Packaging in the fruit and vegetable section: What impact does it have on the customer experience –and on the attractiveness of the section?

In this report, Carton Ondulé de France reports the results of a new neuroscientific study of consumer behavior, which it says reveals a positive outcome for corrugated packaging versus plastic crates or bulk display in the fresh produce aisle

The role and impact of packaging on consumers is the subject of research and special efforts on the part of distributors and manufacturers; but what is the situation in the fruit and vegetable section? Is there a link between the customer experience and packaging? Does this link affect the attractiveness of the section – and of its products? The trade association Carton Ondulé de France (Corrugated Board of France) has carried out a new study to understand the role of packaging in the customer experience in this section.

Packaging goes unnoticed in the fruit and vegetable section, yet still has a powerful impact

The study was carried out by Négosciences*, consulting firm specializing in neurosciences applied to business, and Carton Ondulé de France. First of all, it looked at how packaging is perceived in the fruit and vegetable section and found that 95% of customers interviewed did not notice the packaging used to display fruit and vegetables. However, the study showed that packaging has a strong, clear impact on the customer experience, depending on its nature or its absence.

The first indicator, the nature of packaging, has a direct influence on the time spent in the section: a customer spends between 17% and 50% more time in front of the stands if the fruit and vegetables are displayed in corrugated board trays rather than in plastic containers or without packaging (displayed directly on the shelves with stainless steel separators).

The second indicator, which enables the impact on the customer experience to be measured, lies in the “coverage rate”, a quantification of the surface area explored in the section. This rate is identical, whether fruit & veg are displayed between stainless steel separators or in corrugated board trays.

On the other hand, when customers are faced with fruit and vegetables displayed either in plastic containers or in corrugated trays, they will cover 51% more surface area with the “corrugated” solution: 23.8% coverage rate with plastic containers compared with 35.9% for cardboard trays.

“It was necessary to use scientific methods to precisely identify and quantify the potential impact. We can now confirm that visits to the fruit and vegetable section are longer and more exploratory when the shelves contain corrugated board trays. This is real added value offered by our packaging”, explains Bertrand Arnault, CEO of Carton Ondulé de France.

Packaging for fruit and vegetables has a direct impact on buying behavior

The interest shown in the product is a determining factor in the act of buying. It makes the difference between a pleasurable purchase and an “obligatory” purchase where only the economic variable is taken into consideration. The results are clear on this point: of the two comparisons carried out, 81% and 86% of customers showed an interest in the product rather than in the prices displayed when fruit and vegetables were displayed in corrugated board trays.

These figures drop to 59.2% when plastic containers are used as packaging, and to 15.5 % for products displayed without packaging in stainless steel separators.

Cardboard trays lessen interest in the price: -65% in relation to plastic containers, and -77% in relation to stainless steel separators, and hence induce the customer to assess the value of the product and its quality.

Finally, the study reveals that the number of customers buying fruit and vegetables increases between 13% and 16% when they are presented in corrugated board trays rather than on stainless steel shelves or in plastic containers.

“The nature of the packaging reveals different customer behaviors,” stated Kareen Desbouis, Managing Director of Carton Ondulé de France. “This is a proven fact for packaged products that are displayed on the shelf, but it is a new finding for self-service products, and more particularly for fruit and vegetables, even though the customer only perceives the packaging subconsciously…”

Key figures from 2017 on the French corrugated board business

France corrugated statistics