(May 27) AUSTIN, Texas — Proper packaging remains critical to expanding organic product sales, say packaging and design experts who spoke to attendees at the All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show.

“In getting that consumer to try your product, the package has to do it all for you,” said Tom Foerstel, creative director and owner of Foerstel Design Inc., Boise, Idaho.

Organic marketers should combine strong brand identity, product identity and photography to create appetite appeal among customers, presenters said at the May 16 workshop, “First Impressions: The Good, the bad and the beautiful of packaging design.

“These are your ads,” said Dan Mishkind, creative director of Pure Design Co., Leverett, Mass.

Mishkind said he sees too many products masked by packaging that doesn't reflect the product's contents.

One panelist cited Natural Selection Foods' Earthbound Farms as a leader in organic packaging.

“They have great package identity,” Foerstel said. “It works real well, the product shown in their package. The packaging has great appetite appeal.”

The similar colors and the word “organic” placed in the middle of the Earthbound label on their bagged organic salads helps the product attract attention on produce shelves, he said.

Marketing experts said organic marketers should spell out the benefits on the package, whether quality, natural product, the organic seal of approval or letting consumers know the ingredients are all natural.

“The less educated organic consumer needs to feel confident in what they buy,” said Bill Bradshaw, senior vice president of Immotion Studios, Fort Worth.

Fresh produce doesn't need a lot of packaging to sell the product. Panelists said many wish they didn't have to have to package produce at all.

“The one differentiator natural food stores have over mass market stores is that they tend to stay away from packaging except well-known brands,” said Pure Design's Mishkind.

Allowing consumers to touch, hold and smell the fresh produce provides a different sensory buying experience, he said.

Organic produce grower-shippers say the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program Standards, which went into effect last fall, have helped increase sales.

Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif., has updated labels for its 8-ounce clamshells that hold strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The labels include the USDA certified organic as well as certification by California Certified Organic Farmers, Santa Cruz.

“People are really looking for that now,” said Dwight Basilius, Driscoll's natural food sales manager. “The certification helps provide consistency and gives consumers confidence that the product is indeed organic.”