Haptics and packaging

Published 18 August 2017
We think we are rational, but we are not. When making purchase decisions, consumers believe that they are not influenced by the look and feel of the packaging. Evidence shows the opposite. In this article we will look into the physical connection that consumers experience with packaging.

How does the touch and feel of a package affect the perception of product quality and freshness? Consumers tend to choose products unconsciously. They often talk about the look of the packaging when they actually mean the feel of it. That’s also called haptics. Consumers tend to hold the packaging in their hands trying to get an understanding of the material and how well it protects the food. But most of them do it unconsciously, and when asked about the feeling of the packaging they struggle to find the right words to describe it. They are relying on the haptic to make sense of the product quality.

Packaging is to be a true barrier between food and its environment – and this ability to keep it protected is today something they strongly associate with plastic. Communicating the ability of freshness is thus a challenge for paper based alternatives (yes, packaging made of barrier coated paperboard can very well keep food fresh and protected!).

57% of the Brits buy food in plastic because it preserves the food well. The average consumer thinks that plastic is more compact and makes the food seem fresher and more hygienic. But think about this: with a barrier-coated paperboard you would need 80-90% less plastic – and still ensure freshness and protection.

Consumers can be confusing. In some cases, they love rustic packaging that creates an organic impression. However, they can also love shiny packaging, which gives them a feeling of premium. 43% of the Chinese associate shiny packaging with premium, while the corresponding number in Germany is only 22% and 18% in UK. Luckily, paperboard can deliver both. In order to save the environment, plastic packaging must be decreased, in favour of paper and board.

For those who see natural and organic as the new premium in products and packaging, the premium impression lies on a natural look and feel, subtle colour, matte finish and minimalistic design. In China, besides ecological, western products are perceived as premium. It is interesting that consumers expect organic food to be packed in eco-friendly materials, which is not always the case today.

So even if consumers think they choose a product regardless of the packaging, they do not.

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