Packaging mistakes and misfires

By Rick Lingle in Packaging Design on July 23, 2015

Can you spot what’s wrong with the back of this carton? It’s an example of a failure or blooper that, however rare, does occur in an imperfect world and in packaging.

I’d come across the above cartoned  package of branded, imported spring rolls two years back  and held on to it thinking I’d someday write about it. That day has finally come, thanks to the inspiration from a wry, laugh-a-minute presentation on packaging design by John Nunziato of Little Big Brands during Packaging Digest’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in July.

We’ll get back to my find at the end of this article, but first we wanted to share a selection of Nunziato’s extensive list of packaging bloopers. They demonstrate what can happen when you take your eye off the ball, or in these instances, off of the packaging during development, design or packaging production.

Nunziato presented far more examples that drew louder laughs than these few, but we condensed them for reasons of practicality and, frankly, in order to keep this family-friendly for a general viewing audience. Obviously these are best seen, but due to copyright we’ve had to default to a description only:

One of his examples showed what can happen when a jam’s homey warm and fuzzy, family-friendly messaging gets messed up in a major way right on the label with branding that states “Tastes like Grandma.” Mmmm...gramma?!

He also had several examples of mispackaged produce, including blueberries in wrapped cartons clearly marked as Strawberries and corn cobs packed in large mesh bags with large labels stating Onions. Things must become very hectic and confusing during produce packaging, though it’s astonishing that something that seems so straightforward can go so wrong.


Poor spout?

Lest you think only produce packers make such mistakes, he showed a number of others, including a head-scratching incident where an aseptic carton’s spout was applied to the opposite side of the carton’s top instead of over where the peel-off laminate opening was located. Knowing that aseptic cartoning operations are large, high-throughput systems, we’re thinking that this wasn’t the only carton that made it outside the plant and onto a consumer’s table. I’d say this effort makes it far more a “poor spout” than a pour spout.

Downstream operations are also a place where errors can creep in, such as a shrink-film wrapped multipack of Fanta orange soda that included a rogue bottle of red-labeled Coca-Cola standing out against a film-wrapped sea of orange.  It showed what can happen when there’s only a 99.9% level of quality assurance along with a changeover that wasn’t quite 100% cleared out, either.

Another example was of a spoon in a blister pack marked as being a fork. It is so wrong it’s a wonder it ever made it to store display where the picture was taken. At least they had the adjacent knives properly packaged and labeled.

Nunziato ended his talk on a more serious note with an example of what may be the penultimate case study example of a major misfire on a package redesign: Tropicana orange juice, which has become the clichéd poster child for a redesign gone wrong. Nunziato found a silver—orange, actually—lining to this effort when he pointed out the great, brand-equity-gaining orange-like closure. The closure was lost amidst the hoopla surrounding a redesign that caused considerable consumer backlash.

Contact Nunziato at Little Big Brands for more examples or for how to properly plan, design and execute a great packaging design.

Did you spot the mistake on the back of the carton yet? It’s found in the Nutrition Facts box, or rather not found there because the % Daily Values are missing. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before or since coming across that mistake, which my former editor would say was an “egregious” one.

Whether egregious or humorous, we invite you to share those packaging fails that you’ve seen by writing a comment below. If you prefer and if you have any photo evidence, please sent it to our attention at [email protected] and add “Blooper” to the subject line.


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Sent via email: This blooper goes back 30 or so years. I was working for a corrugated box company. We made master cartons for a small greeting card company. The client used the word “occasion” in their tag line. It seems that it was misspelled on the plates. From proofs thru plate manufacture thru numerous printings, no one caught the somewhat obvious misprint. Making it even more embarrassing was the fact that the cartons were for a greeting card company. Bill Weinstein, EDWARD SIDER & CO.