The Supermarket

This post is slightly in tribute to the magnificent Camille from archiveslives – when she came to visit we had a poke around a couple of our local supermarkets to compare American/Canadian food packaging with our own.

As I have just bought a new camera (more on this to come) I needed something to take pictures of – well why not take pictures of my weekly food shop? So I did. Its even actually relevant because they’re are plenty of design decisions that go into packaging…

An overview - costing £29. We also put the car through the car wash for the princely sum of £4.

Anyway, so this is what we bought to last us the week, i.e. too much. Oddly the most expensive item was the jar of peanut butter. There are quite a few varieties of peanut butter but I rather thought that the version with chocolate chips was probably an indulgence too far.

Food packaging is also about the balance of colour, I’m sure that perception of anticipated taste is probably based on the belief that green is fresh, red and oranges are spicy, and yellow is chips, and chips are tasty – people don’t eat blue food though (here’s a challenge, see how much entirely blue food packaging you can find). So when designing the packaging for a particular product the designer will need to choose the colour and artwork based on which tastes they want to invoke in the buyers imagination.

Beetroot (reduced!)

Exhibit number one – fresh beetroot.

As a supermarket, how do you convey a message that something is natural and wholesome – in fact, something that was probably dug up this morning and delivered to the store on the back of a tractor? In this case, Sainsbury’s has chosen a blue elastic band with a simple purple tag.

Robinsons Barley Water - no one earth knows exactly what this is...

So this is something called squash – now it turns out that Americans don’t know what squash is (other than the vegetable). When I was in Moldova, Andy helped himself to a nice big full glass of undiluted apple and blackcurrant squash. He’s pretty hard core, but even he couldn’t handle it. (Squash is concentrated cordial that needs to be diluted prior to consumption).

I’m not sure that anyone really knows what barley water is, but I think it gives the fruit flavour a nice smooth outcome. Anyway, so this bottle is full of nice yellows, and evocative farm imagery. I guess its trying to stir feelings of hearth and home and in fairness it works quite well – I always associate Barley Water with my grandparents – my grandad always used to have an illicit supply of barley sugar boiled sweets – these were like cocaine for kids, I’d do anything for one. Delicious.


Ros is officially addicted to teas like this, and she doesn’t even have an excuse because its not even the caffeinated ones so its not a chemical addiction, but a psychological one and I think the latter is more disturbing.

This is a fruit tea, its big, bold, red and bursting with flavour, at least that what the packaging says anyway – I’ve always found the taste of such teas to be disappointing.

A pot of peppercorns

I know what I said about blue – but this has only a small blue band…

This little pot of peppercorns has lots of white which indicate purity, and simplicity and the little pestle and mortar is probably trying to suggest that if you buy these you’d instantly have a Nigella Lawson like, open, bright country kitchen.

Anyway – I hope you’ve enjoyed the little tour through my food choices – if anyone else has any interesting packaging examples let me know! Have a relaxing Sunday.


2 thoughts on “The Supermarket

  1. I’m so glad you posted this! Did you see the embarrassingly gaudy package of spinach on my blog the other day? I thought of you and Ros when I posted it and knew you’d be disgusted with N. America once again.

    Only expensive trendy food is packaged nicely here. Sad but true.

    • I’m never disgusted by N.America, especially not Canada – you guys still like the Queen remember and we need all the allies we can get!

      I now have visions of living the US for awhile, health insurance is expensive though so I’d probably just buy a open-return plane ticket and fly back home whenever I get ill…

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