Debut of a 180-product healthy-for-you food portfolio that makes organics affordable has a friendly packaging design that’s welcoming to all.
The demand for more wholesome, healthy foods continues to grow throughout the United States and elsewhere, although access to organic products can be challenging given the cost.
However, the launch of Inspired Organics (iO) from Lipari Foods, Warren, MI, aims to change all the pretentiousness to make organics universally approachable with a 180-product line distributed in small shops and independent grocers nationwide. Delivering on that proposition is a friendly, eye-catching design managed across a wide array ofproduct types and packaging formats by Skidmore Studio.
“Inspired Organics came to us wanting shoppers to see and know how they were different from any other organic brand,” says Kacha Azema, executive creative director at Skidmore. “Our brand strategy is a result of researched logistics behind what catches a shoppers’ eye and will ultimately make iO who they grab of the shelf. I can confidently say this brand and packaging will set them apart.”
In order to stand out amongst the crowded organic market, Skidmore crafted brand strategy, messaging, and design for a lively brand that resonates with today’s grocery shoppers, a demographic mindful of ingredients in their food and its impact on the environment. Skidmore developed packaging design for iO’s first wave of products, including granola, nut butters, dried fruit, pasta, and chips. Dressed in bright colors and a playful, custom font, each iO product is united throughout every aisle and store.
Azema responds to Packaging Digest’s questions about the design.
First of all, what are the pluses and minuses of a product launch design vs. a redesign?
Azéma: One of the great pluses of designing for a product launch is that it gives us the opportunity to shape the consumer’s very first impressions of the brand. The consumer comes to that product with no pre-conceptions, so we have a clean slate on which to imprint what the brand stands for and why they might be interested in it. This is especially powerful with a store-wide brand like iO because the consumer builds a more nuanced and complete picture of the brand as they interact with it from aisle to aisle.
By contrast, a major minus of a redesign project is managing the consumer’s current perception of the brand. On the one hand, a redesign could be to address misperceptions, which means the difficult work of overcoming baggage that’s likely entrenched in the consumer’s mind. On the other hand, a redesign might be to communicate new or different features, taking on the challenge of re-educating the consumer about what to expect from the brand.
But we enjoy both challenges because in either case we always take a human-centered approach: What’s the consumer’s mindset in this situation, and how can this brand address their needs? With this focus, the pluses and minuses of a product launch vs. a redesign fade away and we can do the good work of communicating how this product solves a real problem for real consumers.
What’s the rollout status?
Azéma: We designed 180 product SKUs. There are currently about 20 more in the queue, and more to come after that, as new products are brought into the brand portfolio.
That's quite a few. Where does this project stand in terms of the complexity among Skidmore’s design portfolio?
Azéma: Doing a large-scale, highly visible brand launch—strategy, design and messaging—is a common project for Skidmore Studio. However, this is the first time we’ve done a product launch with this many SKUs.
Who’s the target consumer?
Azéma: iO is designed for people who want affordable, quality organic food to fuel their active lifestyle. Most organic brands tend to speak to product features, and assume the audience is those who will deep-dive into those features. But what about the rest of us who are busy professionals, young moms with little spare time, and weekend athletes just want a go-to brand for healthy fuel? Together with our client, we wanted to target those people—the ones who are living that active life and want a no-fuss, affordable organic brand that they can trust.
What was the overall packaging design goal?
Azéma: First and foremost, we wanted to connect with our target. We wanted to jump off the shelf with an at-a-glance impression that said, “Hey, I’m an approachable, affordable organic brand.” We found so many organics that are designed with aloof, pretentious, fear-based elements that signal a heavy time investment to comprehend, or deep pockets to purchase. So we flipped that script, intentionally designing packaging that would draw you in and connect with you in a very friendly, peer-to-peer kind of way.
What vibe were you trying to achieve with the design? What elements carry that out?
Azéma: When we developed iO’s brand strategy, we identified Active, Easy and Everyday as its brand pillars—those things it will always stand for in every interaction. The vibe of the packaging design and messaging continually plays that off. The design is light, brightly-colored and airy, drawing you in. The messaging is positive, approachable and spunky, speaking to you like a good-natured friend.
The typeface is catchy—what font was used?
Azéma: The product names are set in a custom-drawn typeface that we created specifically for this project.
What are the unifying elements across the products?
Azéma: All products use our custom-drawn font in the product names. This creates the most distinctive and recognizable look for the brand, from aisle to aisle. Additionally, the iO logo shape—which we often call the “egg” or the “thumbprint”—is always prominent, but changes size, color and the direction it points in order to best serve the design of that particular package.
Other common design characteristics that you’ll see in iO packaging are a full line of custom food illustrations, silhouette-style, and a horizontal brushstroke shape often accompanied by little dots of color that we call the “sparkle.”
What cues are used to distinguish the various product lines?
Azéma: One of our packaging strategies is “Win the aisle.” You’ll find that each iO product line is consistent within itself—for example, all salad dressings look similar except for color changes—but the package design flexes and shifts from aisle to aisle.
We did the first-hand, human-centered research of looking at the actual shelves these products would be sitting on, and the competitors they’d be sitting next to. With that background we designed each line to get noticed by claiming its own visual territory on the shelf. So while the entire line has a highly consistent family feel, no single package design is constrained by the “rules” of any other packages—each is simply designed to win the shopper’s attention in that moment.
How were the design and print requirements coordinated with various packaging vendors?
Azéma: From the outset, we defined a core group of bright brand colors to reinforce what the brand stands for and meet the large majority of its packaging needs. As we went along, some additional, supporting colors were created to pair with certain products and separate iO from its competitors on a given shelf. Our line of iO nut butters is a great example that showcases secondary brand colors that were developed to work well with the creamy browns of the nut butter products and create distinction from the competition.
During production, we received die-lines and packaging substrate samples from manufacturers for each product before we began designing it. This gave us the opportunity to constrain ourselves to only colors which would print well (and consistently!) for that given substrate and printing process.
What was the most challenging product to execute—and what was the solution?
Azéma: iO has a line of desert hummus that was especially tricky. First off, very few people are aware of desert hummus so we had to pull double-duty and introduce both a new brand and a new product! Secondly, the actual product has very low visual appeal and doesn’t immediately communicate flavor—it’s simply hummus in various shades of brown.
The solution was first to use black as the background color of the label, immediately giving the impression that the product is special. Then we used bright accents of color to playfully align with this being a desert product. Finally, we went big and bold with the flavor name—i.e. “Cookie Dough”—instead of the product name “desert hummus.” This helped shoppers get a quick sense of the flavor and eating occasion before they explored the rest of this new product.
What’s not apparent that’s worth pointing out?
Azéma: We created packages for 180 products—including all design and copywriting—in just four months!
We created a food packaging design system that uses almost no food photography—it’s all type, color and flat illustrations.
In order to stand out, we intentionally leaned away from the stereotypical green-and-tan, crunchy-granola look of almost all organic food packaging.
The iO logo graphic was designed to flex in size, shape and direction it points, always relative to the needs and requirements of the individual package.
Lastly, Skidmore Studio developed the iO brand strategy, visual identity, and messaging system before embarking on the 180-SKU packaging design project.
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