Food Business Almanac: Product Design

by | Jun 24, 2013

NCDA&CS food business specialist Annette Dunlap offers resources that agribusiness owners and food entrepreneurs can use to grow and manage their business. Annette is available for free one-on-one consultations and can assist business owners with financial and market planning through the agribusiness development section. She can be reached at

The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true when it comes to designing food labels and packaging. You have about three seconds to grab a customer’s attention as they walk down the store aisle, and the way to get noticed is to have an eye-catching and attractive design.

There are three important tips to keep in mind as you design your package:

1. Design to appeal to your customer
2. Distinguish yourself from your competition
3. Display your product proudly

Earlier this year, the N.C. Specialty Foods Association named finalists in its product awards competition. Let’s see how those finalists used these tips in their package and label design.


Design to appeal to your customer
First, know what motivates your customer and use appropriate colors. Black is considered elegant, and that’s the message you get when you look at Little Black Dressing. Orange stimulates hunger and is a good choice for Sweet Neecy’s Spice Cake Mix. Sweet Neecy’s Chocolate Cake Mix is covered with a brown label to distinguish it from the Spice Cake Mix and to let customers know it contains chocolate. Purple is used to complement the elderberry jam and jelly of Norm’s Farms’ products. It is also a color associated with elegance. The green on the label also sends a message of “fresh” and “healthy.”

Distinguish yourself from your competition
Next, be distinctive. This means that you need to know who your competitors are, what color schemes they use, and what their packages look like. You don’t want consumers to think of you as a “me, too” brand. You want them to think of you as the “me, only” brand.

Little Black Dressing’s distinctive logo of a woman in a black hat and black cocktail dress definitely is different from other dressing labels. Sweet Neecy’s use of a pouch, instead of the more traditional box packaging for a cake mix, also does a good job of setting this product apart from the competition.

Display your product proudly
Finally, show off your product. Design your packaging so customers can either see the contents through the packaging, or have a photograph of your product on the label. Customers want to know what they are buying. Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts and Norm’s Farms’ jam and jelly use clear packaging to show their products.