Part 6: Developing Your Packaging
In Part 4, I gave you a template query letter for connecting with a reputable co-packer. Now that you have a facility who will make your product, it’s time to develop your product packaging.
Unless you are a packaging ninja, I encourage you to outsource as much of this part of the process as possible. It is easy to get stuck in the weeds on this one, and as long as you can convey your ideas to an experienced professional, you should be in good hands.
How To Source Your Packaging
There are entire industry newsletters related to food product packaging. For now, let’s not overthink it. My suggestion to quickly identify your ideal package is to spend an hour at your specialty grocery store and take note of what else is on the shelf.
Be sure to seek out products that are unrelated to yours, as you may find a packaging style that could set your product apart from similar products on the shelf. Have a potato chip snack product? Take a look in the frozen food aisle. Have a primo baby food concept? Take a peek at the jams and jellies.
If you see something you like, look for some sort of minuscule print, likely hidden from plain view, that notes the company name that created the packaging. Snap some pics with your smartphone, then go home and research their product lines, pricing, and be sure to inquire about any volume discounts. Make sure their packaging will work on your chosen production line, and be sure to get the exact dimensions of the packaging before moving on to the next step.
Define Your Value Proposition
Before you can design your snazzy packaging, you need to revisit your product offering (see Part 1). What is your value proposition for the end user?
Like the classic Miller Lite ad (“Tastes Great! Less Filling!”), try to come up with something bold and succinct. Consider variations on your value proposition, and take a survey of customers at your local grocery store or farmers market (perhaps while offering free samples) to gauge their reaction to various value propositions.
How Will Your Product Stand Out On The Shelf?
Again, don’t overthink this one. Go back to your specialty grocery store and snap some pics of product packaging that speaks to you. Note any colors, fonts, or other layout choices that serve as cues for your aesthetic vision. We took some cues for our ice cream packaging from a bubble bath company!
Trust The Artist!
Now that you’ve identified your packaging dimensions and have a general sense of your value proposition and design aesthetic, I suggest you let go and pass your ideas off to a professional graphic designer.
There are ways to save a little money on this. Have a rudimentary understanding of Adobe Illustrator or similar design program? Great, knock yourself out coming up with some rough concepts. Want to see a multitude of rough ideas without breaking the bank? Sites like Fiverr and Upwork offer a great way to connect with artists (often living in non-US countries) who are able to do quality mockup work for a very affordable rate.
Ultimately, you should be prepared to pay a fair wage to a freelance artist who has ample experience developing food packaging. They should be able to share prior work they’ve completed that went to print; this way you can be sure that they’ve dealt with packaging companies before, and all the minor headaches that can come up (like working with FDA layout guidelines for nutritional panels, or limitations related to colors, embossing, foils, or other elements that you may have not considered).
Make sure your contract with the designer includes a specific number of revisions, so you know how many times you can tweak your ideas before going to print.
Creating A Nutritional Panel and Ingredient Statement
Last but not least, you’ll need a nutritional panel and ingredient statement. This is another aspect that is best left to the professionals. Once you have finalized your ingredient statement with your co-packer, you’ll need to send the statement and a product sample off to a nutritional panel service. There are many companies that can do this for you.
Now that you have your manufacturing plan lined up and your packaging design has been sent to the printers, it’s time actually sell your product! We’ll discuss this next in Part 6: Distributing Your Product.