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Achieving shelf stand-out in a cluttered grocery environment


Achieving shelf stand-out in a cluttered grocery environment


As a brand marketer, how much time and attention are you giving to ensuring your packaging stands out on shelf versus your category competition? The answer is: probably not enough.

Our research and development (R&D) has identified that packaging is one of the top three drivers of purchase, so it pays to ensure your pack has strong impact and presence at shelf.

It would be a surprise to no one that shelf impact is a positive function of marketing presence. Meaning that the more shelf facings a package can obtain and the higher the brand’s penetration, the more shoppers will notice the package on the shelf.  However, that does not mean that a smaller brand can’t have stronger stand out on shelf. Likewise, there is no guarantee that, as the market leader, your shelf stand-out will be better than the competition.

Through consumer research, we’ve identified four key packaging design proven ‘tricks of the trade’ to achieve more than your ‘fair share’ of shelf stand out and that are key drivers of shelf stand out.

1. Branding

Branding has the most positive effect on shelf stand out through.

Use of a unique branding device. A unique stand out branding device could be, for example, a clear brand identifier. Classic examples are the “Quaker man” logo used most successfully by The Quaker Oats Company, or the visual impact of Paul Newman’s face on the Paul Newman’s range of products.  Another great example is the Betty Crocker spoon device.

A large brand name in a colour that is distinctive. From the rest of the packaging (and ideally the category). The ‘K’ in Special K is a great example here with the large red ‘K’ standing out against the white background. In the biscuits category, the large white Oreo name splashed across the entire pack prompts stand out.

2. Colour

Colour lifts stand-out when:

The body colour is different from other pack colours in the category: The bright red of Radiant in the laundry category, or the use of a black pack for Supercoat dry cat food. Black is also used  to great effect by U by Kotex its feminine hygiene product.

The body colour is brighter than others in the category: The standout bright yellow of Maggi packaging is a good example of the use of a bright, distinctive packaging colour.

3. Shape

Unsurprisingly, package shape is also a key influencer of shelf standout. However, not many companies use this device to achieve stand out shelf impact. Dolmio has used this device for its new stir-in sauces using a different packaging format (a flat plastic tub) to the usual upright jar.

4. Simplicity

The last ‘trick of the trade’ is probably the least commonly used – simplicity. Simple and clear package designs generate higher shelf stand out than their more cluttered counterparts. The simpler the design, the better the standout. Once again, Oreo and U by Kotex are winners here.


Based on our packaging research among consumers*, there are three key solutions to achieving more than your ‘fair share’ of package stand out:

  • Include a unique, obvious visual hook,
  • make use of bright colours that are different from competitors in the category, and
  • keep the labeling clear, simple and large enough to be read easily.



*Source: Ipsos US R&D, based on nine categories, with analyzable sample per category.  Research conducted online with packs shown on virtual shelves. Local Australian examples used to illustrate findings.

Gillian O'Sullivan

Gillian O’Sullivan is the managing director of Ipsos Marketing and has 20 years experience in consumer research and marketing. She began her career in brand marketing in consumer healthcare. Having a keen interest in what makes consumers tick, she moved into the consumer research field. Gillian was previously the executive director of consumer research at Nielsen and was also a specialist in services research at AMR. She holds a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) and a Masters of Business (Marketing).

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