There’s no denying that gelato is delicious. But what’s going to sway you to pay a premium price at the store for an unfamiliar brand when you could just pick up that pint of HäagenDazs or Ben & Jerry’s instead?

Talenti Gelato has some beautiful, eye-catching packaging. They’re also up-front about why they chose that packaging on their webpage:

After all the Talenti-making is done, we package it in clear, recyclable, BPA-free jars to keep it fresh and to give everyone a not-so-sneaky peek of the deliciousness inside. And what’s even more great is that they’re perfectly reusable for storing all sorts of things, except maybe presents, because the whole see-through thing would probably ruin the surprise. But everything else–perfect.”

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Photo: Talenti Gelato

The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Nassauer analyzed the clear food packaging trend and found that it’s actually a lot trickier than simply sticking some food—always with safe food handling practices in mind, of course—into clear plastic bags or jars. 

Food packaging is functional, too; it doesn’t only exist to sell us something. Good food packaging must help keep the food fresh, protect it from degradation, and provide reasonable protection from violent handling in shipping or even when stocking shelves.

When companies repackage food, they have to keep all these facets in mind—on top of any higher costs that new methods of packaging might incur. If that’s not enough, sometimes food companies have to reformulate their recipes to best complement the new packaging.

After all, using actual fruit pieces in yogurt is desirable, but it doesn’t do any good if the fruit is too small to see. 

There’s a lot of thought that goes into something as simple as a clear plastic wrapper for a granola bar—especially if it contains nuts. JoAnne Garbe, packaging research and development manager for General Mills, says that exposure to light through clear plastic is problematic. “Oil in nuts is particularly tricky because it oxidizes.”

She should know. The company reportedly spent over a year in testing how best to put its Larabar Uber fruit-and-nut bars into clear packaging to compete with Kind Bars. General Mills didn’t change its recipe, but found in customer surveys that the bars apparently “looked like they tasted better, felt less artificial, and the ingredients seemed fresher.”

EL MILAGRO TORTILLA CHIPS

Photo: Kramer Foods

Food manufacturers also strive to strike a balance. Customer perception of honesty is important, but food companies naturally want to show their products in the best light possible.

Having completely clear chip bags, for example, would show you all the broken pieces that inevitably end up on the bottom. That’s why some bags of chips may have clear windows—but placed up high, so that they only show off the beautiful, whole chips.

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Photo: Hillshire Farm

Clear packaging isn’t always the answer, though. As the WSJ explains, Hillshire Farms found that clear packaging for its deli meats tested well. But when they took away the distinctive red plastic-lidded tubs from grocery stores, customers could no longer easily find the product to buy.

Meanwhile, Simply Orange’s clear packaging changed how a lot of OJ brands market their products. After its clear plastic pitcher-jugs were so successful, Tropicana and other competitors soon followed suit.

[via WSJ]

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