Consumers Shift Away from Healthy CPG Products in Transparent Packages

Research has found that consumers adjust their food consumption depending on whether the packaging is transparent or opaque.Most people think the quality and type of a food is what draws the attention of consumers, right? Well, that’s not all that matters: the packaging of a product is equally as important.

The truth is our minds are heavily influenced by the packaging a consumable comes in. A recent study was conducted by Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business to help bring this thought to life. During the study a number of people were placed in a common snacking environment: in front of the TV, which is where most snacks are consumed. Researchers told subjects they would be evaluating advertisements that ran during The Office.

Participants were provided with snack foods including nuts, cookies, M&M’s, Cheerios, and Froot Loops to munch on while they watched TV. Some of the foods were offered in transparent bags while others were offered in opaque bags. Researchers measured food consumption.

According to MarketWatch, researchers found the transparency of packaging influences consumers’ snacking habits in different ways depending on the size, visual appeal, and healthiness of the food it contains. Some of the findings from the study:

  • Participants ate less large, visually appealing foods from transparent packages than they did from opaque ones.
  • Small foods like M&M’s were more appealing in clear packaging.
  • Participants ate 58% more from the transparent bags than they did from the opaque ones.
  • Consumers tended to shift away from healthy products in transparent packages.

There are quite a few points from this study that can have an impact on marketing decisions. For example, the article suggests that clear bags make it easier to be tempted by tasty-looking foods, but also reveal how much you’re about to eat. Hence, to increase sales marketers might want to offer small foods in transparent packages and large foods and vegetables in opaque containers.

Manufacturers and marketers will need to think in 3D and place a greater emphasis on product packaging, as it is a key driver in the purchase process for consumers.

Photo credit: Daniel Oines


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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