In general, packaging has two main functions – structural and visual. Packaging research is usually commissioned to assess how well existing (or new/revised) packaging is doing its job on these two dimensions, and to provide pointers on how its structural and/or visual performance can be improved.

In consumer/FMCG markets, a large part of packaging research focuses on recognition of the brand/pack and its visual impact (especially when assessing “re-branding” alternatives). Qualitative research is usually commissioned as an initial test of brand/pack design. Specialist quantitative techniques are then used to assess the speed/accuracy of recognition of the shortlisted designs, the aim being to model a supermarket/shop environment.

The functional aspect also usually requires a dual qual-quant approach, firstly (qual) to get detailed information about the pros/cons of candidate/competitive pack shapes/sizes, and secondly (quant) to ensure that a statistically robust decision is made.

Similarly, in business markets it is important to assess the “hands-on” experience of users of the product and its packaging in order to identify desirable/necessary improvements. This is usually done in a combined “qual-then-quant” manner.