Retro packaging inspired by deep nostalgia has taken over the marketing world in the last few years, especially in the food and beverage industry. But what may have started as a temporary design trend has seemingly evolved into a permanent branding strategy. Is it the right direction for your food product? And if so, when’s the perfect time to go with a vintage design?
Learn more about the appeal of vintage packaging and how to leverage your food product with it.
More food brands are tapping into the vintage feel than ever before. Whether it’s to appear more sophisticated, draw in new customers, or reference the brand’s history, this trend is far from out-of-the-ordinary. From soda bottles to crackers, chips, ice cream, and more, many companies are taking the expensive route and switching out their modern designs for classic fonts, images, and colors.
And whether it’s for a limited edition release or a permanent design change, this movement has seen immense success since its start in the mid-2010s. For varying reasons, customers seem to be especially drawn to these retro designs for one extremely persuasive element: nostalgia.
As we all know, nostalgia is an incredibly powerful psychological tool everyone can relate to. People love reminiscing on past experiences they feel good about, and this is especially true with food. Many people swear that some of their favorite food products tasted much better “back in the day,” and brands know this. For instance, consider how Pepsi re-introduced the sugar-sweetened version of their soda in 2010, a throwback to their classic recipe with the original package design to match.
In today’s digital world, especially, many people feel overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of modern living. We’re more likely to distrust things that aren’t familiar, and lots of people think that when it comes to branding and design, many companies are either too busy and unpredictable or overly minimalist and sterile. With these factors combined, people have longed for a time when things were simpler.
And contrary to popular opinion, nostalgic packaging isn’t just for older adults. Younger individuals are also influenced by nostalgia—but in a different sense. While older people reflect on the times they lived through and enjoyed with their friends and family, such as their childhood or college years, younger people may simply find themselves attracted to a particular aesthetic, even if for a period they didn’t live through. Food and beverage brands that address both of these pain points tend to do well.
Lots of food brands use limited edition products to push for a sense of nostalgia. But is that an effective strategy? Read our blog to learn more.
Four primary design elements make up nostalgia-based vintage package design: typography, images, color, and product packaging.
Typography, or font, is one of the first visual elements that catches the eye in food package design. And if done right, the perfect font can still establish the desired mood of the product while remaining on-brand. Vintage fonts tend to convey elegance, drama, and a serious feel. Serif and script typefaces are perfect for this look, as well as manuscript lettering. Due to their calligraphy-esque appearance, the sight of these font styles can easily take someone back to an earlier time.
Marketing teams can choose from hundreds of retro fonts from the past few decades. Thankfully, there are still modern typefaces that can evoke the same type of effect. With a tall, bolded font with rounded edges, a consumer can be instantly flooded with warmth and nostalgia.
While curated food photography is a staple of modern food and package design, captivating illustrations were all the rave in the past. Before DSLR cameras and Photoshop, many food companies elected for “hand-drawn” images to be displayed on the front of the package to further help customers identify the product. While this really isn’t necessary today, it can help people see the item in its simplest form, without any added preservatives and chemicals.
There are lots of other image types companies are tapping into. Classic iconographies like stars and stripes are great for instilling a sense of patriotism for American-made products, for example. Additionally, the “painted” look of serious portraits and pastoral scenes on beer and wine bottles can easily be reminiscent of a historic period with less manufacturing and technology.
Color is a dynamic design element that says a lot in the most subtle ways. While the color theory itself hasn’t evolved much, it’s the association with specific color schemes and periods that companies can use to their advantage. Modern packaging doesn’t see too many combinations of avocado green, sunflower yellow, or poppy red right now, but a brand trying to communicate how much they appreciate history might find success in this color scheme.
This is another design category where tapping into nostalgic packaging requires clear intent. Vintage package colors tend to be either bold and bright or muted and subtle, depending on the food or beverage. For example, if it’s a gourmet food item, muted colors can come across as sophisticated. But with a playful product like candy, soda, or popcorn, bright color combinations work much better.
The last core design element is the food product’s packaging, which can add the final touches of depth and character to a package. Lots of packaging solutions of the past prioritized food safety and extending shelf life due to a lack of manufacturing resources that we now have today. Durable and functional packaging materials like metal tin and twine were extremely common, and they were often repurposed into storage containers later on—like the infamous cookie container in grandma’s drawer that actually turned out to be filled with sewing needles and knick-knacks.
While these aren’t a concern for consumers today, if your brand just wants to chase an aesthetic, there are many creative ways to use kraft paper, linen, and even corrugated cardboard for a classic rustic feel.
While retro packaging design is a successful strategy for many food and beverage companies, there are times when going this route may not be the most strategic move. Consider the following:
- If environmentalism is one of your core values, using vintage product packaging that isn’t eco-friendly may send a message inconsistent with your branding.
- If you can’t pinpoint a target audience that would be moved by a sudden push for nostalgia, you could risk isolating your best customers.
- If your product isn’t necessarily of the highest quality and is easily accessible, a vintage look could communicate a higher price point and turn off consumers.
- If your budget is tight, you should avoid spending more money on expensive retro designs.
- If changing your design means connecting with a time of uncertainty or adversity about your brand, you could stir up bad memories.
Are you thinking of revamping your food or beverage product with a vintage package design? Reach out to DePersico Creative. If you’ve got the packaging material, we’ll help transform your logo, font, color scheme, and whatever else your product needs to stand out. We’re a family-owned design studio that helps food and beverage brands of all sizes thrive.