Date of Award

December 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Packaging Science

Committee Member

Rupert A Hurley

Committee Member

Sarah Griffin

Committee Member

Robert Kimmel


ABSTRACTCategory visual codes are visible themes that appear across a category, defining what is typical for that category. In package design, these visual codes may include the shape, size, font, color, or material of the packaged products seen on shelves. Generally, research has shown that atypical designs do not stand out to consumers; they go unseen since consumers are only looking for specific characteristics within that category. However, many studies indicate that consumer perception of atypical package design is moderated by several other variables that influence purchase decision. In March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration passed a temporary policy allowing companies not registered as an over-the-counter drug manufacture to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer products to mitigate the COVID-19 public health crisis. Mintel market reports show a 1,050% growth of commercial hand sanitizer products in the US in 2020, not including the hundreds of products made by local distilleries and breweries. The rush to fill demand resulted in an influx of product category atypicality, with hand sanitizer distributed in packages ranging from lotion bottles to juice pouches. This descriptive research uses multiple methods to understand the average consumer's interaction with hand sanitizer at the point of purchase. This study defines a typical hand sanitizer package by identifying common visual codes within the product category via elemental analysis of retail packages. Perceived typicality of hand sanitizer packaging is collected from participants. Second, this research uses eye-tracking biometrics to systematically describe consumers’ interaction with hand sanitizer at the point of purchase during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, quantitative and qualitative survey data captures participants’ perception of packaging designs and attitude toward the product. A Least Squares regression found that visual appeal, brand confidence, and packaging have a significant positive relationship to participants’ perceived typicality. Packages perceived as typical were transparent with non-pigmented products. Packages perceived as atypical generally had more graphical elements included on the PDP. The elemental analysis reveals that the most common hand sanitizer packages are transparent bottles, 2 or 8 fl. oz. with a flip-top or pump cap. Most packages include one image and over 90% of have at least one health claim printed on the PDP. Participants indicated that form, dispensing method, and active ingredient were the most important considerations in their hand sanitizer purchase. Biometric data supports a desire for a more prominent active ingredient. Pump or disk top caps were their preferred dispensing method for hand sanitizer bottles, however disk top caps are rare. Participants indicated that brand was not an important factor when shopping for hand sanitizer, however, their gaze suggested that it was more important than most other text. This research contributes to the growing research around package design typicality with a novel product category – hand sanitizer. Managerial implications include a baseline understanding of consumers’ expectations for hand sanitizer package elements. This research also reveals a need for research as to how perceived typicality of package designs may influence consumer perception of and behaviors with OTC drugs. Research was conducted in the southeast region of the United Stated against the backdrop of the 2019 Corona Virus. Further research is needed to understand consumer interaction with hand sanitizer packaging outside this context.



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