Best-in-show chocolate packages embrace minimalism as reflection of clean label movement

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Chocolate packages embrace minimalism to reflect clean label movement
In an ironic twist, consumer desire for cleaner nutrition labels is extending to their preferences for minimalist packaging that is free-from the certification logos and claims that call attention to simpler, easy-to-understand ingredient decks as illustrated by winning chocolate wrappers selected by the online publication DesignRush.

“Consumers more and more gravitate towards things that have a personality that is reflected in all aspects of a brand – not just a commercial or print advertisement, but everything down to the little details,”​ whether that is humor, whimsy, elegant luxury or a retro-feel, said Stephanie Sharlow, editor-in-chief of DesignRush​, which recently published a list of the top 10 chocolate package designs.

She added that in order for a brand’s personality to shine, the packaging needs to be stripped of the clutter and claims that have crowded so many packages in the past few years.

“It is not aesthetically pleasing to look at something that has a million different badges for something else and 500 words crammed onto it. It is not enticing. It doesn’t make you want to buy it. It doesn’t make you want to eat it or consume it or wear it. And I think that we are finally passed that,”​ Sharlow said.

Rather, she said, the winning designs have only the most basic claims, such as the percentage of cacao or whether it is organic.

Looking through the winning designs, she added, “the chocolates really reflect the very popular minimalist trend, which we see in everything from clothing to websites to logos.”

A prime example is Utopick Chocolate’s packaging, which Sharlow says is “the perfect encapsulation of less is more. You see little hints of designs, little extra textures and folding and the metallic accents, but overall it is very simple. There is a lot of white space. It just really is clean and clear and to the point. But it still maintains a very elegant look to it.”

Utopick Chocolate’s packaging “also is a good example of taking a trend and making it work for your company, as opposed to forcing your company into a trend,”​ Sharlow said.

An example of companies sacrificing some of their personality to fit into a brand is with the extensive non-GMO and gluten-free labeling that resulted in products that naturally are free from GMOs and gluten, such as gourmet salt, giving front-of-pack space to related certifications and claims.

Natural-looking packaging remains strong

A related trend, which is not new but may be seeing a resurgence, is consumers’ preference for “natural-looking”​ packaging that “capitalizes on the wellness trend” ​and consumer desire for less-processed products, Sharlow said.

Crude Raw Chocolate taps into both the minimalist and the natural packaging trends with its use of raw paper, shades of brown and a logo that “is almost a little unpolished to me, but ties together really well with metallic aspects, and different [line] designs that represent the different bars,”​ Sharlow said.

Elegance in simplicity

Simplistic designs also convey a sense of elegance that translates to a more premium feel, Sharlow said, pointing to geometric maze designs that decorate “brilliant”​ two-tone colored paper of Beau Cacao’s bars.

“These different shapes are reimagined in a similar way onto the literal chocolate to create … another really great example of someone taking and putting a fresh spin on elegant as opposed to something that looks hoity-toity and riddled with velvet,”​ she said.

The bar’s copper accents and streamlined elegance shows the brand’s attention to detail, but at the same time makes it accessible to consumers, she added.

Custom illustrations, like those in the winning bars, also demonstrates a shift away from photographs of key ingredients that once were prominent, and shows brands’ planning with an eye towards how a product will look on social media, she said.

Fun, rioting colors also play well to consumers

The other extreme on the spectrum of the winning designs are bright, bold colors and whimsical illustrations that take consumers on an adventure to a different time or space – helping them to escape so they can enjoy the product inside, Sharlow said.

She pointed to Le Temps Chocolate’s retro packaging that recalls different decades of the 20th​ century as an example. The bright colors of show girl’s 1920's headband and an aristocrat’s monocle recall a more festive time in our culture and as a result remind consumers that eating chocolate is about enjoyment and fun, she said.

Another example is The Goodship Company’s marijuana infused chocolate bars, which feature boldly colored bands across the top and an aircraft gently floating in the middle of the otherwise mainly white package, Sharlow said.

She added that even though the package clearly identifies the product as marijuana infused on the front, it does so in small unobtrusive type so that “the overall aesthetic takes precedent over the nitty gritty of the ingredients”​ – again hammering home the power of minimalist design.

Overall, Sharlow says, the winning designs reflect the evolving values of today’s culture and the changing ways that consumers approach all aspects of their lives, including their wardrobes, home décor and the branded products they showcase to their followers on social media.

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