrients. The prevalence of health-related cues largely differed across product categories, ranging from 100% to 17%. The relationship between the presence of health-related cues on the packages and the excessive content of nutrients associated with non-communicable diseases was assessed using a gradient boosting model, which showed limited predictive ability. This suggests that the inclusion of health-related cues on food packages was not strongly related to the nutritional composition of products and therefore cannot be regarded as a healthiness indicator. These results stress the need of develop stricter labeling regulations to protect consumers from misleading information.
... Product sensory cues (e.g., auditory cues, color, smell, and flavor) and hedonic attributes can shape product quality evaluations (Altinsoy 2012;Compeau, Grewal, and Monroe 1998;Cowen-Elstner 2018;Leclerc, Schmitt, and Dubé 1994; Ordabayeva and Srinivasan 2019; Zampini and Spence 2004) Number and types of features (e.g., add-on features, alignable features, etc.) within the product can shape product quality evaluations (Anderson 2015;Bertini, Ofek, and Ariely 2009;Stylidis, Wickman, and Söderberg 2015) Green enhancements to a product can shape product quality evaluations (Gleim et al. 2013;Newman, Dhar, and Gorlin 2016;van Doorn, Verhoef, and Risselada 2020) Role of Packaging Product packaging that is smaller in size can increase product quality evaluations (Shirai 2020;Yan, Sengupta, and Wyer Jr. 2014) Transparent packaging can increase product quality evaluations (Chandran, Batra, and Lawrence n.d.;Sabri et al. 2020;Simmonds and Spence 2017) Role of Price ...
Article
Companies vary on oft-publicized size metrics (number of employees, revenue). Do consumers prefer otherwise-identical products made by larger or smaller companies? The answer hinges on whether consumers perceive the products as low-tech or high-tech. This prediction stems from a novel framework charting two lay theories regarding key resources companies utilize to provide value to consumers: employees and finances. In the “intrinsic motivation lay theory,” consumers believe that employees of larger (vs. smaller) companies are less intrinsically motivated. In the “financial resources lay theory,” consumers believe that larger (vs. smaller) companies have greater capacity to fund R&D. Critically, product type (low-tech vs. high-tech) differentially affects the accessibility of these two lay theories: For low-tech (vs. high-tech) products, the intrinsic motivation lay theory is more accessible, driving quality evaluations and choice in favor of smaller companies. For high-tech (vs. low-tech) products, the financial resources lay theory is more accessible, driving quality evaluations and choice in favor of larger companies. This research advances theory by reconciling conflicting findings regarding product quality inferences from company size metrics, with guidance for marketers to improve quality evaluations and choice shares by strategically supporting or challenging lay theories and shifting perceptions of company size or product type.
Packaging communicates intrinsic product attributes to consumers, which can influence consumer response and decision-making; however, little is known about the impact of non-traditional packaging formats. The current research aims to bridge this gap. Across five studies, we demonstrate that non-traditional packaging negatively influenced purchase intention of a complex product, wine, through product appeal and taste perceptions (Study 1A)/expectations (Studies 1B–4). We also demonstrate that the consumer response to non-traditional packaging is a function of individual differences (desire for unique products) and label attributes (eco-friendly labels).
This study evaluated the impact of visual transparency vs. opaqueness in storefront window displays in relation to consumer responses and approach behavior. While there is extensive prior literature analyzing various design features in such exterior-facing displays, the ability to see through or around the window displays to observe the store interior has not received much research attention. Theories of cognitive processing fluency suggest that reductions in environmental “unknowns” are associated with feelings of pleasure, comfort, and environmental affinity. Thus, we hypothesized that more transparent window displays would be associated with higher ratings of store attractiveness, more time spent observing the stores, and a greater likelihood of participants approaching the stores after viewing the displays. The use of a virtual-reality approach made it possible to isolate and adjust the storefront display transparency while holding other environmental variables constant. Our findings confirmed that highly transparent window displays were associated with greater attractiveness ratings and longer durations of observation, and that these effects were mediated by a reduction in perceived visual complexity and increases in feelings of pleasure. We did not find a significant difference in approach behavior, but this may be due to the fact that our participants were aware they could not actually enter the stores in the VR presentation. The results provisionally indicate that retailers should attend to the visibility of the ground-level store interior when designing their window displays.
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This article provides an overview of the literature on the use of internet-based testing to address questions in perception research. Internet-based testing has several advantages over in-lab research, including the ability to reach a relatively broad set of participants and to quickly and inexpensively collect large amounts of empirical data. In many cases, the quality of online data appears to match that collected in laboratory research. Generally speaking, online participants tend to be more representative of the population at large than laboratory based participants. There are, though, some important caveats, when it comes to collecting data online. It is obviously much more difficult to control the exact parameters of stimulus presentation (such as display characteristics) in online research. There are also some thorny ethical considerations that need to be considered by experimenters. Strengths and weaknesses of the online approach, relative to others, are highlighted, and recommendations made for those researchers who might be thinking about conducting their own studies using this increasingly-popular approach to research in the psychological sciences.
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The visual aspects of packaging design (think here of color and form, or image mold) are critical to the success or failure of many of the products on the supermarket shelf. While a large body of research has detailed the meaning and impact of packaging color, the haptic (or tactile), auditory, and olfactory attributes of packaging design have to date received far less attention from researchers. In this review, the literature on multisensory food and beverage packaging is critically evaluated, with a focus on the contributions of the various senses to the consumer's overall multisensory product experience. Evidence is reviewed concerning how the color (not to mention the other sensory cues) associated with product packaging can capture the shopper's attention on shelf, while at the same time signaling the likely flavor of the contents. What is more, the multisensory attributes of the packaging can influence the consumer's perception of the taste/flavor of the contents. Given the lower costs of production/development, together with the growing awareness of its importance, interest in the multisensory attributes of product packaging is only likely to increase in the years to come.
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The article provides an overview of ongoing research and key characteristics of Cognitive Semiotics, an emerging field dedicated to the “transdiciplinary study of meaning”, involving above all researchers from semiotics, linguistics, developmental and comparative psychology and philosophy. The combination of the following features distinguish it from other synthetic approaches: (a) integration of theoretical and empirical research; (b) ontological pluralism and methodological triangulation; (c) influence of phenomenology; (d) focus on dynamism and (e) the ambition of true transdisciplinarity. Its ultimate goal is to provide new insights into the nature and culture of human beings, as well as other meaning-making creatures.
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A considerable body of psychological and neuroscientific research has demonstrated the existence of robust sensory correspondences between various features, attributes, or dimensions of experience in different sensory modalities. Despite findings indicating the importance of sensory correspondences to human information processing, research on purchase decision-making has not to date focused sufficiently on this phenomenon. The present study examines how the lightness of packaging colors, and the location of products on a display shelf interact to affect consumers’ purchase decision-making via perceived visual heaviness. As predicted, a display with light (dark) colored products positioned in the upper (lower) shelf positions increases shoppers’ perceptual fluency and facilitates their visual search, thus leading to the suggestion that “light” (heavy) locations are most appropriate for light (dark) colored products. Moreover, the lightness-location congruent display is shown to influence people’s choice behavior positively as well. This research also demonstrates that when consumers consider the lightness (in terms of their weight) of the products, they are more likely to choose light (vs. dark) colored products located in the upper shelf positions. These results therefore demonstrate that consumers’ purchase decision-making may be promoted by in-store environments designed to be congruent with their sensory correspondences.
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Different package designs call for different ways of revealing the product. In this research, we demonstrate that packaging that calls for unveiling—the removal of the cover of a concealed, stationary object—enhances the perceived value of the product compared to other forms of product revelation. Drawing on theories of grounded associations, shared meaning, and contagion, we theorize that the act of unveiling is associated with revealing a protected and thus pristine object, which is consequently perceived to be valuable. We begin the empirical investigation by exploring consumer associations with product unveiling across American and South Korean consumers (pilot study 1). We then demonstrate that the unveiling effect arises with both imagined (pilot study 2) and real objects and is mediated by beliefs about the pristine condition of the object (studies 1–3). We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical contributions, implications for managers, and directions for future research.
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A growing body of empirical research now demonstrates that people associate different basic tastes and taste words with specific packaging shapes. While it may be obvious that semantic knowledge concerning products, based on the packaging and/or design elements (e.g., typeface, logo, label, images), can guide the taste expectations that consumers generate in relation to a given product, here we demonstrate that there are also more fundamental correspondences that operate even with unfamiliar stimuli. Specifically, shape features (e.g., straight vs. curvy, or symmetrical vs. asymmetrical) have been shown to influence the taste that people naturally associate with a given shape. The evidence suggests that, at least to a certain extent, people match such shape dimensions with tastes on the basis of their common affective connotation. Here, we critically review the literature on these seemingly arbitrary, yet systematic, crossmodal correspondences between tastes and shape features. We suggest that they can inform the design process when it comes to product packages and labels with the aim of conveying taste information more effectively. This review is relevant to those researchers interested in taste-vision correspondences as well as to food marketers, and those designers interested in the communication and influence of taste information.