Enlighten, inspire, and learn to build a culture of innovation that disrupts your industry.

Innovation and Marketing Semiotics: Packaging in the organic food industry

Share this article

The organic food market has a potential for growth in the coming years, according to a report by the USDA Economic research service. This report was published at the 94th Annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum on February 22, 2017. It states that the growth in this sector will increase along with the awareness of its benefits to health and the environment. And this attractive and booming space in the organic food industry calls for innovations in design, usability, and, in particular, packaging.

Buyer persona analysis

The increasing popularity of organic food products among millennials has created a need to understand “buyer persona” before packaging is designed and displayed on the shelves. The process of ideation is very important in this packaging design process, while marketing semiotics is a crucial and undeniable tool to help with the same.

The organic food market is a niche market of consumers who are conscious of environmental concerns, carbon footprints, and the resultant health outcomes. Competing on supermarket shelves has become increasingly difficult for companies in spite of the benefits of organic foods. Typically, the more affordable non-organic substitutes tend to sell at a faster pace.

Marketing semiotics to highlight differentiators

Marketing semiotic studies, while creating differentiators for packaging in the organic food segment, will also assist in creating a visual appeal and emotional connection with consumers. It is not just the product that matters to consumers, but also the way it is showcased and conveyed to them. The feeling of social gratification is a prominent motivator in the organic food market. Some consumers buy organic food products to make a statement and to be a part of the community of organic food preachers. A second set of consumers genuinely believe in the benefits of such products, and the third and final set follows opinion leaders and social influencers. A lot of research effort, along with finances, are currently being used up in creating an appeal to these three sets of consumers. A marketing semiotic audit will not only safeguard companies against product positioning failure, but also from losing out on the mind space of its existing consumers.

The visual, emotional, and functional appeals are three broad factors to be considered during packaging innovation. A lot of research content proves that visual stimulation is a definite component of the marketing semiotic audit. However, the fact that the brain forms connotations giving rise to emotions from what it sees cannot be forgotten. This will decide if the packaging resonates with the consumer’s choice.

The most important questions to be addressed while assessing the emotional connotations are:

  • Is the packaging bringing back a memory (good / not so good / bad) for the consumer?
  • Does the packaging assure a better environment?
  • Does the packaging convey a guarantee of health benefits?
  • Is the packaging successful in rendering a feeling of being close to nature?
  • Will a product’s physical appearance give a sense of social gratification?
  • Does any element of the product’s packaging connect to a particular culture?
  • Does the current consumption pattern relate to a consumer’s purchase history?

Product attributes and competition

With minimalism being the new lifestyle trend, packaging should reflect it. A segment of organic food consumers believes in healthier choices, not only for themselves but for the environment as well. The desire to satiate this segment needs an understanding of their intentions. This, in turn, should lead to an innovative packaging design that is not only minimal but will also stand apart as the brand’s unique selling proposition.

Organic food products face competition from “Me Too” products. This can be overcome by using packaging differentiators based on visual parameters (color, shapes, texture, design, labeling, language, and imagery used on the packaging), emotional parameters (highlighted in the associated connotations), and functional parameters (shelf-life enhancement, packaging material, recycling capabilities, storage capacity, easily disposable, and guarding the texture and shape of the product).

Typically, packaging innovation focuses on functional and visual attributes. Moving forward, more time and effort need to be spent on understanding how these two attributes correlate with a consumer’s emotional attributes.

About the Author: Dr. Gauri Pathak is one of PreScouter's Advanced Degree Researchers. She holds a PhD in Integrated Marketing Communications and Marketing Semiotics. She is an advanced Google Analytics Certified Professional and has published articles in national and international journals as well as authoring a book on Branding. Connect with Gauri here!

Share this article

Upcoming event

FEI USA: Front End of Innovation

28 - 29 Oct 2020
FEI Presents: Leading Innovation in a Digital World
Go to site