Beware of Overpromising



Have you ever been disappointed after opening a food package, when the contents don’t look like the picture? Brands often embellish images on packaging to entice shoppers to buy their products. A picture is truly worth a thousand words and sets an expectation of what’s inside. 

When looking for dinner options, I purchased a new product that was promoted to drive trial. Based on the appetizing photo, I expected a FULL bowl of fresh looking ingredients. Imagine my unpleasant surprise when I torn off the cover to reveal the measly portion that was to be my dinner. In addition, the ingredients did not look anything like the picture and the eating experience was also disappointing. As a result, my trust in the brand has been broken and I will think twice before buying their products again. 

A Valuable Lesson for Food Brands

Brand owners should be cautious of overpromising what the product delivers, including the use of misleading images. This applies to packaging, websites and advertising, which “must be accurate, truthful and not misleading” under Health Canada regulations.

Once trust in your brand is lost, loyalty to your brand will also be gone. And loss of hard-earned brand loyalty negatively impacts sales and the bottom line.

How to Avoid the Pitfall

During the product development process, try to look at your products objectively. In short, think like a consumer. When compromises need to be made to meet target costs, will they be noticeable to the consumer?

When we engage professional food photographers and food stylists, we provide a creative brief with specific direction and expected outcomes. We also supply the product in a mocked-up package, as the consumer would buy it. If your strategy is to use a product beauty shot on the package, it’s best to shoot the actual product. If it doesn’t look appetizing, perhaps further product development is needed.  After all, we eat with our eyes.

Creative professionals naturally want to make your product look its best but there is a fine line between enhancement and exaggerated embellishment. As a project manager, I participate in the photo shoot providing art direction to ensure images are on spec and the product is not misrepresented.

How to Save the Sale

When consumers complain, brand owners should carefully word the response and consider offering compensation. Here’s how the brand responded to my complaint: “We will be sharing the details you provided with our Food Safety and Quality experts, and want you to know your comments are important to us and will be taken seriously. Your feedback is very helpful to our team. We are sending compensation your way via regular mail that is valid on a variety of our products. Please give us another try.” 

After receiving this satisfactory reply I would be inclined to try the brand again. But I will remember my initial disappointment when sharing new product chatter with friends and colleagues.

As a packaged foods consultant, Birgit Blain transforms food into retail-ready products. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at or learn more at

© Birgit Blain

This article appeared in Food in Canada magazine.

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