Even the slightest damage to frozen food packaging has a direct impact on brand loyalty, with 72% of consumers viewing the retailer as offering lower value products than its competitors, according to a study conducted by Perception Research Services (PRS) in partnership with packaging firm MeadWestvaco.
Among the 450 men and women surveyed (aged 21 to 74), one-quarter (25%) also questioned the quality of the brand whose packaging was damaged.
Study participants were exposed to visuals of macaroni and cheese packaged products, all with varying degrees of packaging damage. Participants were monitored with eye-tracking software, which measures the ability of a package to stand out on the shelf and hold the consumer's attention, and simultaneously questioned about product impression, appeal, and other attributes. Finally, they were invited to comment on a side-by-side comparison of undamaged and damaged packages.
The study's results suggest that favourable impressions of the store and the product diminish with damaged packaging. Furthermore, brand loyalty does not appear to influence purchasing decisions when a package is damaged.
Other highlights of the study included:
- Some consumers began to question the safety and taste of the food product when the package was only slightly damaged.
- 72% move a very damaged package to the side to select a competing product.
- Only 27% would purchase a damaged package they have inadvertently picked up, whereas the rest would return the item to the shelf and, if another undamaged package is not available, buy that of a competitor or just walk away from a purchase.
- 25% of the most brand-loyal shoppers do not perceive a product in a very damaged package to be either fresh or appetising, and said they would not feel good about eating the product.
"Almost universally, when given an option, shoppers distrusted any damaged package," said PRS' director of shopper insights and point-of-sale research, Lily Lev-Glick. "For a retailer, this becomes a very slippery slope. Three quarters of customers are going to view a damaged package as reflective of the quality of the store. What this says to retailers is they need to give thought to advocating a better way of packaging frozen foods so they don't lose the trust of consumers."