Monday, 7 March 2011

Down with over-packaging

When it comes to product packaging design, I think sometimes less is more. Multiple layers of packaging not only frustrate the conscious consumer, they also make them feel guilty for supporting the creation of excessive waste. Packaging should be practical, recyclable and enhance the product being sold – not completely cover it up. If it’s a quality product, it should be able to stand mostly on its own.

One area of the retail sector that I think completely misses the mark when it comes to packaging is supermarket produce. When I visited my first UK grocery store, I was pretty shocked that almost all the fruits and vegetables were pre-packaged. When you think of produce, you want fresh, straight from the farm, just picked. Not bagged, bar-coded and shrink wrapped. To me, the displays at my local Morrison’s, ASDA and Tesco just scream processed.

My first assumption was that there are some laws or regulations in the UK saying that produce must be sold this way, but I couldn’t find anything to back this up in my research. It would appear that some prefer pre-packaged produce. Pre-washed or already prepared products are convenient and save time. It comes across as more sanitary than lose fruits and veg that are free to be touched, squeezed or sneezed on before being thrown back in the pile. I would also assume it’s easier for the retailer to process at check out as the items are already weighed and priced. Though I think these are valid arguments, I would say they do not outweigh the negative impact over-packaged produce has on the environment and my appetite.

When it comes to creating a successful retail environment for produce, I think the key lies in interior and display design. Though I can’t yet afford to shop there (one day!), I absolutely love to browse the produce section at Whole Foods. Mimicking the feel of a local farmers market, the displays are meticulously arranged with highly polished product piled up in unique, rustic-looking baskets, crates and boxes. Yum!


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