Evolution of Packaging for Natural Food Industries

Natural food bands are leading the trend packaging and branding. What can you learn?

This article was also published on ECRM's Blog on 5/6/2020.

Packaging in the old days of natural foods was what we would call… “scrappy.” Emerging brand owners didn’t have a lot of visibility, demand or capital so their packaging reflected it. Additionally, the raving fans of natural foods were the hippy types that preferred the “home made” look and didn’t mind the homemade shelf life that came along with it.

What is new in natural foods in 2020 that we should learn from?:

1. Branding On Point

In the past branding wasn’t a focus for natural foods but today emerging brands have realized that a recognizable brand = trust = repeat loyal customers.

The consistent thoughtful use of imagery and colors results in grabbing customers appetites and communicating their values. Investing in captivating graphics and packaging artwork means you can appeal to a broader audience. Customers who are hungry to find natural, delicious and nutritious products in the sea of options in stores or online – rely on the contrasting colors and bold imagery to grab their attention so they can enjoy a product they love.

Natural food companies are ESPECIALLY standing out among their peers for re- defining graphics and icons to quickly communicate their brand values to busy customers.

A great example is Ripple Foods Nutritious Pea Milk which boasts a lot of natural food claims to reach a broad healthy audience. Their curated and consistent callouts on the back of their packaging are brand consistent and cute.

Their branding on the front of their packaging are consistent, simple and fun.

Natural food branding consists of simple photo organization

2. Earth Focused Packaging

Natural foods brands, who were the first to go against the grain and be committed to “good for you” ingredients are also pushing the envelope towards “good for the earth” packaging. Now we see them again, going against the grain of the “granola” stereotypical look of natural food brands, and moving toward modern, sophisticated, minimalist looks that speak to their higher income, higher educated, audience who care about being healthy without losing style.

The most important thing to do for the environment is actually to create a “closed loop” where resources that go into packaging doesn’t get lost and gets re-used in packaging or reinvested into the earth.

Demands for safety, shelf life and reasonable budgets often still require some plastics to ensure customers can access your product. Especially

because currently compostable technology is still evolving. Recyclable

plastics, glass and tin are not necessarily worse than compostable

products IF they get re-used because the energy going into making the

packaging can be re-used. The biggest challenge with these elements is

that it must be recycled correctly. Natural brands that use plastic

products are committing to educating customers by adopting new and

clear labeling like the ones encouraged by the How To Recycle Program.

They are also exploring and the first to embrace the new technologies in compostability (which also must be clearly labeled so it doesn’t contaminate the recycling system AND there is a local industrial compostable system – yes composting isn’t an easy solution). Paper of course is the mother of all compostable products when there is no print finish or chemical based ink. Natural materials made out of components such as rice, potato seaweed, wax-coated sugar and tomatoes are slowly being tested out and used in place of plastics. Other eco-friendly advances include soy-based inks for color and spores and mushroom based elements in place of foams. These types of products are also being labeled to inform consumers how to correctly use each material.

3. Natural = For Everyone

Natural once was a small batch operation but TODAY all consumers (in every income bracket) want access. That means there are natural PREMIUM brands, VALUE brands and everything in between. Gluten free, zero carb and high in veggies is desired by every day consumers as well as luxury shoppers.

That means that you need to design a brand and packaging artwork with your target audience in mind AND highlight your natural ingredients or values. You can reach an incredible, broad and ready to spend audience by adjusting any recipe to be better for your consumers.

If your product already is healthy, adjust packaging to address and speak to your consumers concerns by calling this out. Develop your current recipe with a healthy twist to test and see if your audience was just waiting for you to take the first step.

An amazing company that took natural to the masses is Annie’s Homegrown who still maintains products for special diet eaters but also offers recognizable yummy treats like mac n’ cheese or fruit snacks in a healthy version to the everyday consumer: https://www.annies.com/products/. Their wild success is well known and a good reminder that the general public is ready for healthy natural foods.

Healthy Natural Annie's Promoting their Natural Branding


Natural food packaging design was once a last-minute thought, done on a last minute budget and considered unimportant compared to the interior product. Today with consumers clamoring for more healthy foods packaging design really is what helps sell products on the shelf and that means natural foods brands are leading the way.

Where are you in your packaging design and entering the natural market? Is it time to take the first leap into adopting the top 3 trends in natural foods packaging? Don’t get left behind.


  • Review the top 3 areas of leadership of natural brands above and rate yourself between 1-5. Where are you on this scale?

  • Where could you improve?

  • What actions can you take to be a leader in packaging design in natural foods?


Emily is CEO of Pearl Resourcing and has managed and launched multiple 7-

figure brands in Costco, Williams-Sonoma, Kroger, and Amazon. She’s bringing

you the expertise, resources, and mentors you need so that you can develop

products and make them sell.






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