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4 Hot Trends in Fresh Food Branding & Packaging

By Vanessa Doll

Four key branding and packaging trends we’re noticing in the fresh perimeter.

The fresh perimeter is the biggest growth opportunity in grocery retailing — and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Consumer interest in fresh food is sparking retailers to expand their offerings: If the term “fresh perimeter” once referred to produce, meat and dairy, it now encompasses fresh snacks, to-go items, and healthy options consumers crave.

As this space gets ever more popular — and crowded — fresh food brands need to stay ahead of the curve. What should you be watching for? Here are four key branding and packaging trends we’re noticing in the fresh perimeter.

Photos by Carina Giacomelli

What’s Working in the Fresh Perimeter

1.New Simplicity

For a long time, the fresh perimeter was dominated by bold colors and high-gloss finishes. Being bright-and-shiny was an effective and easy way for brands to catch consumers’ eyes.

But, as shoppers seek more food products that are clean, wholesome, and authentic, we’re seeing a new trend emerge — one grounded in simplicity.

We’re seeing brands respond with simpler, frills-free designs that are clean and inviting. While the simplicity trend has been playing out in other industries and categories for some time, it’s now really catching on with fresh food brands.

This means a departure from shouting on the shelf. Instead, modern fresh brands lean towards a clean, more neutral look with softer color palettes, matte finishes, natural-looking elements, serif typefaces, and negative space. It’s a trend we think we’re going to see more and more as brands look to rise above the noise, feel more real, and communicate transparency.

New Simplicity: B&W Power4 and Chobani Savor

Who’s doing it well: Chobani’s redesign, best demonstrated by its new squeezable Greek yogurt, is a great example of this new simplicity in fresh food packaging. It’s sophisticated, wholesome and warm but grounded in neutrality. In the produce category, B&W’s new Power4 blend of nutritious super greens leverages heritage with modern, clean aesthetics.

2. Healthy Convenience

While more consumers may be shopping the perimeter, many are still looking for easy solutions for meals and snacks, a convenience they’re accustomed to from food brands found in the middle of the store. Prompted by healthy-living lifestyles like Whole30 or keto, they’re trying to eat better, but still looking for help. Which brings us to Trend 2 — healthy convenience.

We’re noticing more brands marrying two attributes: (1) products that provide ease and convenience for meals and snacking with (2) fresh, natural, healthy ingredients

This convenience mindset is new to fresh food, which means that fresh brands are now having to develop packaging beyond plastic wraps and PLU stickers. We’re seeing more individually and pre-portioned snacks, grab-and-go formats, and mess-free packaging. Additionally, many brands are going the extra step to appeal to consumers by adopting eco-friendly solutions like compostable vessels and recyclable cardboard sleeves.

Like all food found in the perimeter, the fresh messaging is paramount. We’re seeing a real push to spotlight ingredients with appetizing photography and vibrant colors.

Healthy Convenience: The Fresh Market’s Market Meal Kits

Who’s doing it well: The HelloFresh meal kits are a good example. They’re 30-minute meals, using all fresh ingredients, packaged smartly with strong photography and eye-catching colors. Similarly, there are The Fresh Market meal kits which use cardboard sleeves to communicate ease of use, taste appeal and cooking instructions, while the plastic clamshell offers a peek at the fresh ingredients inside. Publix Aprons meal kits take a slightly different but equally effective approach, wrapping individual meal components in clear plastic bags and nesting the entire kit inside an open cardboard shell — conveying a fresh, “just packaged” vibe.

3. Brand-Defining Forms

Especially in dairy and dairy-alternatives, brands are breaking away from the traditional rectangular gallon jugs and paperboard cartons, entering the market with curvy vessels designed to entice consumers and signal a new experience. Innovative plant-based mylks, yogurts, and creamers are adopting proprietary forms pleasing to the eye, easy to grasp and more functional with reclosable flip-top lids.

What’s more, these unique shapes are brand-specific and thoroughly memorable. Used across the entire suite of products, they anchor the brand and stand out in a refrigerated case of sameness. For a relatively small investment, marketers are sidestepping the standardized library of packaging forms offered by suppliers and instead creating their own.

A revolutionary shape can be brand-defining, as it is for the home and personal care products brand Method, whose partnership with noted industrial designer Karim Rashid generated a category-busting package and launched the brand into Target stores.

Brand-Defining Forms: Califia and Ripple

Who’s doing it well: In dairy, Califia and Ripple plant-based products are standouts. Ripple opted for a retro shape that calls to mind old milk bottles, while Califia broke the mold with a modern, curvy form that catches the eye. In fact, Califia is running a campaign on social media headlined, “The New Shape of Dairy Free.”

4. Benefit-Driven Naming

As consumers focus on health, products are being renamed to highlight their benefits (like Taylor Farms “Protein Punch” Snack Tray) or reformulated as a new mix to grab shopper attention (like Organic Girl “Protein Greens”). As shoppers begin to prioritize more health-conscious lifestyles, we’re seeing brands take notice — luring consumers with benefit-driven naming.

With fresh food brands — even vegetables themselves — competing with each other for shelf attention, brands are emphasizing functional and nutritional benefits to hook consumers. We’re noticing a trend towards smarter naming and copy, with an emphasis on design cues, like color and illustration, to communicate those benefits.

Benefit-Driven Naming: Sargento’s Balanced Breaks and Organic Girl’s Protein Greens

Who’s doing it well: Sargento calls its on-the-go snack trays Balanced Breaks, while Taylor Farms Protein Punch snack pack adds veggies and ranch dressing to the mix. In the packaged salad greens category, Organic Girl highlights the 5 grams of protein per serving in its Protein Greens blend (check out the flexed bicep on the label). We expect to see more of these enhanced products as fresh eating continues to grow.

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