Van Ooijen, I., Fransen, M. L., Verlegh, P. W. J., & Smit, E. G. (2017). Signalling product healthiness through symbolic package cues: Effects of package shape and goal congruence on consumer behaviour. Appetite, 109, 73–82. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.11.021

Abstract: Three studies show that product packaging shape serves as a cue that communicates healthiness of food products. Inspired by embodiment accounts, we show that packaging that simulates a slim body shape acts as a symbolic cue for product healthiness (e.g., low in calories), as opposed to packaging that simulates a wide body shape. Furthermore, we show that the effect of slim package shape on consumer behaviour is goal dependent. Whereas simulation of a slim (vs. wide) body shape increases choice likelihood and product attitude when consumers have a health-relevant shopping goal, packaging shape does not affect these outcomes when consumers have a hedonic shopping goal. In Study 3, we adopt a realistic shopping paradigm using a shelf with authentic products, and find that a slim (as opposed to wide) package shape increases on-shelf product recognition and increases product attitude for healthy products. We discuss results and implications regarding product positioning and the packaging design process.

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