Are you a global brand leader trying to localize your product in China? How well do you know Chinese consumers? Do they even care or notice products from major and established players outside of the Eastern hemisphere? The market is up for grabs; how do brands win?

I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the Food and Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF) on April 18-20 in Shanghai, China. Attendees ranged from middle to upper-level management within food and beverage companies from various departments such as product development, brand management, marketing, packaging, ingredients and sourcing.

The show is increasingly popular because brand leaders are trying to accelerate the distribution of food and beverages in the region. The food and beverage category is being reshaped and there’s a growing need to understand how technology can assist with packaging in a commercially friendly way. With tools available like color control, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, workflow software and track and trace technologies, brands can hasten growth by connecting technologies, enhancing cross-department communication and simplifying their packaging processes.

Why “Color” at a Food and Beverage Show?

Many food and beverage brands are already familiar with Pantone, as it is the color standard. Global players understand and use Pantone’s color trends and forecasts to help them communicate with consumers.

Now local players in the Chinese market are also strengthening brand identity using Pantone’s color guides. I had the opportunity to present to FBIF attendees, to help them better understand color consistency issues across the packaging value chain and how color can combat issues such as counterfeiting.

Lure Your Customers with the Right Package Colors

In the world of food and beverage packaging, color works as a way to quickly find a preferred established brand in a sea of choices and to build a billboard effect for a new brand attempting to grab the attention of the same consumer. In fact, color increases brand recognition by 87 percent and it influences 65 to 85 percent of product purchasing.

It’s safe to say that color is important, yet color is not simple. Color has a drastic impact on product packaging and it can be difficult to ensure consistency across the value chain. For example, color can vary widely based on the substrate in which they are printed. Luckily, there are solutions available to help brands leapfrog into high-end package consistency.

I showcased our color maturity model so brand owners could grasp how to manage their colors on packaging and solve color challenges in progressive ways. In this framework, we think about color management tools as a technology, a digital ecosystem that enables you to extend guidance to your suppliers in delivering achievable results in line with your expectations.

I challenged attendees to find easier ways to solve color consistency problems without having a Ph.D. in color science, through a connected approach to packaging creation and production workflow.

And for the brands already familiar with the color maturity model, I suggested further reading: Digital Maturity Model for Brand Packaging. This framework helps graphic designers, marketers, packaging engineers and IT leaders better understand how to align synergies and elevate their packaging processes by utilizing digital technologies. Color is one of the delivery capabilities within the model, alongside shape and 3D, graphics and content. Using the framework, business leaders better understand their current state, determine where they’d like to be and what they need to do to get there.


I attended a few sessions and fascinated with knowledge presented and the holistic representation of global and local companies at FBIF. However, I surmised my experience with these key points:

  • Get your game face on. While it shouldn’t be a surprise that everyone in the world is trying to jump into China, I think it’s worth noting that it’s not just big brands entering the marketplace; I saw design agencies, packaging firms and product suppliers at FBIF. China has no loyalties to any particular company – meaning there are a lot of players in the game from all different facets of the business all around the world. You have to be adequately prepared to compete in an extremely competitive marketplace.
  • “Glocal” versus local. It’s also important to note that there’s a lot of local and regional brands, Chinese startups are playing alongside larger established South East Asia companies. These localized players have in-depth knowledge about the country, market needs and business operations. It is captivating to see this dynamic on Chinese retail shelves, showcasing the side-by-side battle of the true local brand vs. the “glocal” competitors. As the Chinese market continues to mature and the double-digit growth market growth rates move to high to low single digits, then the battle will be about share gain and shelf space.
  • The counterfeit conundrum. Brands experience different challenges in China than they do in other parts of the world. A local packaging leader told me that the color accuracy on the packaging is not just about signifying product quality – it’s about identifying authentic versus counterfeit products. For example, many in the retail world are familiar with the Chinese market’s luxury counterfeit goods problem. But counterfeiting impacts food and beverage, too. Packaging color consistency helps the consumer know that the product is real. In Western culture, we never consider the color of a packaged food product sold at the local retailer implies that it is counterfeit, but color really has that relevance and impact within food and beverage packaging in China.

If FBIF wasn’t on your radar before, it should be. It’s a truly fascinating show with a lot of innovative companies and ideas on how to successfully penetrate the Chinese marketplace.