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Food branding - we’ve all grown up now

Updated: Feb 7, 2018



I came across this interesting article by Nick Parker.

“The age of Innocent is over” He explains how so many brands have stolen Innocent Drinks’ early whimsical approach to brand language. 

It was ground breaking at the time, over 18 years ago  - but it has now become a generic default and arguably lazy way to talk to what are now more savvy and sceptical consumers.

http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk


Back in 1998, Innocent was just a fruit juice brand - but it was a breakthrough in how it presented itself. Who else remembers that most fruit juice was made by Tropicana and Del Monte? There wasn’t much choice and the juices on sale were mostly made from concentrates - and not that tasty.  Most, as I recall, were grim.

Innocent pioneered a whole new approach which was the total opposite to the ‘over designed’ approach of their competitors. In contrast, Innocent used hand drawn lettering with very informal and fun copy on the back of their packs.

Innocent demonstrated how natural and unprocessed their juices were. We all fell in love with a brand that talked gently to us rather that shouting from the roof tops.

Innocent started a trend that was soon copied…

And, more recently, I feel studios like Big Fish have since perfected the ‘hand drawn’, naive approach to pack design. Their landmark design for me was the early

Dorset cereals.

And today nearly every food brand has an element of the ‘Innocent’ approach to branding. Here’s some examples…


I agree with Nick Parker that this way of thinking has become the norm and food brands can’t rely only on this approach if they want to stand out.

It’s become an arguably lazy default for lazy brand owners (and maybe a few lazy designers?) looking for an easy way to success.


The rise of the Artisan brand  The article by Nick Parker also outlines the next trend which is about establishing the ‘artisan’ brand. No more whimsy and far more expertise and provenance. There are lots of good examples of ‘Artisan’ food brands.  Here are some which I find interesting:

Altwien Coffee Great example of retail outlet into retail brand.


Cawston Press The new ‘innocent’ of apple juice? Artisan joins the mainstream.


Thomas J Fudge Brand as a story. Quaint history bestowed on an everyday product.


Charlie Bighams Brand as personality. Chef treats in a convenience format.


And next?…  here come the social brands In our more recent post-Innocent era, and capturing both the food artisans and evangelists is the rise of successful  ‘social brands’.  And this development has been particularly strong with food brands. After all food and eating is such a basic social function.

These are brands which have reputation and life both inside social media streams and outside in retail outlets.

This drive into social media streams also affects the brand language. Memorable statements of 140 characters or even cleverly arranged emoticons have become the default brand language targeting a knowing and highly mobile audience. It will be interesting to see the influence of social language in branding, stripping it back to a less wordy approach on packaging.


Hippeas is a great example of this. Even their pack design looks like an emoticon! 


Of course, it’s not just vegi-protein snacks that are discovering their market

by being a social brand.


Craft brewers Magic Rock Brewing have taken on the mantle of the US micro brewers. Not new in itself  - but their branding is?

Magic Rock have thrown away any attempt at ‘Innocent-like chit chat’ or ‘in-the-know Artisan brewing speak’. Instead they have developed a brand language more often seen on the local band’s fly posters or the pop-up restaurant last seen in the post industrial but rejuvenated bad side of town. Or in Huddersfield - Magic Rock’s home town.

Few words. Fewer claims. Nil provenance. Just knowing winks at their market’s savvy grasp as to what is not mainstream and tired.



The new challenge for food brands

For me the challenge for social food brands is ensuring there is a seamless and equal presence between the online world, which has little transaction value for food brands and the real world, in store, which is where food and drink brands make their income.

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