Featured image for Making It Pop: A Private Brand Perspective

Making It Pop: A Private Brand Perspective

by Diane Lindquist on 12/09/2013 | 6 Minute Read

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"Design is challenging. Designing packaging is even more challenging. But, designing packaging for a private brand? That’s a whole other ballgame when it comes to boundaries and hurdles."

Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts of The Fresh Marketdiscuss the merging private brand design challenge. Learn how they make their designs pop in this opinion article.

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First, what is a private brand? By definition, it’s a brand owned not by a manufacturer or producer but by a retailer who gets goods made by a contract manufacturer under their own retail label. (Also sometimes called “Private Label” or “Store Brands”).

So, with that in mind, think about the creative process. Typically, there are no custom dielines in private brand design. Rarely do you get work with fancy paper stocks or unique bottles, boxes or jars. Even lid colors can sometimes be limited to only a handful of tasteless primary color choices. Printing options are usually limited to the how the manufacturer prints their own packaging in order to “piggy-back” and save costs. It is for these reasons that store brands are usually less expensive. The price is a reflection of the process, not the quality of the product. In fact, in our case, at The Fresh Market we strive for all of our private brand products to be as good as or better than the national brand equivalent.

So, where does that leave the design? You’ve probably noticed a lot more creativity and innovation popping up in the private brand categories over the past few years. (think: Wegmans, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Publix) That’s because we in-house creative folks are pushing the boundaries. Rather than taking the easy road to “rip off” a national brand’s look, we are taking charge and creating outside the dreaded category norm. In our case, we’ve noticed that more and more consumers are growing to trust The Fresh Market’s private brand as a high quality, reliable product. Therefore, we’ve taken the approach to rid ourselves of the commodity line look of yesteryear and create each new package design with a clean slate. Our theory is to create a design on the outside that represents the product inside the packaging. For the most part, our brand is clearly evident in each design, simply because we know our brand inside and out and take it into consideration with each new project. So, the challenge lies not in creating a beautiful design on a less-than-ideal substrate and within a less-than-ideal budget. Coming up with new and brilliant ideas on a regular basis is hard work, but it’s not the biggest challenge. Finding inspiration, creating mood boards, presentations and selling those ideas is extremely time consuming. But those still are not the true challenges. The challenge is to make that packaging sing on the shelf. “Make it pop” is a phrase that is used so often, it has become the butt of every designer’s joke. You wouldn’t believe how often we hear it in our weekly design meetings. Make it Pop. What does that even mean? Do bright neon colors make a package pop? Does a stark white background with large black letters make it pop? Our solution is a simple one, really. We want to make it look unlike the things it sits next to on the shelf. We take cues from other mediums, finding inspiration in unexpected places and applying design styles that might be unexpected on food packaging.

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TFM Naturally Flavored Coffee: What made this project unique was our decision to use ingredient-focused photography. The coffee itself is flavored using all natural ingredients that you can actually see in the grinds. Compared to other canister coffees on the shelf, the bright overhead photography is refreshing and reminiscent of imagery you might find on a food blog or in a cookbook.

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TFM Rice and Quinoa: The objective on this project was to create a global look to convey the various origins of each product but to shy away from the traditional rice package look. The way we were able to achieve this was through use of non-traditional colors. We used hot pink, purple, bright green and vibrant blue. We also used a matte varnish in printing so the shiny window provides nice contrast. On shelf, these look amazing.

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TFM Mustards: This is a great example of “looking at what everyone else is doing and then going in the opposite direction”. Mustard is mustard, right? Not if you make the label look like a little work of art. The inspiration came from vintage textile designs and the outcome is really eye catching and elevating for an everyday staple.

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About Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts


Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts come from a diverse background of fine art, print shops, POP retail design and photography to their current roles as in-house designers for The Fresh Market, a specialty grocery store with locations throughout the US. They currently are building the in-house creative team and working on a variety of projects for The Fresh Market including packaging design, in-store publications, catalogs, and environmental design. They also collaborate as Buttermilk Creative on outside projects for start-ups and non-profits. Working together for nearly seven years, the two have a very dynamic relationship and partnership that melds professionalism with fun.

Alex Blake and Andy Kurtts will be speaking at The Dieline Conference on Oops, I Became a Package Designer on Tuesday, May 11 from 10:15 to 11:15 pm.


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