Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

November 6, 2017

8 Min Read
Strong packaging graphics also need ‘context’

Packages need compelling graphics to capture the shopper’s attention. That’s a given. But when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a package design, environment and competition matter—as two recent correlated studies show.

The two studies were:

1. The Packaging Digest “Who Wore It Better” poll (see results of our earlier Who Wore It Better poll on Extra Virgin Olive Oil packages).

2. An eye-tracking study. Sara Shumpert, director of The Packaging School and member of Packaging Digest’s Editorial Advisory Board, offered to augment our Who Wore It Better poll with more research data via an eye-tracking study so we could compare the results.

The winning package in our Who Wore It Better poll of four different Jerky pouches is not the same as the winner in the subsequent eye-tracking study of the same packages, based on the percent of people who selected the product for purchase in a mock-store environment. The No.1 and No.2 packages swap spots between the two studies.

Why the different results? First, the audience was different. For the Packaging Digest Who Wore It Better poll, respondents were packaging professionals either critiquing a peer’s work or reacting as a consumer (or both). For the eye-tracking study, a dozen students donned goggles and viewed an end-aisle display as if they were shopping.

Second, the online Who Wore It Better poll relied on images (front and back) of the packages. The eye-tracking study had actual sample pouches that participants could pick up.

In either case, though, the graphic design was the primary purchase driver since the package itself was the same for all four brands: a four-side-sealed pouch with a top center peg hole.

Shumpert gives some perspective on the difference between the two studies: “How people respond when prompted and given time to process versus how they react on a subconscious level when shopping is inherently different,” Shumpert says. “In a grocery store, 90% of consumers will make their purchase decision after only looking at the front of a package, and 85% of these consumers will purchase an item without ever picking up any alternative products. Humans principally shop with their eyes, so the visual stimuli present at the point of sale has a profound influence on the consumer’s decision to purchase.”

So let’s look at the results…

Who Wore It Better results

In September and October 2017, we asked the packaging community to vote for the packaging design they liked best out of four Jerky pouches. The “Who Wore It Better” poll—shared online and through social media—garnered 86 respondents with Jack Link’s coming out on top with 43% of respondents selecting it as their favorite. Chef’s Cut, which only had a photo of the front of the package, won second place at 29%.


Of the 86 respondents, 62 explained why they made the choice they did. Shoppability, simplicity and ability to see the product were the top reasons. Here are a few of their comments for each package.

Respondents who picked Jack Link’s said:

“Clearly identifies Jerky versus exercise, cowboy or bull.”

“Seemed to present better for content and nutritional values. Chefs cut nice graphic but it wasn’t clear that it was jerky and didn’t show nutritional content (no back view). Others too busy.”

“I can quickly read it, my eyes gravitate towards (company) ‘Jack Link’s’ & Teriyaki (flavor)—more pictures is a bit distracting.”

“Protein, calorie and fat free show best. Overall design probably is easiest to see in store.”

“Window, bold colors, good use of gloss and matte elements.”

“I can strongly identify myself with this packaging and this brand!”

“The JL package utilizes the nutritional callouts better than the other 3 packages. It seems less cluttered and more readable. Unfortunately, the matte spot finish misses the mark for the JL package. The Oberto package makes better use of this feature. While the non-traditional look of the Oberto package looks great, I don’t think it was enough of a difference to overcome the bright look of the JL package.”

“Clean lines, bold colors, decent sized window to see the product, clear nutrition front and back.”

Those who chose Chef’s Cut mostly liked its lean graphics:

“Essentialism in design is the new clean label. Chef's Cut literally cuts through the clutter and tells the consumer the essential pieces of info to make an informed purchasing decision.”

“Clean cut bold colors, simple colors, simple text and not much of it. Straight to the point.”

“Clean look; not busy.”

“Looks like a higher quality pouch.”

“Clean (meaning not busy graphics), straight to the point wording, use of bold colors, more eye appealing. Makes me want to read the back of the package as opposed to having to turn the package over for additional information.”

“Plain, simple, easy to read text and art. Not busy like the others. Looks high end and with colors used.”

Packaging professionals liked Oberto’s “healthy” halo:

“The design gives a clean, lean and healthy food feel.”

“I like the bold graphics design layout including matte/gloss effects and emphasis on active lifestyles. Plus you get more product in the package for increased sustainability.”

“Lower salt & healthy image in graphics.”

“Stands out from the rest of the Jerky bags.”

“Window on both sides of packaging to see product and ingredients are quick to spot with easy read font size.”

Vastly in the minority, respondents who thought The Snack Artist package was best said:

“I liked the graphics and the hat window.”

“I like the glossy appearance and the squinty eyed cowboy.”

“The Snack Artist shows the product; and has bright, eye-catching colors and graphics.”

NEXT: The winner of the eye-tracking study is…


Eye-tracking study results

Shumpert, a Clemson University graduate familiar with eye-tracking technology, managed the eye-tracking study, and now provides more details and an analysis of the results:

Package InSight coordinated an eye-tracking study at the CUshop, a consumer experience laboratory at Clemson University’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics, to quantify the on-shelf appeal of the jerky packages. CUshop is a realistic shopping environment featuring three 12-foot shopping aisles, a frozen food section, produce area and simulated open refrigeration.

“The purpose of eye tracking is to eliminate subjective bias and capture consumers’ reactions at the point of sale as they would occur at the store. Participants were asked to shop for beef jerky.

“The products in the jerky study stayed static and there was no positional bias from the planogram setup. The likely winner on an end cap, if there was a positional bias, would be the top left. The top left has been proven to be the highest attractor of attention on an end-cap display.

“The results were that 50% purchased the Chef’s Cut jerky, 33% purchased the Jack Link’s and 17% purchased the Oberto brand during the short pilot study of 12 people on October 13. Clemson graduate students and undergraduate students participated in this study; and we had 55% female and 45% male breakdown.

“These three graphs show more data to explain the heat map (above), specifically the Total Fixation Duration graph.


“The time in seconds from when a product first enters a participant’s field of view until they fixate on it is defined as the Time To First Fixation (TTFF). The lower the number, the better the package performed in this instance. TTFF starts when the eye hits the defined Area of Analysis (AOA), so run order was not an issue. TFD (Total Fixation Duration), is the time, in seconds, spent on average by participants fixating on this item. The higher the number, the better the package performed. This metric measures the sum of the duration of all fixations within an Area of Interest (AOI). Fixation Count (FC) is the total number of times a participant’s scan of the planogram crossed into a particular area of interest.

“Looking at the Total Fixation Duration graph, Chef’s Cut performed the best within the competitive array, however not significantly better than the Oberto brand. It was looked at 30% longer than Jack Link's and 60% longer than The Snack Artist.


“For the Time To First Fixation metric, Jack Links and Chef’s cut were noticed the quickest, though not significantly different from each other or the Oberto brand. All three were noticed quicker than the Snack Artist brand. Jack Link’s was noticed 64% quicker than The Snack Artist, Chef’s Cut 57% quicker and Oberto 44% quicker.


“For the Fixation Count metric, Oberto was looked at the most times, though not significantly different than either Chef’s Cut or Jack Link’s. All three were looked at significantly more times than The Snack Artist. Oberto was looked at 58% more times, Chef’s Cut 53% more times and Jack Link’s 47% more times.

“A further analysis can be performed to identify what specific aspects of the jerky pouches drew consumers’ attention. The next step in the typical Package InSight process is to redesign the target package leveraging the data gathered in the study. Design, Test, Redesign.

“By using a combination of subjective and objective data, through a process of trial and error, any consumer brand can go to market with the confidence that they will succeed on shelf.

“If you’re interested in adding eye tracking to your marketing toolkit, contact Drew Felty at [email protected].”


Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like