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Food

How Brands Can Avoid the Minimalist Packaging Trap

Simplistic designs often blur together and won’t stand out to consumers

There’s a pervasive scourge of minimalism threatening consumer brands.

You’ve seen them. You may buy them. You may even love them. Those brands that strip away all “unnecessary” packaging graphics and messaging in service of an unvarnished, anti-branding, ingredients-first message.

There are myriad examples, but some of the better-known purveyors of the minimalist approach include RX Bar, Brandless, Soylent, Just, Naked Nutrition and Malk, to name a few.

Minimalism is alleged to be more millennial-friendly, transparent, authentic and pure. None of that icky marketing stuff. No bells and whistles. No bullshit.

Well, I’m calling bullshit on rampant minimalism.

When it first emerged, the minimalist-unbranded wave was a disruptive and fresh approach to building a brand. Do the opposite of what traditional packaged goods brands have done forever. Acknowledge that today’s overwhelmed consumers seek simplicity and clarity. Emphasize an ethical supply chain and clean ingredients with an equally “clean” package design.

Brands seeking to “stand out” by blending in to the minimalist aesthetic risk indifference and irrelevancy.

And for some, significantly in RX Bar’s case, its minimalism proved to be a brilliant strategy, as evidenced by its $600 million sale to Kellogg’s. But when too many brands strip down to bare bones, what was once a welcome departure from traditional packaging clutter has become an annoyingly prevalent, boring and lazy trend that lacks meaning.

In food and beverage branding, there’s an insidious threat lurking aboard the minimalist-unbranded bandwagon.

Many consumers may interpret your product as just that—a product, not a brand. Minimalism connotes that your product is nothing more than a commodity, a collection of ingredients easily sourced and replicated by other products, housed in an unassuming vessel that may or may not have equal quality to competing products.

Commoditized brands are transactional. They garner no loyalty. They engender the same level of emotional engagement as one experiences while putting coins in a parking meter.

The ubiquity of minimalist brand design is not merely a nod by marketers, brand owners and creatives to the cultural zeitgeist, but rather an inability to resolve the tension inherent in packaged goods branding. Specifically, how to deliver simplicity and clarity for consumers while communicating a distinct personality and credible, relatable raison d’être.

Renowned book jacket designer Chip Kidd often discusses this tension as the fine line that separates mystery from clarity.

“Clarity gets to the point. It’s blunt. It’s honest. It’s sincere,” Kidd says. “Mystery is a lot more complicated by its very definition. Mystery demands to be decoded, and when it’s done right, we really, really want to (decode it).”

Too many minimalist brands lack even a modicum of mystery. In their zeal to proclaim, “We’ve got nothing to hide,” they’ve forgotten that a little mystery, and yes, even a little seduction, produces desire and intrigue that drives sales, creates preference and commands a premium.

So, how does your brand avoid the trap of me-too, just-the-facts minimalism and create some genuine affinity? Here are three questions to ask.

First, does your brand visibly stand out? Assess your brand’s look and feel and ask yourself: Is there is at least one visual (or verbal) component of your brand that is truly distinctive from your competition?

Much like the hipsters in my home city of San Francisco—skinny jeans, thick beards and fixie bikes—sharing the same style as large chunks of ones’ peer group does not make you different or unique. Brands seeking to “stand out” by blending into the minimalist aesthetic risk indifference and irrelevancy.

Second, does your brand generate a visceral response? Does it create curiosity, spur a chuckle, inspire a pause for reflection or offer an intriguing tease? By leaving something to the imagination, you’ll encourage and entice people to explore further. And it’s that thrill of discovery—“I found this amazing brand!”—that forges an emotional connection and advocacy.

Third, is your brand truly memorable? If your brand does the first two things well—i.e., it’s both visible and visceral—then memorability will be the inevitable and essential byproduct.

Brand creators, owners and marketers, it’s beyond time to reject the minimalist craze and reintroduce a touch of romance, mystery and, dare I say, emotion, to brands. Because less is simply not more.

If you’d like to discuss your brand, please contact Peter Allen at [email protected]

This article was originally published July 26, 2018 on Adweek.com

5 Ways Brands Can Harness Packaging’s Power of Touch

A sensory way for consumers to connect with companies they admire

We spend more time staring at screens than sleeping. We’re bombarded daily by a relentless fusillade of information—some valid, much of it vapid. Political polarization, trolls and manufactured outrage infest our timelines.

Despite the promises of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms that claim they’re fostering connections and community, abundant research reveals that our digital lives are causing many of us to feel increasingly disconnected and depressed.

Full disclosure: I’m as guilty as others. My laptop is rarely shut down and my iPhone is essentially an appendage. I stream movies and binge-watch Netflix. I use multiple apps to manage my myriad smart home devices. I love technology and can’t imagine my life without it.

But the pervasiveness of our digital lifestyles and—let’s face it: addictions—often leave many of us feeling a bit hollow, unfulfilled and craving physical, sensory experiences.

What’s often overlooked as our purchases and transactions increasingly migrate online is something that successful marketers and brands understand and celebrate: the remarkable physical power of packaging design.

Packaging enables brands to provide consumers with a welcome respite from their cacophonous digital lives through simplicity, clarity and the promise of a satisfying sensory experience that ultimately builds trust and loyalty.

Recent research indicates that despite being the first generation of true digital natives, an overwhelming majority of Gen Z “prefers to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.” The craftsmanship, tactility and physicality of smart and beautiful packaging is an essential part of that retail experience, offering a welcome respite from the daily digital noise.

Simply put, “Consumers use their hands to connect with brands,” write professors Lawrence Williams and Joshua Ackerman.

Seductive, touchable packaging sells. It effectively builds valuable connections with consumers that engender assurance and advocacy.

Ironically, it’s many online brands that best understand the power of packaging to elicit an emotional response that lingers, to surprise and delight. Yes, the allure and appeal of these brands begin with the ease and convenience of online shopping and ordering, but the experience is enhanced and elevated by the packaging’s arrival and unboxing.

No sentient brand marketer can credibly argue that packaging shouldn’t evolve and innovate to become more sustainable, smarter and more integrated within the digital/ecommerce ecosystem. And there are some incredibly cool examples already in the market.

The brilliance of Australian wine brand 19 Crimes’ packaging is that it performs equally well as a digital or analog expression of the brand. One needn’t download the app to access the augmented reality experience; the labels tell a compelling and captivating story on their own.

Augmented reality aside, here are five additional strategies that brands should consider to harness the sensory power of packaging and connect with consumers.

Make it reusable or upcycle it

Create packaging that can be kept, reused and inspire your customers’ creativity. Two great examples are the glass containers of Oui by Yoplait yogurt and Dragon Well green tea. As Gratitude’s president and CEO Andy Schamisso says, “We anticipate some upcycling, some artistic customer creations, some useful re-use and repurposing and some love from what we believe is a welcome change to the typical, generic and boring presentations on the shelf today.”

Reduce waste

Sustainability, waste reduction and eco-friendliness are musts and should be table stakes for every brand. Danish brewer Carlsberg recently introduced a cool innovation called Snap Pack, which replaces the ubiquitous plastic six-pack rings with a glue that binds the cans together.

Earn a seat at the table

Packaging’s impact doesn’t end on shelf; it continues at home. Cereal brands have long understood the importance of extending their engagement inside homes. From games, puzzles and quizzes on the box to toy surprises inside, they earned a seat at millions of breakfast tables, forging memories, loyalty and even love. Method revolutionized home products by hiring Karim Rashid to design beautiful structural packaging that doubled as home decor proudly displayed by delighted customers.

Design hidden treasures

Incorporate subtle images, messages and little doses of personality that aren’t apparent upon first glance. When consumers find these graphic gems, they add a sense of discovery and whimsy that inspire sharing. The personal greetings—”hey u,” “hiya,” “hiii” and “yo”—on the tabs of PepsiCo’s bubly sparking water brand are a simple, fun example.

Keep your spirits high

Luxury wine and spirits brands expertly use embossing, debossing, foil stamping, UV coatings, specialized inks and die-cuts to create a premium, sensory brand experience. Many of these effects and finishes are simply too expensive and impractical for most CPG brands. But with a little research, creativity and consultation with packaging suppliers, printers and production houses, there are plenty of creative and cost-effective ways to deploy some of these techniques to enhance your packaging’s physical allure.

We’d do well to remember that we already possess a powerful tool to achieve meaningful disruption: touchability. Packaging enables brands to provide consumers with a welcome respite from their cacophonous digital lives through simplicity, clarity and the promise of a satisfying sensory experience that ultimately builds trust and loyalty.

So, go ahead, reach out and touch your favorite brands. You’ll feel better in the morning.

If you’d like to discuss your brand, please contact Peter Allen at [email protected]

This article was originally published November 29, 2018 on Adweek.com

Brand Packaging Design Must Evolve for eCommerce

Best ecommerce packaging, ecommerce packaging solutions

eCommerce is changing the way brands sell their products, pushing companies to reassess what defines the most effective packaging design. To incentivize purchase, CPG and food/beverage brands must adapt packaging design to reflect the reality of how people shop both online and off. Changes, such as larger digital hero images (i.e., Unilever’s TRESemmé shampoo hero adapted for Amazon ordering) and a rejiggering of how package sizing is displayed on-pack, respond to how consumers shop online. New packaging shapes and materials are adaptations to ensure consumers receive a whole product, minus any spills or crushed bits, when shipped to homes. For example, P&G is pioneering a new box for its Tide Liquid Detergent.

Brand Packaging Design Bridges Offline and Online

When considering new eCommerce packaging solutions, it’s worth looking at the trends in the new retail landscape. Nearly half of all Americans purchase groceries online, doubling from 23% in just over a year. But only 2.5% of food and beverage sales is expected be online in 2019. Perhaps recognizing this disconnect, Amazon purchased Whole Foods in 2017 and is pushing to open cashier-less Go convenience stores to capture the other 98% of grocery sales, IRL. The best brand packaging design must seamlessly bridge sales where they are occurring, whether online or offline.

The Best eCommerce Packaging

CPG and food and beverage brands should continue to cultivate relationships with consumers when considering their packaging designs. Heidi Reale, president of the marketing and communications firm SparkShoppe!, recommends products make an emotional connection with the consumer. “The price elasticity of demand doesn’t play in if you can create an emotional connection with the people you do business with, your customers. So if you can create that emotional connection, it’s worth a lot more than trying to get to the bottom of the barrel with price,” Reale said in an interview with storebrands.com.

Poultry Brands Heed the Call

Poultry brands have heard the call, taking action on-pack and with new pack design to create an improved customer experience. The UK’s Sainsbury leads the re-design charge, developing a doypack (a sealed plastic bag designed to stand upright) into which raw chicken is packaged. The no-drip pack zips open and the poultry slips directly into the pan without human contact, a plus for many consumers.

Foster Farms redesigned their on-pack messaging for Fresh and Natural, Simply Raised and Organic lines to include “DORI,” a scannable QR code virtual assistant loaded with recipes, exclusive coupons, and labeling terms and descriptions.

JustBARE, a brand under the Pilgrim’s umbrella, includes an on-pack traceability code unique to each package. Consumers are guided to the website to enter the code and discover where and how the poultry in their package was raised.

Our Perspective

Here are four key considerations for brands when designing packaging for the hybrid eCommerce/bricks-and-mortar retail environment:

  1. Your brand’s impact extends beyond the point of purchase

The impact of packaging doesn’t end when shoppers add the product to their digital or real shopping carts. The product lives in their homes for a few days or a few weeks, and smartly designed packaging can continue to help the brand forge an emotional connection for the duration of that lifetime. To thrive in this divided world of shopping, your brand must earn a seat at the table. The relationship doesn’t end at the shopping cart.

  1. Packaging is a gateway for consumers

Your brand’s packaging can provide a gateway for consumers to learn more about your product and brand. Are you delivering information about ingredient sourcing, sustainability and the supply chain? Recipes? Nutrition? Social purpose? Make your package smarter and more integrated to move your customer from package to web or social.

  1. Go beyond the trash

As the social and environmental impacts of waste move closer to the center of consumers’ value perception, can your packaging be designed to serve another function? Does your consumer value a reusable or upcycled package?

  1. The power of touch

Including a bit of whimsy or humor or other brand-specific touches can engage a potential customer for a moment or a lifetime. New packaging materials and finishes can add a tactile component to offline shopping that is often overlooked when designing for eCommerce.

As consumer perceptions and needs change, grocery shopping is shifting to include both online and offline in a different way than just a year or two ago. Brands must consider on-pack messaging and design and new packaging materials to prime the product for purchase. Your customer will not always order online. It can look great online but it has to also perform on-shelf and at home.

To discuss how to optimize your brand for success online and at retail, contact Peter Allen at [email protected].

 

 

 

Your Local Market Shifts Shape: Grocery Shopping Adapts to New Realities

Meal kit delivery services are blowing home cooking out of the water. Looking to compete, the number of prepared foods at Whole Foods and prepared foods at Costco has steadily ticked up. Supermarkets are losing customers as more and more avoid the long lines in favor of foods they don’t have to shop for or cook. Call the trend lazy, but after a long day at work, picking up the kids from soccer practice, and responding to those eternal emails, it seems that no one wants to spend time over a stove, hot or otherwise. While home cooking is your best bet for a healthy and affordable dinner, grocery stores and outlets that sell groceries are creating pre-made meals that are are focused on local produce, fresh proteins, and nutritious ingredients.

Time Savers

Meal kit companies like Blue Apron and Chef’s Menu have quickly developed a cooking replacement industry of easy, delivered-to-your-door ingredients that are perfectly portioned and ready to cook. These meal kits make cooking a breeze and with pre-portioned ingredients, yit’s easier to avoid food waste. Although the price is higher per serving than shopping for ingredients yourself, people are willing to shell out a little extra cash for the convenience factor. Supermarket chains like Whole Foods, as well as big box stores like Costco jumping on the meal kit bandwagon in an attempt to keep customers. (For more about meal kits and meal delivery srvices, look here for our recommendations.)

Kroger Co. is jumping right into the industry with their own meal kit, Prep + Pared, which you can find at four stores across the country (more are anticipated to start carrying the product soon). Dishes include Moroccan Inspired Spring Vegetables, Creamy Chicken + Bacon Alfredo, Japanese Inspired Beef Bowl, and Chimichurri Steak and clock in at around $14 (serves two). The meals take about 20 minutes to prepare with no chopping required.

Prepared Foods at Whole Foods

While Whole Foods doesn’t sell their own branded meal kits (yet), you can find Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal kit service, selling their pre-packaged dinners at Whole Foods stores around the country. Meal offerings include Mongolian Seitan Stir Fry, Pan-Seared Tofu and Black Rice Noodles, and Cashew Korma with Cauliflower Rice, to name a few.

Prepared Foods Sell. A lot.

Started in 2012, the meal kit market is seeing a huge spike in sales. Since its inception, the industry has generated about $1.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2016, according to Packaged Facts, and is expected to double to $3 billion in the next few years. Grocery store revenue, on the other hand, is in decline, so these markets are doing all they can to stay relevant. Only 49% of customers see a supermarket as the primary outlet for groceries and the average number of weekly trips to a grocery store is declining. These companies hope that meal kits will help bolster sales, and maybe even help families eat easily and healthily for affordable prices.

The Smoothie: Protein in its Simplest Form

With the increase of weight-training phenomenons like Crossfit and powerlifting, protein and protein powders are getting a huge surge in the world of nutrition. From nuts to pea protein, plant-based protein powders are crowding the shelves of local health food stores and making their way into smoothies across the globe. But what are all these new protein ingredients and where on earth do they come from? Is one protein source better than another? Let’s take a look at the best plant-based protein powder – and some animal protein powder sources – to learn each powder works.

Working with Whey

After milk has been curdled and strained, a thick liquid remains created as a byproduct of cheese production. Whey, as this liquid is commonly called, is then separated from the fat and processed for consumption. Whey protein is arguably one of the best sources of protein available because it contains a large range of essential amino acids, which are absorbed quickly. Whey protein is proven to help you increase strength, gain muscle, and lose fat. The only problem? Vegans and those allergic to milk need to look elsewhere for their protein supplements.

Boosted with Bone Broth

True, it’s not a plant-based protein, but these days, it seems like bone broth is the magic cure-all. Whether you think it’s ridiculous to shell out upwards of $15 on glorified chicken broth or you’ve hopped on the bone broth bandwagon, the fact is that companies and consumers worldwide are gobbling the stuff up. Take Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein. This protein supplement delivers the benefits of homemade bone broth and supports joints, skin, muscles, and digestion. Plus, it’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo-friendly, so it’s suitable for all non-vegan gym buffs. The company eschews chemicals and new-fangled supplements in favor of traditions and nutritional principles that have been tried and tested throughout history.

Pick Pea

Pea protein is the perfect option. Plant-based eaters can add this veggie protein powder to their diets without the unwanted side effects that usually come along with protein powders like bloating and allergies. Pea protein is a “complete protein,” made by drying and grinding peas and legumes into a fine flour and removing the fiber and starch. This leaves you with mostly protein with vitamins and minerals. For a taste of plant-based protein, try Purely Inspired organic protein shake that boasts a whopping 20 grams of pea-tastic protein.

Go Nuts for Nuts

Another plant-based protein that’s lining the shelves is nut-based protein powders. Nut enthusiasts (and the non-allergic) will go nuts for peanut and Brazil nut-based powders. Nuts and nut-butters typically contain a large amount of fat and calories, but turning them into powders removes some of the bad-for-you elements. Take Raw Power’s Brazil Nut Protein Powder that boasts raw, organic, and vegan protein. It delivers the nutrients of Brazil Nuts without the fat calories. PB fit’s peanut butter powder is also a great way to add protein to your smoothies with 90% less fat and ⅓ of the calories of a scoop of peanut butter.

Whatever you decide is best for your body and your diet, these natural protein powders are a great way to bolster your diet and consume some post-workout recovery fuel. Bump your smoothies up to the next level with one of these good-for-your-body protein powders.

And the Best Plant Based Protein Powder Is…

For it’s appeal to the broadest swath of humans and mostly non-allergenic qualities, we choose pea protein as the best plant-based protein powder.

Why Eating Your Coffee is Smart

For coffee drinkers, that morning Cup of Joe is a ritual that won’t soon be abandoned, but what happens if you eat your morning cup instead of drink it? For centuries, people have been brewing beans for consumption (with popularity booming since the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when America switched from tea to coffee in nearly one fell swoop) and now it’s practically a faux pas not to drink the stuff. But even before we were meeting for coffee dates and swigging Starbuck’s before a big meeting, the bean was considered somewhat of a magic fruit.

The History: Eating Whole Coffee Beans

Let’s take a little trip back in time. Coffee can trace its roots back to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. Legend has it that the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the effects of coffee when he noticed that his goats became energetic after eating the berries off a certain tree. Kaldi shared this information with the abbot of the local monastery who began turning these berries into a drink that kept him alert during evening prayers. Slowly, word moved to the Arabian Peninsula, where coffee cultivation and trade began.

The Bean: What Happens if You Eat Coffee Grounds

What exactly is the coffee bean? It’s the seed of the coffee fruit (also called a cherry). During processing, the cherry, the red exterior coating, is removed and the seed inside is dried into raw green coffee beans. These green beans are then roasted at various levels and become the mocha colored beans we know and love. When you grind these beans and combine them with hot water, you’re diluting the effects of the bean. So eating the bean has an amplified effect — you’re getting all of the caffeine and antioxidants, not just what drips through the filter. The active ingredients in coffee beans are also absorbed more quickly through the mucus membranes in the mouth when you chew them whole rather than when you sip their diluted counterparts.

The Benefits of Coffee

Not only does coffee give us a much needed pep in our step that allows to tackle the day, it also reduces the risk of liver disease, skin cancer, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lessens the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Coffee is also the number one source of antioxidants for Americans, which remove free radicals from your bloodstream, and help to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and immune dysfunction. Eating whole coffee beans helps you absorb not only the caffeine but also the ever important antioxidants faster. Plus, caffeine is credited with boosting memory consolidation, relieving post workout muscle pain, and increasing levels of dopamine. It’s, quite simply, a magic berry! And chewing coffee beans deliver your caffeine and antioxidants more rapidly than sipping your morning cup.(We don’t however, recommend eating coffee grounds.)

Where to Get Your Fix

As the benefits of caffeine continue to be touted, more companies are putting it into more places. Sure, you could grab a handful of beans and munch away, but that might be just a bit too hard core for some. Personally, a chocolate covered coffee bean goes a long way, but energy bars are your best bet for getting portable coffee on-the-go alongside proteins and fats that help you digest the caffeine slower and steadier. Eat Your Coffee, an organic, vegan, and gluten-free bar is infused with an entire cup of real coffee. Munch on it in Mocha Latte, Coconut Mocha, and Caramel Macchiato flavors that include good-for-you ingredients like cashews, oats, coconut, chia seeds, dates, coffee, quinoa, and cacao nibs. Coffee Thins, similarly, are a sweet treat that convert 100% of the whole coffee bean into an edible ingredient that delivers on taste and caffeine.

You may not be ready to give up your morning cup of coffee just yet, but these edible options are a great way to get an extra caffeine boost on the go.

Snack Bags Get Hot

Human beings are suckers for personalization, especially when said personalization is related to snack customization. From cupcake decorating parties to Lunchables where you make your own mini pizzas or cracker, cheese, and ham combos, we love the ability to tailor-make our snacks to meet our own desires. Didn’t you ever get home from school as a kid, make a beeline toward the freezer, nuke a frozen burrito, and doctor it with added cheese, hot sauce, and salsa? Sure, you can rip open a plain ol’ bag of Doritos and dig in, but wouldn’t it be so much more fun to add your own seasonings? Companies around the world are punching up the flavor of your favorite bag of chips with a sachet of added seasoning. From salt to sauces, there’s a flavor addition for every palate.

Mexico has been doing it for years — take a bag of Fritos and douse them in chile and lime, and you’ve got a snack that’s customized to the region. Before Fritos came in a prepackaged chile and lime flavor, hungry consumers were doing it themselves. Now you’ll find even crazier concoctions lining the streets of Mexico. Take Dorilocos (or Crazy Doritos). Walking down the streets of Mexico City, you’ll see street vendors slinging these gluttonous concoctions. A bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos are sliced open lengthwise, then topped with grated carrots, jicama, cucumber, pickled pork rinds, peanuts, jellied candies, lime juice, two kinds of chili powder, and several kinds of fruity syrup and hot sauce. Over the top? Yes. But you can’t deny the appeal of a customized bag of chips.

One of the United Kingdom’s oldest brand of potato crisps, Salt ‘n’ Shake, began serving potato chips with included sachets in the 1920s. The chips were created by Frank Smith and sold in pubs in Cricklewood, London. Drunken pubgoers were stealing the salt cellars he provided alongside his chips, so Smith began selling the chips with a small blue sachet of salt. Now, you can purchase the chips with the same blue sachet containing 0.6g of salt, allowing the consumer to salt their crisps to suit their own taste.

All around the world, you’ll find similar products. In India, Lay’s (owned by Pepsico India) created the Chip-n-Sauce pack. Launched in 2008 to offer cricket lovers a snack to enjoy while watching the sporting event, the Lay’s Chip-n-Sauce pack comes in Chilli Chinese flavor with a Schezwan Sauce sachet and Chatpata Indian with a Tamarind Sauce sachet inside the package. In South America, Lay’s is also cornering the market on chip customization. As if their unique flavors like Ham, Olive Oil, and Parmesan and Beef Carpaccio with Parmeggiano aren’t off-the-wall enough, in Peru, you can enjoy the Lay’s Dips brand which includes a Peruvian Criollo Chili sauce sachet.

And the beauty of customized chip flavorings is that you can do it at home. Sure, there are a few brands that offer included flavor sachets, but get creative and do it yourself! Japanese furikake seasoning (a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt) makes a great topping for plain chips or popcorn. Try kale powder over your Lay’s or Tajin, Mexican chili, lime, and salt seasoning on your Fritos. Your chip bag is your oyster!

 

Vegetables’ Collapsing Supply Chain

The farm-to-table movement has taken the country by storm — and it’s even more accessible than a six-course feast at a Michelin starred restaurant. Supporting local farms has become mainstream, encouraging consumers to shop at farmers markets and buy locally. New agriculture companies are even bringing farms closer to the population, so you can find family farms in your backyard. Innovative companies are engineering and building farms closer to population centers, so you can have super fresh produce that’s just a short drive from your supermarket. That means that you can buy affordable, organic, non-GMO, heritage veggies that remind us what our planet is really meant for – supporting life.

Better for the Environment

The local food movement is growing, and that’s in part because buying local produce is better for the environment. More and more Americans want to know where their food comes from. They shop at local farmers markets and subscribe to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Locavores are taking over and the local food movement shows no signs of slowing down.

Buying organic from your local farmers market is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Transporting food requires the use of trucks, boats, and planes. These transportation vehicles burn fossil fuels and emit CO2, contributing to global warming. Local, organic farms don’t rely on synthetic or petroleum-based pesticides or fertilizers, use less water and contribute significantly less soil contamination from runoff.Local farms also help collapse the supply chain by shipping their products shorter distances, often 100 miles or less.

Fresh Vegetables Near Me

Farmers markets make shopping locally easier than ever. At these communal spaces, local farmers gather to sell their farm products directly to consumer. This cuts overhead costs and creates a community around agriculture. To get local produce straight to your home, consider signing up for Community Supported Agriculture programs. At these direct-to-consumer programs, a customer buys a share of a local farm’s harvest. You’ll then either pick up your CSA box filled with local produce at a communal location or it will be delivered straight to your door. Other direct to consumer programs make eating locally simple, like pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands, and gleaning programs, where consumers harvest crops that are left in fields after harvest.

Family Farms Near Me? Not Exactly …

Even in areas where farmland is hard to come by, we’re finding new models for farming that make it possible to grow produce in densely populated cities.If you live in a densely populated city, it might be harder to find local farms. But new companies are changing the way we farm, making it easier to enjoy fresh produce without the mileage. How are they bringing farms to cities? By utilizing indoor farming techniques. Plenty, a San Francisco startup, has built an indoor, urban farm in a warehouse using 20-foot towers filled with fresh kale, herbs, and veggies. Aerofarms is doing the same thing across the country in Newark, New Jersey. A 70,000-square-foot former steel factory is the setting for their urban farm. They produce about two-million pounds of baby greens annually without sunlight, soil, or pesticides. These vertical farms grow crops in cities with all the benefits of local farming without the negative consequences.  

Bugging Out – Will You Eat Insects?

What if we told you that manufacturers are processing crickets, meal worms, and locusts into flours to boost a product’s protein levels? Unsurprisingly, most people in the western world are reluctant to add a scoop of cricket protein powder to their morning shake or pop a couple chocolate covered ants as an after dinner treat. But insects are actually nutritious, sustainable, protein dense, and high in easy to absorb vitamins and minerals.Interested yet?

How about this: a massive 2013 report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations encouraged consumption of edible insects as a global food source because of their many health benefits. It’s time to jump on the creepy crawly bandwagon and embrace entomophagy, the practice of eating insects.

Crunch on Crickets

Companies like CRIK Nutrition, Entomo Farms, Exo Protein, and Chapul are revolutionizing the cricket industry with products like cricket protein powder, protein bars, and flour. You can even munch on cricket cookies from Bitty Foods and chocolate or candy coated worms from Hotlix. Plus, more and more Oaxacan restaurants are popularizing the Mexican snack chapulines — fried grasshoppers that are usually coated in lime and spices. Now will you eat bugs?

Well, for one: we already are. Bugs are practically impossible to keep out of your foods, and you’re already consuming far more than you’d imagine. For instance: one cup of rice contains up to three whole insects; the ground coffee used to make one cup of coffee contains up to 60 bug parts; and the tomato sauce used in one regular pizza contains up to 30 fly eggs or two whole maggots. Many coatings used in the manufacture of candy are made from bug parts, too. But instead of being grossed out by this, we should embrace it.

Nutritionally Dense Cricket Protein Powder

For over two billion people in the world, insects make up their main source of protein. They are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, with over twice as much protein as beef, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, and more omegas and B12 vitamins than wild salmon. Plus, they boast high levels of zinc, magnesium, and B6, and are loaded with amino acids.It’s practically the perfect food for humans and planet! Are those two billion people paleo? Likely they just know an affordable protein source when they see one.

Easy to Grow & Sustainable

Growing crickets requires less resources than traditional livestock. Cattle farms are notoriously horrendous for the environment, but cricket farms require 2,000 times less land and water, grow 13 times faster, produce 100 times less greenhouse gasses, and consume 12 times less feed.Sweet!

More Ethical

We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of cattle farming and let’s not get started on the waste and by-products cattle and other animals produce, but let’s just say it ain’t pretty. Crickets, however, naturally cluster on their own, so you don’t have to force them into tight quarters. And none of the insects are going to waste. Traditionally, we only consume about 40 percent of the cows we raise for livestock, but the entire cricket is dried and ground up, so you’re not squandering any of the product.

So What’s the Hold Up?

Most people are, quite frankly, irked by the thought of eating insects and associate it with disease and filth. But insects can be a part of a healthy and happy diet. Lobster and shrimp, for example, were once shunned as dirty, but are now considered delicacies. And high-end restaurants are already starting to serve insects on their menus. It’s only a matter of time until westerners realize that bugs are the latest superfood and here to stay.

 

Rebranding Helps Tahoe Trail Bar Increase Visibility

A recent story published on packagingstrategies.com focused on our branded packaging design work with Tahoe Trail Bars. We are thrilled to share their success!

 

Tahoe Trail Bars rebranded in time for summer outings

When current owner & CEO Wes King bought the recipe for the single flavor and rights to make the product in 2010, the nutrition, health & wellness category was growing exponentially. He realized it was time to get Tahoe Trail Bar introduced to a wider audience.

King reached out to Perspective: Branding (perspectivebranding.com) for the rebrand. “We were struggling to be seen in the set (because of muted colors), and finding it difficult to convert sales because the features of the bar were not clear and our brand identity didn’t have the weight and punch of a separate mark. We decided to take the plunge into new flavors (which our customers were requesting), and take the brand as a whole ‘down to the studs’ and really capture who we are and what we are about,” he says. Continue reading here: http://www.packagingstrategies.com/articles/89760-tahoe-trail-bars-rebranded-in-time-for-summer-outings.

Originally published on packagingstrategies.com on July 5, 2017.

What does the Paleo Diet Have to do with the Price of Eggs?

paleo diet, foods with protein

Whether or not you’re on a paleo diet, you’re likely on the hunt for delicious foods with protein. In fact, if you want to optimize health, price and taste, I’m a strong believer in a paleo diet staple: eggs. They’re versatile, delicious and packed with protein. I was told once there are 143 ways to cook eggs, although I personally rotate between five or so variations. And the average egg packs between six and seven protein grams.

Right now, eggs are especially cheap. While prices spiked in 2015 thanks to an outbreak of avian flu, they’ve been on the way back down for some time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dozen eggs ran you $1.41 in May—more than a quarter lower year-over-year. Meanwhile, 2015 prices hovered near $3 in the fall.

Paleo Diet Pricing

Walk into a grocery store to buy some eggs, though, and you’ll see a wide variety of prices pasted onto those cartons. The value perception of a dozen eggs has everything to do with production and packaging. The most strict followers of a paleo diet will be especially tuned into where, exactly, their foods with protein are coming from.

Online, you can buy a dozen “California Ranch Fresh” large eggs for just $1.86 a dozen. But as NPR reported last year, monikers like “fresh” and “farm fresh” mean…well…absolutely nothing. All but 5% of eggs produced in the U.S. come from chickens raised in battery cages, which leave each bird just 100 or so square inches of space. That includes eggs that claim to be “fresh.”

A price notch up will get you Happy Belly’s eggs, which include the labels: cage free and free to roam, 100% vegetarian fed, and hormone and antibiotic free. The “room to roam” part is the most important here; as NPR reported, cage free often merely upgrades hens from battery cages to one square foot of space. The main red flag, though, is the vegetarian diet, which probably means corn. While this is a common label, hens are actually omnivores.

Pricey Proteins

Another option is Organic Valley. For $5.11 per dozen, consumers get even more detail about the lives of the birds laying their protein-packed eggs. explains that its extra-large eggs are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, pasture-raised, cage-free and rich in omega three thanks to a flax seed bird diet. “Gluten-free” is the best example of how companies are attempting to portray value perception; with eggs, it should (in theory) be a no-brainer. Already, too, you can see the trend: the more of these labels, the more dollars out of your pocket. Sometimes the extra cost is worth it. But if you can’t find specifics on what each part of the label actually refers to, it’s probably not.

For a little over two dollars more (up to $8.99 per dozen?), Vital Farms also offers pasture raised eggs, explaining that the birds are indeed free to come and go from their barn whenever they like—something that’s not true, according to NPR, of many “free to roam” type labels. At this point, though, you’re paying 67 cents per egg—hardly the bargain I had in mind when I was talking about optimizing price and health.

Add it up, and one thing’s pretty clear: Eggs may be a cheap snack and great source of protein, but they’re not all created or priced equally. Companies work hard to portray the value of their eggs, but some labels still ring hollow. If you’re going to shell out more money for a dozen, make sure the company’s shelling out plenty of details on what exactly you’re paying for.

 

 

Spreadable Chocolate: Nutella Alternatives Focus on Sugar

spreadable-chocolate-nutella-alternatives

Some say you shouldn’t fix what’s not broken, but the spreadable chocolate industry begs to differ. We recently dug into the trend of single-origin chocolate, for example. Another part of chocolate’s continued evolution? Going from munchable to spreadable. Hello, Nutella alternatives!

Nutella is synonymous with spreadable chocolate. The delicious hazelnut spread has roots in Italy. According to The Food Channel, the company decided to boost its U.S. advertising back in 2011. And like a spark to a flame, the spreadable chocolate craze has, well, spread. In 2014, chocolate giant Hershey’s launched its own line of spreadable chocolate snacks, while the list of up-and-coming Nutella alternatives is growing.

A Nutella alternative might sound unnecessary at first, but consumers are growing increasingly wary of the snack due to its high sugar content. A jar of Nutella is over 50% sugar—a fact shared widely through a striking graphic showing the ingredients of Nutella in layers in the jar. (You can see it for yourself here.)

American Idol singer Kelly Clarkson was recently bombarded by online critics when she posted a picture of her daughter’s “first Nutella experience.” Some especially melodramatic trolls said she should be cited for child abuse—and it was just a bit of Nutella on a piece of toast! Regardless of whether you agree with the parenting police, it’s clear Nutella’s nutritional values (or lack thereof) has already seeped into public consciousness.

Hershey’s chocolate spreads aren’t any better; a 37 gram serving (about 2 Tablespoons) contains a whopping 19 grams of sugar (yep, that’s more than half sugar). But the name Hershey’s has always been associated with indulgence instead of health. No one’s ever mistakenly thought Twizzlers or Kit-Kats were good for you. A chocolate-hazelnut chocolate spread from Italy? A little less obvious.

And that’s where Nutella alternatives come in. Well, kind of. Another reason many shoppers turn their nose at Nutella is because the snack (like its Hershey’s competitor) isn’t vegan due to whey and milk ingredients.

Generally, though, packaging for Nutella alternatives has tended to focus on sugar content as opposed to vegan ingredients. The brand Justin’s—which first burst onto the scene with its vegan alternative to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, now sold at Starbucks—also sells its own jars of chocolate hazelnut butter. While they’re vegan, the main messaging aimed at Nutella’s customers reads: “50% less sugar than the leading brand.”

Sugar grams are not overly advertised, as Justin’s also relies on sleek packaging design, but this verbiage is placed right next to the nutrition label, making it easy for consumers to see that Justin’s has dropped its sugar content from over 50% to just 25%. It will be interesting to see if such moves push Nutella to follow suit.

A more obvious dig at Nutella’s sugar-heavy formula comes from Go Lo Foods Dark Hazelnut Spread, which says in bold white letters on the jar: “100% less sugar than Nutella.” (The product does contain erythritol and chicory.) That math is pretty simple because…well…Go Lo’s product is, technically, sugar-free (erythritol is a sugar alcohol). Meanwhile, another obvious play on the Italian spreadable chocolate king comes from Rawtella, which—as the name and packaging make clear—is both raw and vegan. (The product contains coconut sugar.)

Considering the overall popularity of spreadable chocolate (and its flavorful variations), it’s no surprise that healthier, vegan alternatives are in-demand. But it’s also clear that criticism of Nutella’s nutrition is growing, meaning marketing strategies for spreadable chocolate will shift accordingly.