Streamlining Food & Beverage Labels

Back to basics labels

Health conscious consumers are increasingly searching for products free of artificial ingredients and chemicals. Brand owners are successfully simplifying their products to meet this growing demand, but it remains a challenge to effectively communicate their product line’s “all natural” value proposition to shoppers. One solution is a “clean label” – packaging that reduces visual clutter and keeps copy to a minimum to allow the consumer to quickly scan relevant information.

A second option is a “clear label” that further simplifies messaging and instead relies on distinctive design characteristics of a package to connect with consumers. IN talked to Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of the Toronto-based design agency Shikatani Lacroix, about what the clear label trend means for brand owners and how packaging designers should respond.

What are the benefits of clear and clean labels?

Labels that provide a clear message regarding the product’s offering and point of difference increases the “shop-ability” of the brand – a key factor in the selection process. Clean labels, on the other hand, work hard at reducing visual clutter and the heavy use of copy to allow consumers to grasp the most relevant information when making a buying decision.

Brand owners are increasingly moving towards clear claims and packaging. What is driving this trend?

With less time to shop and more choices on the shelf, consumers are experiencing a higher level of anxiety due to the complexity of choices. With so much choice, customers are looking for stronger visual cues, such as product features and easier to understand product claims, to help make their buying decision. Purchase decisions are done in the blink of the eye. Allowing a product to stand out through a unique shape, feature and easy to grasp claim reduces shopper anxiety.

What can packaging designers do to enhance the clarity of the labels?

Designers need to challenge all elements on the package and evaluate them in three main groups. The first group, which we call "core", contains the essential brand elements that need to stand out on the package to maintain a cognitive relationship with customers. Without these core elements, the brand lacks recognition, which leads to brand equity dilution.

The second group refers to "detractors"- the design elements and messaging that bring no value to the purchase decision. These detractors may consist of irrelevant claims, a list of features that have become table stakes, or secondary design features that clash with the core elements of the brand. Lastly, "enhancers" consist of the final elements designers need to consider that enable the brand to evolve and remain relevant. Enhancers can consist of new relevant claims due to a product reformulation (less sugar or salt), a new portion control feature that makes using the product easier, or more contemporary graphics to reinforce relevancy. The key challenge for designers is to follow the “less is more” rule of design to ensure clarity on labels.

From a branding perspective, how can packaging design reflect the increasing demand for more transparency?

Consumers buy with their eyes and packaging that allows for clear visibility of the content helps drive their purchase decision. A well-known fruit drink brand using clear carafes is an example of leveraging transparency to reinforce the qualities and virtues of the brand. Similarly, an American tortilla chips brand uses packaging that features a see-through window to highlight the freshness and quality of the product.


Jean-Pierre Lacroix
President, Shikatani Lacroix Design Inc.

 Jean-Pierre Lacroix

Jean-Pierre Lacroix is the President and Founder of Toronto-based Shikatani Lacroix Design Inc., a multidisciplinary strategic design agency. Lacroix has experience in different industry sectors, having been a board member of the PackagingAssociation of Canada, Signs Canada, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design and the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. Lacroix has an in-depth understanding of leading trends in the retail, digital and packaging sector. Lacroix talks to IN about the necessity of moving towards simpler, more readable labels for brand owners.