Tradition may be at the heart of this year’s Thanksgiving turkey packages but contemporary icons and healthy messages show these brands’ inner souls. Gluten free? Check. Farm raised? Without hormones? Yep and yep. All natural? You bet. Minimally processed? Sure, throw that one in, too.
More than 45 million turkeys grace tables in the U.S. on Thanksgiving, which is about one-sixth of the turkeys sold each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The vast majority of turkeys I saw in stores were frozen, which gels with stats on turkey sales at 80% frozen and 20% fresh. It will be interesting to see how this ratio changes as many Millennials are more interested in buying fresh for health and taste reasons.
Nearly all of the turkey packages in different grocery stores in the Chicagoland area were vacuum-packed bags covered with netting to add a carrying handle. Ho-hum…except for some standout graphics.
Here’s a mini feast of fowl packages designed to help these birds find good homes for the holiday.
1. Throwback photo puts family first
Butterball knows tradition and shows it with a nostalgic photo of a happy family enjoying a holiday dinner, with a whopper of a turkey at the center (see image above). The photo—which looks like it was taken in the 1950s when the world was slower and simpler than today—connects with the brand’s Throwback Photo Sweepstakes, which is explained in a box. Not quite Norman Rockwell but close.
An icon in the lower left on the front also says the product is “American Humane Certified.”
Next: 2. Easy to get this bird out of the bag
2. Easy to get this bird out of the bag
This Butterball Fresh all natural premium young turkey—sold in the freezer case, oddly enough—was raised without hormones, if that matters to you. Like its Butterball cousin above, an icon promotes the product as “American Humane Certified.” Language and an illustration at the top tout the package’s easy-open feature. No more runny slime on the scissors.
Next: 3. But is it organic?
3. But is it organic?
In case you missed the two logos and the large text in the center, this Foster Farms Fresh Organic Turkey is organic. The fresh-not-frozen fowl commanded a premium price at $2.99 per lb. Signs in the store said it was available in two genders: hens and toms. But the labels were not clear which was which. Explicit instructions on the back could either reassure or intimidate an unskilled cook.
A man who looked like he was in his 30s asked me and another older female shopper what the difference was between this turkey and others nearby that were more than half the price. OK, guys don’t read directions. I get it. But how did he miss that this is ORGANIC? Or does he not know that organic usually means higher price? The other lady and I nicely explained it, as we were on our best behavior for the holiday.
Next: 4. Convenience goes Cajun
4. Convenience goes Cajun
Jennie-O Oven Ready branches out into new flavor territory with its Cajun Style turkey. The orange band and yellow text say “spicy” to me. How about you? And is it a top selling point that this comes without neck or giblets? I know the “No thawing” and “From freezer to oven” convenience features got me to put a bag in my cart (although it was the more traditional flavor). I also like the integral handle on this bag, but I did see a lot of broken handles on other bags. Perhaps the plump birds are heavier this time of year.
Next: 5. Best laid plans go awry
5. Best laid plans go awry
From the drawing front and center on this vacuum bag, you can tell this is a hen, but bad placement of the in-store label on all the packages in this freezer case ruins the branding for Southern Hens. How unfortunate.
Next: 6. Festive and basic at the same time
6. Festive and basic at the same time
The Festive Basted Young Turkey uses a contemporary san-serif font for the copy on a very basic package design. Not too surprising for this value brand, selling for $0.93 per lb. An unexpected bonus: The netting adds an element of sparkle to the Festive brand name.
Next: 7. Best of both ages
7. Best of both ages
I really like this package from Honeysuckle White, a brand of Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. At first I was confused because I wasn’t familiar with the Honeysuckle White brand name. I thought that was the flavor and I couldn’t figure out what the brand was called. But copy on the back helped clear that up.
The packaging for this Frozen Young Turkey looks somewhat retro yet feels upscale and contemporary. Front and center is the tagline “Honest • Wholesome • Quality” and the words are reinforced by the imagery. A black-and-white photo becomes the backdrop at the top of the package, showing a farm scene. The graphics also call attention to a Featured Farm by name: Holliday Family Farm. This looks preprinted, though, rather than variable information added online so it might not be the farm this particular turkey hails from. And the words are a little too subtle in the light-gray text. But it does connect with an origin, which is important to some customers.
The photo and Featured Farm are duplicated on the back, too, along with the preparation and cooking instructions and Nutrition Facts box.
The “All Natural” claim has an asterisk for clarification, which is “Minimally processed. No artificial ingredients. Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones or steroids in poultry.” In case you miss this fine print, the package also calls out “No added steroids, hormones, preservatives”, as well as Gluten Free, which not all turkeys are.
Next: 8. It’s cooked, but not a goose!
8. It’s cooked, but not a goose!
The Butterball Fully Cooked Oven Baked young turkey has got some impressive curves, a generous breast and finely formed legs—all the more appealing with its tight wrap and a succulent golden background. You can visualize the finished bird on a platter on your festive table. But the convenience will cost you, at a hefty $2.99 lb.
Next: 9. I’m so confused
9. I’m so confused
Echelon Foods Turducken Premium Roast caught my eye right away because of its all-green wrap amid the sea of white and blue colors on other poultry in the freezer case. However, the graphic design is dated and lacks sophistication for this modern “symphony of flavors.” It shows a square photo with heavy black outline, and old-fashioned ribbons and a red star for the callouts. The juxtaposition of a modern quick-response (QR) code at the bottom is jarring, but welcome for smartphone-wielding shoppers.
Next: 10. The other poultry
10. The other poultry
Not a fan of turkey even though it’s the go-to protein for the Thanksgiving meal? I spied Maple Leaf Farm’s Duck in color-coded packages, which I thought denoted different flavors. But upon closer look, it's different colors for the same product: Duck with Orange Sauce Packet. An unfortunate display of old and new design side-by-side? The orange color blocks make sense (considering the sauce), so I’m assuming that’s the new design. The brown looks…unappetizing…burnt? But is the green text more contemporary than the black text? The san-serif font feels modern to me.
Learn about the latest developments in packaging design at WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11 in Anaheim, CA.