The future of packaging: Size matters 1/2

by Tahir Idouri - July 2022


Once a month, creative director Tahir Idouri shares his ideas about the future of packaging. What is the role of packaging in the future, especially of FMCG? And what about our changing views on how packaging is designed, in light of technological development, changing consumer behaviour and the pursuit of sustainable solutions? This time, we talk to Tahir about:


Effects of size
The size of packaging has more influence on our buying and eating patterns than we can imagine. Over the years, especially ‘ready to eat’ packaging and portions we get served have substantially grown in size. Research shows that products and portions in the US have increased in volume 2 to 5 times in the past 25 years.

And what do we learn as packaging designers? That a big surface area, in other words bigger packaging, attracts more attention on the shelf. But, is that still the case, now that physical shelf space is becoming less and less important? And which responsibility lies with us when you look at this unhealthy increase in scale?

Bigger is not always better
For years, the government and health care sector have been trying to Improve regulating portion sizes. Especially in the US it became noticeable that more and more people started to suffer from obesity and related diseases. It had become only too easy for them to choose bigger portions. It will come as no surprise that often unhealthy products in ‘super-size’ are offered at ‘mini-price’.

From super-sized to health-sized
In the cities of NY and LA campaigns like ‘Cut your portion, Cut your risk’ and ‘Choose less, Weigh less’ were launched, but unfortunately to no avail. It even landed NY the nickname ‘the nanny state’, because people found it patronizing. Besides, unlimited refills in cafés and restaurants were still the order of the day, so there was barely any reduction in calorie intake to speak of. Manufacturers, retailers and the hospitality industry are all making an effort in offering smaller portions and packaging, but at the same time they are expanding their range with even bigger portions than before.

Our responsibility
How can we influence consumers' eating patterns in a positive way, joining forces with our clients? Can we make smaller portions more attractive in price and design, for example? Can we put a stop to marketing around big portions (cut-price meat, triple burgers, family packs et cetera), especially when those messages are targeted at children? Step by step we need to try and return to a 'normal' calorie intake, stimulated by supporting packaging. In my view this deserves more attention, with NPD processes focusing more on physical (and mental) fitness in the future. Not forgetting the benefits smaller packaging can have for sustainability.

We will talk about that angle next time.

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