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March 27, 2013

Packaging Impact: Green is healthier?

by KevinW

A recent article by the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/if-its-green-it-must-be-healthy/274131/) explores the findings of a Cornell study on the effects of packaging color on perceptions of healthiness. Participants were asked to envision purchasing a candy bar and then shown either a package with either green or red background for nutrition data. Those participants shown the green backgrounds rated the candy bars as seeming significantly healthier than those with other color backgrounds, despite both sets of packaging displaying identical nutrition information.

Findings like this reinforce the notion that even subtle changes to packaging can have real impact on product perception, and ultimately consumer purchasing behavior. Usage of the color green could also be impacting consumers’ perceptions in other ways, since the color has become synonymous with environmental conscientiousness. The combination of these two insights can be particularly important for the food industry and its packaging as employing the color green can combine both influences on customer perception of both brand ethos and product healthiness.

Adopting a green-heavy packaging strategy should be considered carefully. While placement of the color in key locations like nutritional information boxes can affect customer perceptions, over-usage of the color can appear to be an attempt at insincere representation, especially for foods widely acknowledged to be unhealthy. Green coloring should also not clash with other colors that may be more salient for a particular product.  For instance, potato chip packages should use green minimally, if at all, because reds or yellows are more important for conveying messages about product taste and the food is universally viewed as unhealthy.

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