Packaging & Taste: They’re More Connected Than You Think

by Megan Arnold December 08, 2021

You know how important package design is when it comes to convincing a consumer to buy your product. In fact, you’ve probably had meetings upon meetings discussing the smallest of details. But, what if that carefully crafted package that gets your product off the shelf could do more than just get your product purchased?

Specifically, we’re talking about the taste experience. What exactly is the taste experience? It’s the idea that your various senses all play a role in how you perceive the taste of whatever it is you’re eating. For example, let’s say you’re served a dish that’s just slopped on the plate. It doesn’t look pretty, and when you eat it, your opinion on how it tastes is low. Now take that same dish and plate it like a 5-star restaurant and suddenly it tastes pretty good.

That same principle can be applied to your product packaging! It may sound a little far-fetched, but different packaging designs can influence how people feel about one product over the other.

In fact, there have been plenty of experiments that show just how powerful packaging can be. Take, for example, the kombucha experiment performed by one of Dr. R. Andrew Hurley’s graduate students. In the experiment, they purchased three different flavors of kombucha and covered up the flavor names. Every bottle looked the same except for the label color. What participants didn’t know, however, was that the beverage in the green and yellow labeled bottles were actually the same beverage. Even though they were the same, participants reportedly preferred the beverage in the green bottle over the yellow bottle.

a white coke can next to a red coke canAnother, very real-world example, would be when Coke tried to introduce special edition packaging back in 2011. Instead of that classic red we all know and love, the cans were now white to help raise funds for endangered polar bears. It seemed like a great idea until consumers started to complain. No, they didn’t have a problem with the polar bears. Instead, they thought that Coke had changed its formula. Despite no difference to the product inside, to consumers, that white can tasted differently than anything they had ever had out of the classic red can.

What does this all mean for you and your company? First and foremost, your thoughts about what your packaging should look like needs to go past just getting it picked up off the shelf. One thing you might want to invest a little time in is Gastrophysics, or the study of how various sensory faculties (like touch, smell, and sight) can influence the perceived taste, quality, and value of products. These decisions that you make, especially when backed by a little research, can affect everything from a customer’s general expectations to whether or not they ultimately return your product.

So, the next time you brainstorm about new product packaging, consider more than just what it’ll take to get your product off the shelf. Instead, think about how those choices will affect your customers and products long after they’ve brought it home.


Megan Arnold
Megan Arnold