Packaging: The most commonly used colours to sell food & drink

What are the most commonly used colours used for packaging in the food and drink industry?

The food and beverage sector is saturated with consumer products that range from cookies and cakes to beer and soda. To stand out in the food and drink market, manufacturers and marketers work to come up with eye-catching packaging and a big part of that is the colours they use.

Colour psychology plays a major role in advertising and successful sales. Package colour has an effect on consumers and can draw them in or put them off.

To see which colours are used the most, Electrix International , a major supplier of electrical enclosures and cable management systems, has analyzed nearly 2,500 grocery products. Here, we find out which shade is used the most to influence the buying habits of grocery shoppers.

What is the magic colour?

Across 10 categories, which include cookies, chocolate, soda drinks, and ice cream, the most-used colour for packaging is light grey. In fact, 20.6% of all products analyzed are packaged and marketed to consumers using this colour.

The theme for less vibrant colours follows suit in second and third place, with black (11%) and dark red (8%) joining light grey in the top picks for packaging. You’re less likely to see light purple (one item), blue (three items) and lime (three items) on everyday items.

Category crunching

On closer inspection, the use of light grey tends to be complemented by dark blue and light blue for cookies and ice creams. Meanwhile, red and dark red appears mostly on coffee, cereal, and potato chips.

Using data from Walmart’s online grocery service, the name, brand, and image of up to 355 different products in ten food and beverage categories was collated, totalling 2,422 products across the range. An algorithm then analyzed coloured pixels to calculate the top three colours in each product image. The following list shows a full overview of the products analyzed and the colours used to stand out on shelves:

  1. Candy (234 products) – gold, orange
  2. Canned Food (354 products) – light grey, dark blue
  3. Cereal (188 products) – light grey, dark red
  4. Chocolate (27 products) – ivory, dark gold
  5. Coffee (355 products) – light grey, red
  6. Cookies (330 products) – light grey, dark blue
  7. Ice Creams (321 products) – light grey, light blue
  8. Potato Chips (269 products) – light grey, dark red
  9. Soda (37 products) – dark gold, green
  10. Tea (307 products) – dark gold, black

ice cream colours packaging

Just 22% of products tended to have only one colour on their packaging with cereal being the most consistent category. Ice cream is most likely to have more than one colour on its packaging, with dairy lovers treated to more variation on the front of their tubs and cartons.

The breakdown of product types and the amount of colours used for each is detailed below, with canned food, coffee, and ice cream very similar in terms of results.

Product types 2+ Colour 1 Colour
Candy 79.49% 20.51%
Canned Food 80.23% 19.77%
Cereal 69.68% 30.32%
Chocolate 74.07% 25.93%
Coffee 80.00% 20.00%
Cookies 78.79% 21.21%
Ice Cream 80.69% 19.31%
Potato Chips 75.09% 24.91%
Soda Drinks 72.97% 27.03%
Tea 79.15% 20.85%

Table of product types and the percentage amount of colours used on their packaging

What will the future bring for packaging?

A brand’s identity is closely linked to the colours it uses because colours often resonate with strong emotions. With light greys, bold blacks, and dark reds dominating packaging, will we see a change in approach for the future? Will the fact there’s so much importance now on living a greener lifestyle change our opinions on packaging aesthetics? Will we see more vibrance and the use of green to showcase that a product has sustainability at the heart of its design? Only time will tell.