Minimalism vs. Maximalism – Is less always more when it comes to CPG packaging?

CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods) are a huge part of our everyday lives, encompassing products from food and beverages to personal care items and household essentials. When it comes to the design of the packaging of these items, we typically see two primary approaches: minimal and streamlined or elaborate and full of information. Neither of these approaches are necessarily the ‘right’ way – context is key. However, it’s essential to know which to utilize and when. Each design approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two can significantly impact how consumers perceive a product or a brand.


Minimalistic packaging, as you may guess from its name, is about simplicity and efficiency in communication. But what does this type of packaging say about the product within?

  • apple minimalist packagingPremium – Often, there is elegance in simplicity. Minimalistic packs emphasize the product itself, suggesting that the product stands on its own and does not need extravagant packaging to sell it. Sleekness cues sophistication and evokes a sense of luxury.

  • Modern – The modern world is fast-paced, and simplicity is highly valued in design across many industries. Streamlined packaging is a departure from cluttered packs of the past. A pack that focuses on functionality resonates as contemporary for many shoppers.

  • rx bar minimalist packagingEasy to Understand – Less information on pack can be a good thing when it comes to communicating key product benefits. It gets to the point quickly, aiding in quick comprehension at shelf. In certain contexts, consumers typically only notice the first few elements of a pack when shopping in the store. The less cluttered the pack is, the easier time a shopper will have absorbing the product’s key benefits quickly at shelf.

  • Good-For-You or Good-for-the-Environment – Depending on the category, a minimalistic pack can give off a “clean” feeling. It can signal that the product has less ingredients or aligns with sustainability initiatives. Within this context, this approach appeals to customers that value health and eco-friendliness, and they may be willing to pay more for that.

Minimalistic packaging can be a valuable design route for many brands, but there are some key watchouts.

  • Ambiguity – While concise packaging can resonate for many shoppers and aid in shopping, brands need to be careful not to scale back too much. Shoppers need to still be able to tell what the product is and must pick up on a compelling reason to buy.

  • Lack of Brand Identity – Shoppers still need to pick up on who they are buying from. Many brands need to achieve widespread equity for a move to minimalism to be successful. Additionally, with minimalistic packaging, brands must pay careful attention to striking a balance between consistency and differentiation within their product line.

  • Target Audience – Due to the correlation between modern perception and minimalistic packaging, brands must also keep in mind their target audience. While a younger crowd may appreciate a streamlined pack, it may be a turnoff for older individuals.


Maximalism, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach to packaging design. It thrives on abundance, incorporating vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and a wealth of information. Here's a closer look at what maximalistic packaging communicates about a product:

  • Lots of Love Superfood maximalist packaging]Bold and Eye-Catching – Maximalist packaging is designed to grab attention. With a riot of colors, patterns, and details, these packages stand out on the shelves and can be especially effective in crowded retail environments. This approach suggests a sense of confidence and makes a statement about the brand's personality.

  • jameson maximalist packagingStorytelling – Maximalist packaging allows brands to tell a more detailed story about their product. It provides the space to include information about the brand's history, values, and the unique features of the product. This storytelling aspect can create a deeper connection with consumers who are looking for more than just a product – they want an experience.

  • Brand Recognition – Maximalist packaging often includes distinctive brand elements, making it easier for consumers to identify products from a particular brand. This can be especially important for brands with a diverse product line, helping maintain a cohesive brand identity across different offerings.

Despite its advantages, maximalist packaging comes with its own set of considerations:

  • Overwhelming – Too much information or overly intricate designs can overwhelm consumers, leading to decision fatigue. It's crucial to strike a balance between providing information and maintaining visual appeal.

  • Costs – Elaborate packaging can be more expensive to produce, which may impact the overall cost of the product. Brands need to weigh the benefits of maximalist packaging against production costs and consumer perceptions of value.

  • Environmental Impact – In an era where sustainability is a significant concern, maximalist packaging may be perceived as excessive and environmentally unfriendly. Brands adopting this approach should be mindful of their environmental impact and explore eco-friendly options.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to packaging design, and success lies in understanding the nuances of consumer perception. Striking the right balance between benefits and overcoming barriers is crucial. It is so important, we here at Behaviorally have designed our own Benefits and Barriers framework that underpins all our research methodologies and structures our results and recommendations. It serves as a guide to pinpoint opportunities throughout the shopper journey, strategically influencing consumer choices and culminating in the most important moment in marketing: the purchase transaction.

Learn more about our framework and crafting effective packaging by reading The Power of Packaging to Drive Shopper Growth and contacting us today!


Nicole Schwarzer Circle CropNicole Schwarzer is an Insights Manager at Behaviorally based in New York City. With a background in behavioral neuroscience and psychology, she loves delving into the “why” behind shopper behavior. She especially has an interest in how shoppers make decisions for their health and well-being. Outside of the office you’ll find her listening to a true crime podcast or spending time with her friends and family (and her cat, Nitrogen!).

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Elizabeth Savino Circle CropElizabeth Savino is an Insights Associate at Behaviorally in New York City, utilizing her expertise in market research and analytics. She is particularly interested in unraveling the motivations behind shopper behavior. Outside of work, you'll find her at the gym or engrossed in a good book.

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