Effective custom packaging design for food items

Jimmy Parker As a Creative, I aid in exploring and producing eye-catching and thought-provoking work ranging from packaging, to advertising, to website design. I’m always searching for new inspiration to keep things fresh, original, and exciting. My creativity extends heavily into the kitchen, so if you want some cool cupcakes, I know a guy.

On a busy store shelf, your packaging is your biggest brand differentiator. You want customers to notice your product at the expense of all others. Since you opened your doors, you’ve gone to great lengths to create the perfect packaging for each product in your range. But great branding is never a fixed point. It needs to be able to adapt and recalibrate. To reconfigure and reposition itself. To remain relevant and appealing to your customers, and move with the ebb and flow of consumer behavior.

No matter how effective your packaging design may be, there are a lot of good reasons to shake things up in order to keep your products fresh in the minds of consumers. Even the most ubiquitous brands know better than to rest on their laurels. Here, we’ll look at some ways in which you can shake things up with effective custom or limited edition packaging.

Limited Edition: Lasting Impression

You’ve worked hard to establish consumer interest in your brand. But no matter how hard won that battle has been, you need to invest in giving your brand staying power. Otherwise, the interest you’ve developed will slowly start to fade away. The use of seasonal or event-based, limited-edition food packaging can be a useful tool here. It can allow brands to demonstrate their commitment to bringing value to the customer. It can allow them to present themselves as fresh and new. Limited edition can help you to make a lasting impression!

Why use limited edition packaging?

You’ve been in the business long enough to have a strong brand identity. But even within the parameters of your brand, there’s a lot of wiggle room for creative expression. Limited edition packaging gives designers a chance to flex their creative muscles, without deviating from the  brands’ existing style and presence. Limited edition packaging shows consumers that you’re proactive and aware. Whether you’re changing your packaging design to accommodate a seasonal or holiday (like Christmas or Halloween) or to commemorate a special event, it demonstrates a willingness to keep up with the changing nature of consumer demand. Not to mention keeping the brand relevant whatever the changing seasons may bring. 

There’s an element of scarcity marketing to limited edition packaging. Seasonally themed packaged goods are affordable and accessible, yet special and finite.  This mentality can drive customers to purchase these products as “collector’s items”.  

Limited edition packaging can give your branding a real shot in the arm. Here are some other ways in which brands can increase their impact…

Create buzz on social media

Your social media presence is your direct line of communication with your customers. In an age where consumers turn to social media to research all kinds of purchases, the right social media campaign can generate a lot of buzz. 

Invest in dazzling photography to make sure your product and its new packaging look fantastic on your social feed. Position your product as important to getting into the spirit of the season (think of Coca Cola reminding us every year that “holidays are coming!”). Create an inventive hashtag that customers can follow. Encourage customers to send you images of themselves enjoying your newly packaged product. 

This can give your brand the chance to generate a larger following, while increasing existing customers’ personal investment in your brand.

Show consumers that your brand stands for something!

We live in an age of ethically-driven consumerism. Many consumers, particularly younger consumers, expect brands to have a strong sense of Corporate Social Responsibility. You need to be able to show that your business cares about something other than making money. Which is why so many brands use limited edition packaging to demonstrate their commitment to cause advocacy. 

Social causes create a strong emotional resonance with consumers. Ally yourself with a cause they care about and you have the potential to make a big impression. There are numerous great examples of this in recent memory, such as;

  • Skittles’ Pride Month packaging
  • Kellogg’s All Together Cereal, celebrating Spirit Day and anti-bullying efforts
  • Clif Bar’s limited packaging celebrating women trailblazers in sports
  • Cape Cod Potato Chips going pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month

Using limited edition packaging in this way makes your brand part of the cultural zeitgeist and helps consumers to see you as relevant, proactive and caring.

Use cross promotion and build a bridge with another brand

Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As well as keeping a close eye on the competition through competitor analysis, you should also look for opportunities to cross-promote with other non-competing brands. 

Cross promotion gives your brand the ability to incorporate established licensed properties or franchises into its packaging. It allows your brand to piggyback on the success of such franchises and increase its appeal to their fanbases.

We see this quite often whenever a huge blockbuster hits the big screens. A few years back, cereal giant General Mills launched two competing cereals to coincide with the release of the superhero showdown Batman V Superman. Consumers could choose between chocolate flavored bats or strawberry flavored S shields. As the pop culture bloggers caught wind of the promotion, they helped to publicize both the cereal and the movie, as we can see below…

Limited edition packaging is usually combined with themed giveaways like small toys included in packaging or special promotions and competitions. 

Sometimes, two well-established brands will come together to release an entirely new product. This creates fun opportunities for design teams. It requires a unified design approach that balances both brands’ recognized aesthetic to appeal to consumers of each. It’s a tough tightrope to walk but can be incredibly satisfying when it’s done well. 

Some great examples of this include the recent releases of Chips Ahoy! cookies with Reese’s Pieces and Hershey’s chocolate proving that no combination will ever supplant chocolate and peanut butter. Then, of course, there’s Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts and Froot Loops coming together to release a fruity new breakfast pastry. The possibilities are endless!

Wear your commitment to sustainability on your sleeve

In this digitally enlightened age, consumers are more aware than ever of how the products they purchase can affect our planet. While your commitment to sustainability should be ongoing, using limited edition variant packaging can alert old and new customers to changes that you’ve made to packaging in order to make it more sustainable. Whether you’ve invested in new materials or made your packaging smaller or more production / energy efficient your customers will want to know about it. Take a leaf from the book of brands like Heinz and Coca Cola. Wear your commitment to sustainability on your sleeve. One way in which you could to this is to use a QR code in your packaging that links to a landing page showing all that you’re doing to improve your brand’s sustainability. 

However you choose to deploy it, limited edition custom packaging can lend a new lease of life to your food product branding!


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