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How Pretty Packaging Gets People to Purchase Unhealthy Foods

Updated on September 9, 2013
Kristine Manley profile image

Kris Manley is a blogger, author, and speaker. She's a guest on radio in the U.S., Canada, and overseas, as well as a guest on network TV.

Grocery Store Aisle
Grocery Store Aisle | Source

The food industry is extremely smart, but consumers need to be smarter. The groups that are targeted the most by the food industry are women and children. Yes, men grocery shop too, but nine out of ten times, in a family, it’s the woman who does the grocery shopping, and sometimes the kids tag along for the ride. For the food industry a winning combination is for Mom and the kids to shop together at the grocery store. Why? Women and children are drawn to colors particularly pastels, purples, pinks, light blues, soft greens etc. Women like to see what the meal can look like and that is why processed foods have photos of the prepared meal on the box or carton. Don’t you just love a photo of strawberries on the outside of a yogurt carton, but you know that there are no strawberries that look like that inside the carton? Kids are attracted to the funny characters on the packaging as well as the photo of what that cookie looks like inside the box. Perception is half the battle of selling. The only thing is with pretty packaging comes pricier packaging, and that price is passed down to the consumer. Even the text on the packaging is pretty or fancy.

Pretty Package Design
Pretty Package Design | Source

Who designs all that pretty food packaging?

Well, there are food package designers whose jobs are to entice those would be grocery shoppers to purchase products. Package designers have a range of talents and work for various companies including food manufacturers. Colleges and universities offer a wide range of design degrees such as the Bachelor's Degree of Product Design Engineering Technology offered at Ferris State University. Graduates from this degree program can effectively, coupled with a company's marketing department, engage within a design environment, develop sketches and drawings, develop layouts and multi-dimensional shapes and surfaces, and develop packaging prototypes. Carnegie Mellon University offers The Master of Product Development Program, and The Academy of Art University offers the Master of Fine Arts with concentrations in Furniture Design, Product Design, Toy Design, and Transportation Design. Food packaging design is no mistake - it is targeted and very purposeful, and designed to bring in as much money as possible for food manufacturers.


Tools of a Food Stylist


Who makes the food look so appetizing on the food packaging?

The saying goes that we eat with our eyes first, so who makes the food on the package look so appetizing? Food Stylists make food look appetizing in and on so many avenues which include:

  • Food packaging
  • Magazine Ads
  • TV Commercials
  • In Movie Scenes
  • On Websites
  • Restaurant Openings
  • Coffee Table Books
  • Cookbooks

Yes, there are jobs for people who style food - who make the food look good on a plate. You heard of photo shoots for models, well there are food photo shoots. The food is placed "just so" on plates, the lighting has to be right, the background has to be right, the location for the food photo shoot has to be right, and even if there is a narrator he or she must "sound" just right for the food being presented. Degrees are not offered in Food Styling, but a Food Stylist does need a culinary degree. Have you heard the phrase, "Looks are everything"? Well, with a Food Stylist looks are everything when it comes to food. They are not concerned about how the food tastes, but how attractive it needs to appear in order to draw people in to purchase that item.

Unusual Tools for the Food Stylist

You will be surprised to know what Food Stylists use to make food look so appetizing. Here's a sample of their food styling arsenal.

  • Tweezers
  • Hair Dryer
  • Q-tips
  • Paint Brushes (different sizes)
  • Sewing Needles
  • Lipstick (to color fruit and make it appear much more rich in color)
  • Aspirin (to give more fizz to a beverage)
  • Glue
  • Transparent Tape
  • Scissors
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Blow Torch
  • Putty Knife

Do you read food packaging labels?

See results

Keeping the Public distracted

A well distracted and uneducated Public is key to selling processed foods. Distractions from the packaging, food appearance, celebrity endorsements, and time-saving or quick and easy meals bombard our everyday lives. Even media endorsements of processed foods derail the Public from reading and researching on their own - call it laziness. Foods in pretty packaging have caused alarming health issues with high salt contents, coloring agents, nutrient deficient vegetables, hormone ladened meats, and other GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods. Keep this in mind - if the food packaging is pretty, what's inside is probably NOT good for you. Be a label reader and not a package pleaser.


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    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Kris, thanks. I work in the food industry and it's amazing how savvy the marketing can be within companies in order for them to sell more products.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      It's amazing (and sad) what companies and stores will do to sell a product. You've done a great job of bringing this to light! What's even worse is some of lengths companies will take to preserve "fresh" whole foods so they still look good weeks later after harvest. Voted up and sharing!

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Daisy, thanks.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes, I agree that the pretty labels are hard to resist at times.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      The pretty labels are very tempting - I do read the back to see what is in the product, but it is hard to resist the pretty picture on the front.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      What an interesting article! You've brought out some points I hadn't thought about for a while, and mentioned several that were new to me.

    • Letitialicious profile image

      Letitialicious 5 years ago from Paris via San Diego

      You've made an excellent point. Fooling us about our food is a whole industry in itself! When I think Monsanto and company spent $45 million to defeat California's proposition simply to label genetically modified foods, it makes crazy! That said, I can't resist cookies in a pretty package, no matter how much crap they've got in them!

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Glimmer, I know what you mean, but food companies love for kids to shop with their parents so that everything does end up in the cart. LOL!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Great hub and spot on. It's amazing how we are drawn to packaging. I try not to bring my daughter with me when I shop or everything ends up in the cart.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Christy, thanks. I work in the food industry, so I see some of the tricks, oh, I mean advertising - LOL!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is so true! I have thought this but never could have written it as well as you - great points. Now how do we tell more consumers - oh I know I will share here and on Google+ too

    • alphagirl profile image

      alphagirl 5 years ago from USA

      Having worked in media when it comes to packaging, some words are definitely misleading! All natural and anti biotic does not mean a cow is grass fed! As a consumer you need to educate yourself and read labels.

      When it comes to food styling you do not always need a culinary background eiither. You have to have a creative mind and somewhat scientific.

      An example is shooting icecream! You can't use any chemicals for a photo shoot to make it look delicious! You have to have lots of icecream a fast lense to shoot! You will shoot many for the right picture!

      Having artful eye and understanding composition and lighting is helpful.

      I love beautiful packaging! But I read it to make sure it has no corn syrup or that it has no dyes and artificial sugars!

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I do agree with you about the marketing piece - no one is going to be drawn to an ugly package, but most of the time it's what's inside the pretty package that is not healthy.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Speaking from a marketing point of view, it is the package design that attracts a consumer. I have had to spend time helping to design packages that would make them stand out from the competition. There are standards that they must follow, can't advertise falsely and it's does help to keep us informed. Good hub topic and interesting to read.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Kelley, thanks.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      The consumer MUST protect themselves.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I love farmers' markets and having a chance to speak to the growers.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I attended a food photo shoot and watched a Food Stylist at work - it was very interesting to watch.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I have to agree with you. The food never looks the same when out of the box or carton.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      What an interesting hub. A blow torch??? I remember hearing once how those Thanksgiving turkeys looks so great is because they undercook them and blow torch the outside giving that beautiful crispy outside and tender middle, that could kill you to say the least. Now I know why my turkeys never look as good. Voted up and shared! Loved this...Kelley

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      This is stunning! Paint Brushes, Scissors ...who will protect the common consumer. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image

      Vanderleelie 5 years ago

      Packaging can indeed be as seductive and misleading as you have described here. You have provided several good reasons to shop at farmers' markets where food is unpackaged, and the consumer can see the product and talk to the grower about agricultural methods.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Wow! I learned a lot from this Hub. Never heard of food stylists. I'm not surprised though.

      I agree with everything you say. The food never looks in real life what it looked like on the package!

      I voted this Hub Up, and will share.

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 5 years ago from Indiana

      This is a great hub! Very useful information for anyone that doesn't read the labels. I've always been surprised how many people out there really do buy the item because of the photo on the outside of the box. The food NEVER looks that good when it comes out. We don't eat processed food but I know a lot of people that do!