International Men’s Day took place last week and it got us thinking about gender packaging, why food manufacturers choose to make their product gender specific and how it affects consumer choice.
Possibly one of the most overt examples of gender packaging is the Yorkie chocolate bar by Nestle which explicitly states it’s not for girls on the packaging and this is reinforced through its marketing campaign.
Researchers have found that women who bite into a Yorkie bar could enjoy the product more than if it was marketed towards women or indeed was gender neutral.
A study which appeared in Social Psychology suggests that the gendered way a product is packaged may affect how people think and taste.
Researchers asked participants – 58 men and 82 women – to taste-test a blueberry muffin.
When the participants ate the muffin labelled as a ‘Mega Muffin’, covered in more ‘masculine’ packaging with images of men playing football, both men and women rated the muffin tastier than when it was wrapped in ‘feminine’ packaging, with a woman ballet dancer on the packet.
In addition, researchers found that the participants did not respond positively to mixed gender signals. Food with mixed-gender marketing was reported tasting bad even though the muffins were all the same.
Interestingly, the study also found that the taste-testers were also willing to pay more for the ‘Mega Muffin’.
It is not uncommon to see more healthy foods wrapped in packaging which is deemed feminine whilst foods which are categorised as less healthy are packaged with a more masculine design.
According to Luke Zhu, lead researcher in the study above, it comes down to built in cultural stereotypes about food, for example, baked chicken is seen as feminine and fried chicken masculine.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen to sales of gender-neutral products, such as food, if the gender specific packaging was switched around from feminine to masculine and vice versa?
Would shoppers choose food they actually enjoyed or would the packaging sway them?
Currently, at LINPAC, packaging design is less about gender and more about functionality and performance – ensuring the pack protects, preserves and presents food well and ticks all the right boxes when it comes to environmental sustainability.
Creating a tray for burgers or a container for muffins which is to be targeted specifically at one gender would certainly present our innovation team with an interesting project.