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The Importance of Food Package Design in Global Markets

Sept. 27, 2021
Food Export-Northeast's Howard Gordon explains how agricultural promotion agencies can help small companies export their products.

Your package design is your billboard in the grocery store. As a company looks to expand its brand internationally, understanding demographics and consumer interests is critical to getting noticed on the shelf by your ideal customers.

Where do you start? Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast are non-profit organizations made up of agricultural promotion agencies from 13 Midwestern and 10 Northeastern states. We support U.S. companies entering international markets by offering export education, global connections, export strategies and marketing financial assistance. One of the services is support with packaging redesign for international markets.

BobbySue’s Nuts, maker of baked nut mixes, started from humble beginnings with the goal of giving back to local animal shelters. Armed with a delicious snack and noble mission, the company’s founder, Barb Kobren, aka BobbySue, went from store to store, winning over hearts and taste buds, and turned her home-baked nut business into a national brand.

Years later, the company’s unique products – labeled as “humane, earth-conscious, non-GMO and damn tasty”–are now widely distributed across South Korea. But how did they grow in a market that’s so drastically different than the U.S.?

After connecting with a South Korean importer through a store contact and learning about opportunities in the region, BobbySue’s Nuts decided to test the waters and introduce its products to the market. A first step to growing across South Korea was to utilize Food Export–Northeast’s Branded Program to create niche packaging that would appeal to knowledgeable, health-forward Korean consumers and meet the country’s labeling requirements.

Entering a new market can be costly and the Branded Program provides 50% cost reimbursement for a variety of international marketing activities including foreign compliant packaging and label development.

During the process, BobbySue’s Nuts also took advantage of another Food Export–Northeast program called the Food Export Helpline to ask questions about exporting and growing in the Korean region.

“Suppliers must remember that package design is the first introduction of a brand to consumers," says Ken Yang, Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast’s In-Market Representative for South Korea. "The attractive look of the packaging strongly helps to increase product sales to South Korea’s savvy consumers, whether in retail stores or online, as well as to meet local labeling requirements."

Since 2019, BobbySue’s Nuts has experienced 300% total growth in the South Korean region and is continuing to explore new opportunities in this new corner of the world where its products have been welcomed with open arms.

Core & Rind started in St. Louis after the co-owners, Candi and Rita, completed a culinary nutrition program and saw the need for “healthier-for-you” items in the cheese sauce category. The company first created its Cashew Cheesy Sauce, and customers loved it so much they decided to work on perfecting a shelf-stable recipe that fills the grocery store middle aisle void with a plant-based pantry staple.

After seeing success across the U.S. with health-conscious customers both in stores and at tradeshows, Core & Rind began expanding sales to Canada after connecting with a Canadian importer through Food Export–Midwest. The company, whose deliberate package design focuses on standing out in the natural/health food category, started working with the importer and Food Export–Midwest to design bilingual packaging designed to introduce French Canadian consumers to Core & Rind. Through the relationship with Food Export–Midwest, Core & Rind has grown sales 12.6% in Canada and was just recently accepted into 15 Canadian Whole Foods stores, as well as 30 Healthy Planet stores, 30 Thrifty’s stores, and 40 Metro Quebec stores.

“With bilingual (French/English) labels required on all packaging in Canada, U.S. manufacturers must often invest in a full package redesign to convey required information in a way that appeals to Canada’s sophisticated consumers,” says Kathy Boyce, Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast In-Market Representative for Canada. "Canadian packaging must also be adjusted to reflect Canada’s regulation differences with the Nutrition Facts Table, how ingredients are listed and what health claims are acceptable.

Learn more about the financial support you can receive to grow your business overseas at www.foodexport.org.

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