Borden Cheese redesign unifies past and present

By Rick Lingle in Packaging Design on June 27, 2017

A revitalization of the iconic brand balances the past with the present to preserve what matters while making the packaging relevant to today’s consumers.


Any way you slice, dice or shred it, a redesign for an iconic brand in the dairy or any product aisle is backed by a lot of research, brainstorming and thoughtful decision making. That’s what Dairy Farmers of America faced for a new packaging design for its Borden Cheese, a brand familiar to generations of consumers. In a look that blends the past with the present, new packaging pays homage to the 8,000 family-owned American dairy farms that make up the Borden Cheese family while resonating with consumers.

Packaging Digest interviews Flavia Panza, senior director, marketing, Borden Cheese, Dairy Farmers of America (Kansas City, KS), about this shakeup for the entire portfolio of 120 SKUs across eight lines of cheese products including shreds, chunks and slices.


When was the previous design? And why the redesign now?

Panza: Our last major redesign was introduced in 2007. The Borden logo was changed in 2011, but the packaging otherwise remained the same.  Our packaging refresh today represents just one of the many efforts to revitalize the Borden Cheese brand—a long-term project rooted deeply in consumer insights and an understanding of the needs of the dairy market.


What was the timeframe from start to finish?

Panza: We began this journey in early 2016, starting with a major design exploration that included many rounds of concepts and revisions, followed by quantitative/qualitative testing and focus groups.  The new packaging graphics began reaching store shelves this spring.


What were the basic goals? What elements were retained?

Panza: At the onset of the project, our overall goal was to understand what elements of the current packaging were considered “mandatory” from a consumer point of view. In other words, what elements had to stay in the new design? What aspects of the brand resonated most, and what were seen as less necessary or superfluous? Our research surveyed respondents on everything from overall thoughts on the current design to the messages being conveyed through the packaging, as well as what kind of information consumers look for at the point of purchase.

We learned that the current Borden Cheese logo – including the unique font and Elsie the Cow – was iconic and well known.  Additionally, the red color from our legacy packaging also signified “Borden Cheese” and represented differentiation from others in the dairy aisle. We found that consumers were drawn to the wholesome, nostalgic feel of the brand and its packaging, which presented a unique challenge in our efforts to refresh and update such an established brand.


What’s the new design hierarchy and did that change from before?

Panza: The design hierarchy essentially did not change. We did, however, apply a consistent aesthetic language across the portfolio, including placement of standard packaging elements and color cues for various flavors.

One notable change is how we communicate our farm heritage and ownership.  Our research revealed that although our outgoing package indicated these aspects, consumers did not understand them.  To that end, a farm theme is more effectively integrated into the design, without being too overt or distracting. Our hope is that consumers will be drawn to this and feel good about their purchase supporting American farm families.


What new aspects reflect changing consumer preferences?

Panza: The farm landscape reflects our dedication to the American, family-owned dairy farms that make Borden Cheese what it is today. All of our packages proudly state “Real Cheese, Real Good” to highlight the nutritional value and quality of the product.

Additionally, we have added more information to the back of the labels to share our brand story, including our rich heritage and commitment to more than 8,000 family-owned dairy farms across the United States. The back panel of many SKUs now features a farm family—actual members of our dairy cooperative that help make Borden Cheese possible.


Next: Difficult decisions, consumer tests, lesson learned, challenges and more…

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