Luxury is an almost indefinable term. While it’s associated with quality, it’s less about how great products are and more about how they make consumers feel. Gourmet chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Caviar at a dinner party. Cracking a bottle of rare scotch. An espresso to start a particularly difficult work day as opposed to everyday coffee.
All add a level of importance to an occasion. In the food and beverage industry, the packaging goes a long way in establishing a brand as ‘luxury.’ It’s often the last thing customers see before making a purchase. If you want to position your products as luxury, then it better be reflected in the packaging.
Elements of Luxury Food & Beverage Packaging
Luxury food and beverage products cover a variety of subcategories. Most all have a combination of these elements:
Artisanal Qualities - Traditionally, 'artisan' has referred to skilled, hand labor. As it pertains to food, it’s a reference to high-quality ingredients and a non-mechanical process, even if it’s not entirely literal (after all, machines are involved in almost all food and beverage production). Artisan connotes attention to detail, that these products were thought out by an expert in the field: a chef, baker, or vintner. The same should be true of the packaging.
Scarcity - Whether it’s scarce or exclusive, there should be a feeling of specialty attached to luxury food products. These products are either hard to come by (with exclusive retailers) or available on a seasonable basis. As a result, stores fit them with brand displays, reserve their places up high (the idea of top-shelf drinks, for example), or make them available by request only. Consumers have to take extra action to enjoy the luxury.
Price - Consumers expect to pay more for luxury items. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pay more for their packaging, just that it should adequately communicate value.
Branding - This is tied to perception. Position your products in settings that convey luxury. It should be represented in everything you print and produce, from social media presence to folding cartons to marketing collateral.
Pedigree - Luxury brands established long ago must be doing something right. At least, that’s a general belief, and why so many food and beverage companies make it a point to list their founding date on packaging and marketing collateral. It shows that they’ve been trusted over time. Related to pedigree is authenticity. Start-up companies have built brands by appealing to conscious shoppers. An emphasis on going organic, sourcing products responsibly, and promoting sustainable initiatives have all made their way to the luxury food and beverage industry.
Think about all of the above factors and how they relate to your brand. Then, bring that conversation to your printing and packaging partner when it comes time for design. They may suggest some of these options.
Foil, Debossing & Embossing & Special Coatings
Foiling has long been a staple of deluxe confectionery brands, and so long as people associate silver, gold, and metallics with value it will remain a tried-and-true aspect of luxury brand packaging.
Hot foil and cold foil each come with their own benefits and use cases. Hot foil stamping provides an exceptionally smooth laydown and can be combined with embossing to accentuate the graphics. The process does require special tooling (dies) to define the foil stamping area and is applied on a stamping press. Cold foil decorating is done during printing and is effective in accenting fine details and copy. Since the foil is applied first you can overprint and create a dynamic range of colors.
The visual impact of foil can be amplified when combined with other decorative effects. Debossing and embossing add a physical dimension to your important brand elements (a logo or word script). Finish it off with an elegant coating, a soft matte with a dark color (or an off-white) to really make the metallics of the foil pop.
Foil stamping is common for luxury chocolates. Check out No Chewing Allowed! for a clear example.
Everything about the packaging (the seal, the script, the pattern against a black box) evokes luxury.
There’s a reason gift sets come in rigid boxes. The packaging provides adequate protection over time and sustains repeated openings and closings. With clever graphic designs, it also doubles as a display. Rigid boxes play another important role. Their heft and sturdiness reflect the value of the products.
While rigid boxes may not always be appropriate for food or beverage products, that quality remains. Choose a substrate with a thicker caliper for folding cartons or food boxes that hold luxury products. It sends a message to the consumer that what’s inside is worth protecting.
There are other material considerations, as well. Windowing is popular for artisan chocolates. It gives a preview for consumers to immediately match the gourmet nature of the product to the brand touches of the packaging (especially when foil is involved).
Then there’s the sustainability component. The principles of right-sized packaging can help reduce your use of materials, while also elevating your brand. Check out these coffee pods from Williams Sonoma. They display just how well this product fits in the carton, adding sleekness to an already elegant look. It’s a thoughtful design, physically and graphically, that expands the purpose of packaging beyond protection.
Other brands have brought green initiatives to their packaging choices. Asher’s Chocolate Co., for example, has reduced packaging size, relies on water-based coatings, and implemented recyclable trays for its products. They’re packaging decisions you’ll see more often as eco-friendly measures grow in popularity and importance.
Let’s stay on the subject of sustainability, because it ties in directly to branding. Modern consumers care that brands they support produce quality food and beverage items, look good, and do good. That last characteristic covers a variety of topics. If your luxury products are sourced responsibly and have earned associated certifications, say it, by displaying a clear message or logo on your packaging.
You’ll commonly see the Fair Trade certification prominently on coffee bags, in particular. This designation matters to eco-conscious consumers. If you want your brand perceived as sustainable luxury, that’s a good path to take. Find space on your packaging to emphasize causes important to you.
That’s only one aspect of branding. The traditional application of standing out on shelves and cultivating loyalty over time still applies. Now, though, the shelves are physical and digital, and the loyalty builds with smart marketing initiatives.
All to say, your packaging needs to blend seamlessly with your online presence: an Instagram post that surrounds a box of chocolates with rose petals around Valentine’s Day, or a package of espresso beans next to a steaming cup of coffee, to name two.
Wherever your brand is, the feeling of luxury should come through—especially on your packaging. That’s best achieved by working with an experienced partner who understands the significant role packaging plays. It must adequately protect products from the outside, while advocating for the products and communicating to the buyer the value of what’s inside.
At Oliver Inc., a Safe Quality Food (SQF)- and AIB-certified manufacturer, our design team delivers customized solutions that can elevate your brand and help emphasize your position as a producer of luxury food and beverage products.