Thoughts on Cereal Boxes

The best part about being a designer isn’t the lavish lifestyle. Nay, the piles of money and fast cars get boring after a while. I once bought Norway just because I could and peacefully ruled it for a number of years, but they too became bored after I designed solutions for all of their problems. Alas.

No. But seriously, one of the things I love most is asking ‘why’ because – and especially with made things – there’s usually a reason if you keep digging further.

I was eating cereal (gold leafed Apple Cheerios) and curious as to where the box shapes came from. They’re incredibly thin, but tall and wide instead. I reasoned that they’d get a better volume to surface area ratio if the boxes were made more even across the edges. With the minimization of material to internal space, they’d save cardboard and that means weight and cost and in the end streamline a variety of costs throughout the journey between factory and grocer’s shelf.

So why do they do it?

And I thought about it for a time and although it’s obvious now looking back, I didn’t realize it until I was in the store buying more – the flatter the front face of the box is, the more advertising it can display. Each box is it’s own mini billboard, so it stands to reason that you’d want to maximize that.

Logistically, the shipping and packaging advantages are probably negligible when compared to the effect of sheer size in a crowded, finite shelf area.

Part two of this is an open question I’m still debating:

Eye level is really important when putting things on shelves. That’s the primo spot for merchandise and brands pay more for it when negotiating for products, we know this, but I wonder if cereal’s “eye level” isn’t actually lower because the target market for sugary cereals is younger. They want the kids to take the boxes off the shelves to submit into mommy’s cart. The data is inconclusive and depending on which store you go to (I’ve looked a couple since I had the thought) you might find that each brand has a chunk that takes up the full height (so that that whole strip is the same type all the way up and down) but is relatively skinny down the shelflength.

Anyway. I don’t claim to have any answers, but those are some observations and an interesting topic to question.


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