Decision Fatigue & When To Update Your Packaging

Kalahari Biltong Packaging Update

Packaging Design, branding, Strategy

reduce decision fatigue with good design

With the impact of the COVD-19 pandemic continuing and many states still under shelter in place orders, going to the grocery store can be a large undertaking. It takes careful planning, strategies for minimizing contact, and efficient listmaking. It grows even more complicated when some shelves are completely empty, while others are full to the brim. Big grocery aisles full of too many options can lead to decision fatigue caused by the stress of decision-making. ‘The Jam Study’ conducted by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper from Columbia University in 2000, studied the impact of unlimited choice on human ability to manage desire and purchase capacity. They found that consumers felt greater satisfaction when options were limited.

“Findings from 3 experimental studies starkly challenge this implicit assumption that having more choices is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer. These experiments, which were conducted in both field and laboratory settings, show that people are more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates or to undertake optional class essay assignments when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than a more extensive array of 24 or 30 choices.”

Iyengar and Lepper’s experiment was the first to document that while people love the idea of having more options when it actually comes to making a choice, they are more likely to make a decision if they have fewer options to choose from. At NNC, we feel that this theory also applies to packaging design. When there is excess information on the primary display panel, consumers get fatigued by trying to figure out what the product is and why they should buy it–especially when the product is on a shelf, in an aisle of dozens to hundreds of other products. It’s essential to clarify the messaging to help consumers understand the product they are looking at.

Project Kick off

Our client, Kalahari Snacks, had to update their 2oz Biltong pouches based on new manufacturing and production techniques. We have been fortunate enough to work with them on their packaging since the company launched in 2015, and this was an excellent time to revisit the design. The client knew they had the right overall design based on feedback from retailers and in-person demoes. But, there were some small tweaks that could be made to improve the primary display panel. Biltong, a healthier alternative to jerky, has been growing in popularity as a recognizable meat snack sub-category. However, some consumers are still unaware of its better for you health claims.

Some things to consider
when updating your packaging

With many brands continually re-inventing their look, refreshing packaging to meet trends, it’s no wonder consumers can feel confused and fatigued in their decision making. Sometimes small tweaks are more appropriate to retain brand consistency and reliability in the product, achieving consumer trust.

  1. Get feedback from retailers, buyers, and consumers ask: What’s working/not working for you?? 
  2. Is it time for a complete refresh, or are small tweaks appropriate?
  3. Brand Consistency: Packaging is one of the most tactile experiences for consumers interacting with your brand. Will the packaging refresh strengthen this experience or confuse your consumer?
  4. Messaging & Hierarchy: Do you have your brand values, product information, and hierarchy inline? 
  5. Timing: Updates can be very costly and have downstream effects. Will you have to consequently update all of your sales sheets, product images, etc.? 
  6. Inventory: Do you have enough stock of your current product ahead of a change in production? Pad in a few extra weeks in case there are any manufacturing delays. We’ve seen delays from Chinese New Year, to an unexpected shipyard strike in the Los Angeles area affect production and delivery. 
  7. Manufacturing: Plates, proofs, ordering raw materials, and supply chain – a lot of factors go onto any updates on the packaging–are you ready for that? 
  8. Write a Brief: Answer the above questions, so your whole team is aware of the full picture, reasons for the update, timelines, and availability to see the project through. Creative Briefs are also helpful for your creative partners to help achieve your goals.

The Updates

For Kalahari Biltong, the update in manufacturing and production allowed for the tear tab to be moved 30mm higher. While 30mm sounds tiny, this actually impacted the packaging design tremendously. The tear tab shortened, making the tagline, ‘You will never go back to jerky’ able to fit on one line making it more legible. We also removed the ingredients list from the primary display. We felt if the consumer is a label reader, they’ll turn over the bag to see that the ingredients list is very short and clean, matching the low ingredients claim that remained on the primary display. With that, we gained space for the 32g protein 0g sugar claim, right under the logo. By clarifying hierarchy on the primary display, the reading order now helps the consumer quickly read the brand, nutritional claims highlights, and ingredients–making for an easier decision. 

Give Kalahari Biltong a try at If you haven’t tried the Lime flavor, it’s our favorite, throw it on a taco or a salad, and thank us later! You can read the full ‘Jam Study’ here. For a recent interview with Sheena Iyengar, we recommend listening to The Choices Before Us: Can Fewer Options Lead To Better Decisions? on Hidden Brain.