Vital Farms’ atypical egg carton design shakes up the dairy category while raising consumer engagement through packaging-enabled Augmented Reality.
With consumers having an ever-stronger voice, packaging is increasingly at the forefront of labeling and transparency discussions when it comes to their purchase decisions.
Laying claim as the leading producer of pasture-raised eggs in the U.S., Austin, TX-based Vital Farms is taking labeling transparency a step further with an updated design that leverages the interactive power of smartphone-enabled augmented reality.
Amidst a background of confusing labels crowding egg shelves, Vital Farms’ goal was to create a unique, easy-to-read label design that highlights exactly what consumers are getting when they make a purchase: Pasture-raised eggs that are tended by hand on small family farms, from hens that are free to forage on 108 sq ft of space per bird, all day long, all year round.
"Historically our eggs have been popular in natural foods stores such as Whole Foods, but with today’s growing market for humane, ethically-produced foods, we’ve seen a huge increase in demand by consumers who are just now starting to buy more natural goods,” says Dan Brooks, creative director, Vital Farms.
Brooks notes that the company’s packaging designs have continuously evolved, but the most recent versions had been on shelves for almost 2 years.
The current redesign phase has focused on the egg cartons, and currently for the USDA Organic version as seen above. The Alfresco was done earlier this year as more of a refresh of the previous look that's been in-market since 2014 with new (top) and old (bottom) shown stacked below:
“Because we are streamlining our product range, we seized on that as an opportunity to create a more ubiquitous design aesthetic and brand hierarchy across our product range,” he notes. “We wanted to capture the same general aesthetic as we’d created for the black carton ‘Alfresco Eggs,’ but distinguish the Organic product as being more premium. The challenge was to find a look and feel that conveyed this, as ‘black label’ products are typically a brand’s premium label. By separating out the design elements into the key components we found a solution using a hand-painted look on kraft paper. The result felt familiar enough, but expressed the identity points we needed to make: premium, hand-crafted—associated with organic—and consistent.”
The new organic carton is a dramatic change from the colorful cartons used previously as seen below.
“Moving to this design involved a huge change in direction, but allowed us to more closely follow a design hierarchy that we had established with Alfresco in 2014,” says Brooks. “That redesign rollout was done by renowned chalk board artist Dana Tanamachi to create the now-iconic design. Since then have continued to work with her on that label as it has been modified.
“For this, our largest product redesign ever, we also engaged with Wes Woodell of Woodell Design to both project manage and create a more consistent brand and message hierarchy that we could implement across all our labels. Wes interfaced with our internal team to produce a solid framework, then briefed Dana against that.”
Brooks says the chalkboard approach conveyed a “farm-to-table” on-carton messaging with graphics and copy that spoke to the company’s philosophy and farming practices.
“It was both aesthetically pleasing and honest and transparent,” he adds. “What is written on our carton truly reflects how we farm.
“For the new organic design, we decided to pare down the messaging a little as befits the kraft look in comparison to a black chalkboard look.”
Finding the right balance of substrate and colors was difficult, Brook says. “Running counter to mainstream design evolution meant we had to really feel good about every part of the carton design. We’re not only looking for a design to jump off the shelf, we’re looking for an idea that connects with the consumer in a meaningful and authentic way.”
Augmented Reality reasoning
That consumer connection is solidified in a virtual sense with the AR app done through a partnership with ROAR. Because of the vendor’s proprietary image recognition technology, no changes were required to the packaging so the experience was seamless for the brand. The AR interface was enabled for the Alfresco product in February after Vital Farms uploaded its graphics artwork to the Roar website.
Brooks explains the brand’s use of the AR application.
“One of the challenges we constantly face as a brand is communicating to our customers what the space that we provide our hens ‘looks’ like by comparison to other egg label terms such as free-range, cage-free,” he says. “Knowing that AR experiences are becoming more common, we thought it would be fun to have the top of the carton lid represent part of our pasture so that customers could experience for themselves how much more space our ‘girls’ get to play in!
“This allows consumers to use the app to scan the top of the Vital Farms carton to uncover a virtual reality diagram of what a pasture-raised environment really looks like—further driving home the importance of purchasing pasture-raised eggs vs. any other category. There will also be coupons available through the Roar app for users to receive an instantly redeemable coupon.”
The app is downloadable for either iphone or Android platforms for free at Roar.
On AR, hens and Pokemon
Vladislav Draganov, Roar’s business development manager, says consumers scan a package to see additional information about the product.
"They discover interactive AR experiences and can watch a fantastic brand video, follow a link to the company’s Facebook page or see a 3D model product view like Vital Farms used that shows the hens in a pasture,” he says. “With Roar, no QR code is needed—any physical asset can be scanned.” The assets are housed at Roar once a company such as Vital Farms is registered.
“Creating AR experiences should be easy and simple, which is why we built our platform for non-technical users,” he explains. “Once the AR experience is created and published on our website, it's available for a public launch.” He notes that it can take as few as 5-10 minutes to create an AR experience, subject to availability of the digital assets.
However, Vital Farms, which used 3D view, images and actions buttons such as coupons and Facebook likes, took several weeks to create the experience ahead of the campaign launch.
“Creating an AR experience on our website is free,” says Draganov, pointing out that Roar does not charge monthly fees, but instead uses a pay-as-you-go model.
The Roar database currently contains markers for thousands of food products and beverages, he adds.
Draganov says that interest in AR has increased following the wildly successful Pokemon Go campaign. “CPG brands see the great potential the technology has,” he points out. “You’ll see more uses by major brands like Apple that are making bets on augmented reality with Facebook and SnapChat aiming to bring the technology to the masses.”
Vital’s final thoughts
In Brooks view, the design is anything but lazy. “In a market space where the lazy design option is to show some version of hens out on grass, regardless of how misleading that may be for some brands that use that approach, we’ve gone the other way,” Brooks says. “ By focusing on what our brand ‘means’ we’re letting our customers discover the product for themselves, and connecting them via design rather than by images which anyone can use.”
By the end of 2017, Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs will be available in about 10,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Target, Walmart, Publix, Sprouts and more.