As shoppers stroll through grocery store aisles, they are bombarded with countless logos and designs on product packaging. But what is it that actually gets the attention of today’s consumer and convinces them to grab an item off the shelf?

Despite what one may think, design and appearance of product packaging doesn’t have the biggest influence on shopper behavior. According to recent research conducted by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), only 14% of U.S. consumers say appearance / design is the most important factor in their grocery shopping decision. Manufacturers need to consider the full range of packaging aspects that are influencing consumers’ behaviors to purchase groceries.   

Focus on functionality

According to the APP study, 40% of U.S. consumers said functionality in grocery product packaging is the most important factor in their purchasing decision. Americans expect product packaging to possess a variety of qualities, such as providing product protection, making the item easy to access, being reusable and making the item easily transported.

When it comes to functionality, manufacturers should keep Baby Boomers – the generation with the largest purchasing power – top of mind. Forty-five percent of Baby Boomers ranked functionality as the most important factor in product packaging, compared to only 34% of Millennials. Understanding Baby Boomers’ purchasing behaviors is especially important as the packaging functionality needs of this aging demographic evolve.

Sustainability & environmental impact

In general, consumers are conscious of sustainability and environmental impact considerations when grocery shopping. Half of all respondents in the APP research noted that these attributes are extremely or very important in a grocery store setting.

This focus on sustainability also applies specifically to product packaging. In fact, 23% of respondents indicated that when making food or grocery purchasing decisions, the products’ packaging being made from recycled or sustainable materials was the most important aspect. Many large packaging companies recognize the importance of sustainable packing and are investing millions in sustainability initiatives due to the growing consumer demand.                  

Size does matter   

Finally, when it comes to grocery packaging, size does matter. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of U.S. shoppers noted the size of the package is the most important factor in their grocery shopping decision – right up there with packaging made from recycled / sustainable materials.

Packaging size is a fundamental step decided at the earliest stage of design and development. And while groceries use to offer little variety in packaging sizes, U.S. shopper demands and their evolving lifestyles has made this step more important than ever. Manufacturers should consider the distinctive lifestyle needs of different generations when it comes to packaging size. 

In order to get grocery products off the shelves and into consumers’ hands, packaging functionality, size and sustainable impact all need to be taken into consideration.