Product Packaging Can Influence Consumer Purchasing Decisions

When it comes to stocking pharmacy shelves with the right products, first impressions are important to keep in mind. 

According to a new study published in Heliyon, product packaging can play a substantial role in influencing purchasing choices, going as far as to invoke emotional responses that shape consumer expectations. Extrinsic product cues, such as packaging material, information, and labeling, can ultimately affect how consumers evaluate food products, according to the researchers.

In the study, the authors evaluated the effect of chocolate packaging design specifically on sensory liking and willingness to purchase.

Seventy-five participants were asked to evaluate chocolates under 3 conditions: a blind taste test, packaging concepts only, and chocolate plus packaging. Using the same chocolate, 6 different packaging designs were used to represent bold, fun, every day, special, healthy, and premium concepts. Participants were asked to associate the samples with a lexicon of emotion-based terms.

According to the study, participants’ likeness of the taste was affected by their expectations based on different wrapper designs, especially when expectations created by packaging were not met. Even though the same chocolate was used for all packaging concepts, the study showed a low to moderate positive correlation between the liking of the packaging and liking the taste of the chocolate. Participants used stronger emotional words to describe the packaging than they did when describing blindly tasted chocolate

“This further confirms that the packaging concept affects how people perceive the taste of the product based on emotions,” the researchers wrote.

Still, using packaging designs solely for the purpose of attracting consumers can have a negative effect if consumer expectations are not met. Acceptance of the product decreased when the actual sensory experience was not accurately represented by the product’s extrinsic cues, according to the study. 

Tasting generated higher liking scores than visual evaluation, indicating that taste still primarily drives subsequent purchasing. However, perception of taste appeared to be influenced by emotions evoked by packaging, the researchers noted. 

“An estimated 60% of consumers’ initial decisions about products are made in stores solely by judging the packaging,” co-lead researcher Sigfredo Fuentes, PhD, from the School of Agriculture and Food, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, said in a press release about the study. “As a result, our findings offer important insights that can be used in product design and development to control product intrinsic and extrinsic attributes by enhancing the emotional attachment toward food products.”

In the end, intrinsic likeability will drive whether shoppers purchase a product, but the study suggests that first impressions do matter and can factor into these decisions as well. These findings can better inform buyers on considerations to make when determining which products to stock their shelves with, according to the study authors.  

References

Fuentes S, Gunaratne NM, Gunaratne TM, et al. Effects of packaging design on sensory liking and willingness to purchase: A study using novel chocolate packaging. Heliyon. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01696