Signalling product healthiness through symbolic package cues: Effects of package shape and goal congruence on consumer behaviour.

Iris van Ooijen, Marieke L Fransen, Peeter W J Verlegh, Edith G Smit

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Three studies show that product packaging shape serves as a cue that communicates healthiness of food products. Inspired by embodiment accounts, we show that packaging that simulates a slim body shape acts as a symbolic cue for product healthiness (e.g., low in calories), as opposed to packaging that simulates a wide body shape. Furthermore, we show that the effect of slim package shape on consumer behaviour is goal dependent. Whereas simulation of a slim (vs. wide) body shape increases choice likelihood and product attitude when consumers have a health-relevant shopping goal, packaging shape does not affect these outcomes when consumers have a hedonic shopping goal. In Study 3, we adopt a realistic shopping paradigm using a shelf with authentic products, and find that a slim (as opposed to wide) package shape increases on-shelf product recognition and increases product attitude for healthy products. We discuss results and implications regarding product positioning and the packaging design process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2016



  • Consumer goals
  • Healthiness perception
  • Package design
  • Symbolic cues

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