Sugar is the new tobacco: the challenges of regulated packaging.

One day you’ll order a soda and the stewardess will say, “Excuse me, but you’re not allowed to eat high-sugar products on the plane.”

Believe it or not, until 1999 you could smoke in that place without ventilation with hundreds of people breathing the same air. It was first banned on some airlines and a year later, on all of them.

Rules make life better for everyone.


A few years ago, cigarettes were forced to place raw images and ever-growing legends on their packs to warn smokers of what they already know.


What happened to the tobacco industry is now happening to candy, sugary drinks and some snacks.

Awareness of the health problems caused by excess sugar and fat leads to changes in consumer habits and packaging.

The third world war is against obesity.

Overweight, diabetes and hypertension generate costs to the health system. That is why governments are intervening to promote a healthier diet. ☠️

Regulated packaging

In Chile, since 2016, warnings must be placed on the front pack facing of foods high in sugars, fats, sodium and other substances that promote overweight.


Even the use of characters that can attract children, such as Tony the Tiger, among others, was forbidden on packaging. The sale of such products in schools and advertising to children was also prohibited.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador and Peru, traffic lights should be used on the label to indicate whether the product is high, medium or low in sodium, sugar and fat.


For now this is present in some countries, but it is likely to reach many more in the near future. Like the ban on smoking on the plane.

Coca Cola promotes the’original sugar-free’ version. With an all-red label without subbrands: bye-bye Zero, Light and Life. Will it soon became the only Coca-Cola variety?


The same direction was taken by the sugar-free versions of Fanta and Sprite. I’m sure the list will keep adding up names. None of these can be denied by the stewardess.

All of these changes create opportunities to turn the design around, adapt or anticipate regulations.

Design solves problems.

We’ll have to do something. There is not one solution but many. Products that are not “high on…” and do not have to apply warnings are already promoted as “stamp-free”.


Products like this should also communicate their “healthiness” in their packaging as a competitive advantage.

Can we get rid of the regulations?

You can reformulate the product and reduce or eliminate “the bad ingredients” so you don’t have to put up those warnings that neither the manufacturer nor the consumers want to see. Each for different interests. ‍‍♂️

If the product cannot be reformulated, the portion size can be reduced. To consume it in small quantities would not be an excess.

So that the miniature doesn’t look like the Lilliput edition and tastes like it, you can give it a touch of exclusivity with flavors that don’t exist in the regular version.


You can also have a special, collectible or customized container to build a different consumer experience.

Emotional gratification also exists.

In this interview, tennis player Maria Sharapova says that to sell her line of candy – not free of stamps – she bet on product design, packaging aesthetics and self-control of the adult not to exceed. We will have to see what happens if they force the application of stamps that make the packaging less attractive.

Facilitating portion control also adds value. As in the case of products that come cut into small bites or separated already in individual doses. Even the container can be used to store food for later use by a hermetically seal.


What to do when there’s nothing to do?

The products – high in…- will continue to exist at least for a while longer. If the brand has followers and sells in spite of everything, what remains is to strengthen the emotional relationship with its consumers.
Launching customized editions where each person can choose an original design or intervene to make them feel their own and keep it in a corner of their heart.


Connecting from the emotional side of people makes you special.

This must be linked to social networks or to augmented reality. The mobile phone is in everyone’s hands, and so is the packaging. Happy coincidence!

To ensure brand continuity it is best to have at least a stamp-free product development. It may not be what the brand stands for today, but it sure will be tomorrow.