An image of customised fast food packaging, custom food container, in an article on how customised fast food packaging can help reach new customers

How customised fast food packaging can help you reach new customers

The fast food sector is booming, with the industry predicted to grow from $972.74 billion in 2021 to $1,467.04 billion by 2028. In the United Kingdom alone, the fast food market is expected to reach £22.04 billion in 2023. Notably, fast food restaurants account for over half of sales across the global sector, due to their popularity. 

One study reveals consumers are drawn to fast food because the restaurants are easily accessible and offer a wider variety of food options than most consumers could cook at home. They also pointed out takeout food is affordable and that eating out is the ‘preferable form of socialising.’ 

An effective way to capitalise on these trends is to customise your restaurant’s takeaway packaging. Customised fast food packaging can create a unique brand identity and improve customer experience. According to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 78% of customers said that custom packaging is important when ordering fast food.

Understanding the reach of customised fast food packaging

Several studies reveal that branded packaging can be a highly effective tool in gaining recognition from potential customers. Increased brand awareness often translates to increased sales and customer loyalty. 

It is well known that brands have around seven seconds to capture consumer attention and spur a sale. This being the case, it is important that restaurants invest in customised packaging that clearly conveys the brand’s personality.

Take, for example, the American multinational fast food chain McDonald’s. Predominantly known as a child-friendly family restaurant, the brand appeals to consumers of all ages – as does its fast food packaging. The red, yellow, and white fast food packaging is emblazoned with the iconic golden arches: a highly effective way to get consumers to associate the letter ‘M’ subconsciously with Mcdonald’s.

The colour yellow is also known to evoke feelings of warmth, happiness, and friendliness in consumers. It is also a bright colour that draws attention. The use of colour in custom packaging is essential in attracting the customer base the company desires. For instance, brighter colours, such as those used by Mcdonald’s, are more likely to attract children.

Leon, a European-based ethical fast food company, focuses on sustainable practices and healthy menu items. An effective way the brand has widened its customer base is by investing in sustainable packaging. All the company’s fast food packaging is compostable or recyclable, and it now offers customers paper straws. More so, the colours of the logo are very Mediterranean: the brand uses a combination of oranges, blues, greens and yellows. The logo itself portrays a Greek statue of a woman cradling a bowl of oranges. 

All of the above are often associated with healthy food – particularly with a Mediterranean diet. This diet is generally regarded as one of the healthiest a person could follow. Leon’s tagline, ‘Naturally Fast Food’, is also printed on the fast food containers. This helps reassure consumers, as the use of ‘natural’ can be associated with organic, healthy whole foods cooked in healthier ways. 

An image of customised fast food packaging, fast food containers, custom fast food boxes, McDonald's Happy Meals, in an article on how customised fast food packaging can help reach new customers

Factors to consider when customising fast food packaging

Creating custom packaging can seem overwhelming, but there are several tips businesses can follow to create cost-effective and appealing packaging

Materials and their durability

In a recent study, 66% of consumers revealed recyclable packaging is a priority. A further 49% said they would pay more for both eco-friendly packaging and delivery options, while 33% said they have rejected a purchase because of unsustainable packaging. 

Catering to this trend can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint and increase customer loyalty. Popular sustainable materials used for fast food packaging include kraft paper, polylactic acid (PLA), and bagasse paper.

Size and shape

The size and shape of takeout containers should suit the portions provided while ensuring the contents are not packed too tightly or rolling around inside

Food-safe inks and adhesives

Any customisation techniques used on fast food packaging must contain inks and adhesives that are safe and will have no effect on the consumer’s health. Additionally, the technique should be in line with the materials used. For instance, if all the materials used are compostable, but the packaging finish is not, this may cause an issue with the disposal. 

Low-volatile organic compound (VOC) printing is an effective option for those looking to cut down on the emission of VOCs produced in the manufacture of packaging. Water-based, soy-based, or vegetable-based solvents are all low in VOC, and work particularly well on paper substrates. 

They are better for air quality, pose less of a risk to workers, and have a significantly lower impact overall on the environment when compared to traditional inks. Unlike plastisol inks, which contain plastics or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-VOC inks are fully biodegradable.

Brand consistency

Even as a brand develops over time, it should always remain recognisable so loyal customers can return. Consistency across all marketing materials and packaging can help boost customer loyalty by reaffirming the perception of a quality product. Additionally, it can improve brand recognition while differentiating your product from competitors. Inconsistent packaging can come across as careless and messy – traits restaurants want to avoid being associated with.

An image of a fast food consumer eating out of a customised fast food container, customised fast food packaging, in an article on how customised fast food packaging can help reach new customers

What should be included in customised fast food packaging?

While the logo is likely to be the main design element of your custom food packaging, there is other information that must be presented. Temperature warnings, such as those seen on takeaway coffee cups, should be placed where consumers will notice. This can help lower the risk of burns and scalds, helping to ensure customer satisfaction. 

It is also highly recommended that restaurants inform customers on how to dispose of empty takeaway packaging. This will not only be appreciated by customers who value the environment but ensure the packaging is disposed of properly.

To further increase brand loyalty and awareness, brands are encouraged to print website addresses and social media handles on fast food packaging. Many customers choose to post photos of branding they find attractive, or of brands they are loyal to. This accounts for a lot of ‘free’ marketing for companies, with companies such as Starbucks creating branded fast food packaging specifically made to be ‘Instagrammable’.