When you think of a natural product, do you think of muted colors, green and brown earthy tones and kraft paper — to represent healthy, all natural, simple/clean ingredients, wholesome, maybe even organic and non-GMO? Think again.
Natural products certainly looked their expected part when they first started to enter the marketplace. Now that more and more of these products are flooding the retail scene and becoming more mainstream, it’s no longer necessary for natural products to look as the consumer assumes these products should look.
The gourmet consumer is accustomed to shopping for healthy and natural products, and therefore no longer requires the typical visual cues of looking healthy and natural to indicate such.
In fact, when a product looks as a consumer expects, it may even work against the product. In this case, there is no surprise element — nothing stands out to the consumer as different and exciting. Since a product typically has only a 2–3 second window on the retail shelf to capture the consumer’s attention, playing it safe by doing what the consumer expects is not the way to go.
When a product’s appearance surprises the consumer, it makes a unique connection in the small window of opportunity that it has with a “wow” factor. Something remarkable stops them and gets their attention. This inspires them into action to the next step in the package’s selling process — to pick up the product to learn more.
It’s important to consider context as well. In specialty food shops, the consumer is already shopping in a store that they know they can trust to have products fitting a certain type of category — further eliminating the need for the stereotypical natural look.
In commercial grocery stores however, it might still make sense for the product’s appearance to touch on some traditional visual cues of natural and healthy. The commercial audience is different than that of gourmet or specialty food, and commercial consumers may still rely on expected visual cues to indicate natural and healthy.
A product that delights and surprises the consumer by making a unique connection is put in a spotlight in the consumer’s mind. It stands out from the competition, and inspires action in that 2–3 second window of opportunity. Furthermore, once purchased and in the home, the product continues to strengthen the connection with the consumer to inspire the repeat sale.