Colleen holds a Bachelor of Science in Printing Management from Rochester Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the University of Delaware.

She is an Associate Professor at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Ca. She started teaching at Cal Poly with 22 years in the consumer packaging, flexo, and business industry. She loves how packaging influences consumer behavior through color, imagery, touch, smell, and interactivity. Her recent research interests include accessibility and Diversity/Equity and Inclusion in packaging design.

The Impact of Human Imagery on Food Packaging with Various Demographics

Colleen Twomey, California Polytechnic State University

The research aims to determine if consumers of different demographic groups respond to imagery, especially human imagery, on food packaging differently.

Background: During the summer of 2020, brands such as Quaker Oats’ (PepsiCo) Aunt Jemima, Con Agra’s Mrs. Butterworth’s, Mars’ Uncle Ben’s, and farmer-owned cooperative Land O’ Lakes have rolled out branding changes; acknowledging the culturally insensitive imagery on their packaging.

Consumer packaging is a rapidly growing industry, given the growth in world population, access to groceries and markets, e-commerce, and a rising middle class (to name a few). There are many aspects of consumer packaging that draw the consumer in to create a relationship with the brand. Color, imagery, structure, typography – all of these are design elements aimed at attracting attention of the consumer at very quick time intervals.

This research intends to determine which demographic groups are most impacted by human imagery in food packaging.

A fictitious food product rollout has been designed. Via survey, consumers will be given the opportunity to identify which of multiple packaging options would most impact them when purchasing the product. The packaged products include two basic options for packaging structure, and a series of images included on each package. The series of images range from “bare bones”, i.e. product information only, to product image, to various presentations of human imagery. The consumer will be polled to determine which features would most drive them to purchase the product.

The findings of this research have a bearing on Consumer Product Companies who use imagery on their food packaging in the US. Is there a value in having human imagery on packaging?