Packaging Innovation
February 28, 2014

Why gluten-free packaging is important

Have you ever wondered how people suffering from celiac disease and gluten allergies do their groceries? One of their daily routines consists of studying the ingredients lists on food packaging boxes. Luckily, packaging designers and food brands can make their lives a lot easier. How? By simply adding a subtle yet clear ‘gluten free’ label or icon on the packaging, when applicable.

Celiac disease and gluten allergies affect roughly 3 million Americans, forcing them to drastically change their diet. Over the last years food manufacturers have learned to include gluten-free labels on specific items, yet a lot still needs to be done, it seems.

When to include the gluten-free label?

gluten free packagingIn the United States, for instance, the US Food and Drug Administration set a new standard for gluten-free labels only last year. It clearly states how and when the label should be applied. Problem solved, one would think, yet for food brands it’s not always easy to decide when to include the label.

Evidently, the label should only be included when there is (close to) no gluten contained in the packaging. Yet gluten-free products are not required to carry the label. And with good reason, it seems. It would be silly, for instance, to put gluten-free stickers on raw carrots or grapefruit juice as these are products for every grocery shopper and not just for those looking for gluten-free foods.

Gluten-free packaging deter regular customers

There is, however, another important issue designers should keep in mind when including information about gluten and allergies on the container. They run the risk of being left on the shelf by “regular” customers, who might think they are not getting a product that is as good as the normal one. As it turns out, “gluten-free” carries negative connotations that may influence consumers’ behavior in-store.

From a packaging designer’s point of view a good solution is to work with a series of icons denoting certain types of food. If done correctly – i.e. small and subtle – they can inform gluten-free shoppers without deterring regular shoppers from making a purchase, making their lives a whole lot easier.