I honestly don’t know how this happened but somewhere along my career path I became the food girl. Literally, from soup to nuts, I’ve worked on it. And besides being to blame for the many fluxes in my weight management (I challenge YOU to search for dumpling imagery and NOT eat them everyday for a week) I have enjoyed every minute of it.
The many restrictions put on food packaging that some might find challenging, I find exhilarating. Ad campaigns have free range to get creative––take, for example, the wonderful Oreo commercials that aired over the last year or so. And then compare that to the Oreo Packaging––it’s not BAD exactly––it’s just very literal. Because ambiguity is the enemy of food packaging and we don’t want any surprises when we open that box, unless, you know, they are really GOOD surprises. But still it’s the possibilities that keep me intrigued. Some of my more brilliant ideas could see the light of day one day right (pig wearing a bow tie as a pork sausage mascot anyone?)?
Some brands have successfully broken the paradigm, such as Campbell’s Go soup and the now defunct Kashi Good Friends cereal that feature people on the front of pack, but they are few and far between and it’s unclear what benefit they really serve.
Because the truth is beautiful food photography is what sells. As one of our clients calls it, we all “taste with our eyes,” and that is exactly why going grocery shopping when you’ve skipped lunch is a really bad idea. Gone are the days of badly clipped bowls of soup resting on a flat color background. Today’s food photography is next level, driven by a cultural trend that has gained momentum through celebrity chefs and endless TV food shows. Blogs like Smitten Kitchen, Spoon Fork Bacon, What Katie Ate and Drizzle and Dip do more than recite recipes; they feature works of art served up in delicious nuggets (chicken if you so desire), taking you carefully and beautifully through a process that looks impossibly easy in brightly lit, flawless kitchens. Highly aspirational and tugging at our core, we want to eat it AND have that life too!
And this has lead to a fierce battle in social media between food companies looking to be the most creative, delicious, appealing or mouthwatering. And that’s a good thing. Packaging is often one of the last places we see cultural change, but it’s happening now. The big food guys are quickly realizing that the old way of food photography––counting vegetables making sure every ingredient is represented and flawlessly styled––is, well, table stakes. Great at representing what is in the pack but it’s no longer making it into shopping carts. We want an experience too!
British retailers like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and PL stores like Trader Joe’s, have become experts at this––dialing up the appeal to compete with known brand trust. They know that sex isn’t the only thing that sells––people want a little wine and cheese with that, a slice of cake or a scoop of gooey caramel pudding. Damn, there I go again. Anyone hungry?
So maybe that pig in a bow tie is in poor taste. What I really want for dinner is an ooey-gooey, drippy, crunchy, sweet and salty, delicious, irresistible, truly scrumptious…
(photo credit Francesco Tonelli)