Mars Has A Sweet Tooth For Nostalgia, Brings Back Opal Fruits

by Rudy Sanchez on 02/13/2020 | 3 Minute Read

Starburst, the chewy, juicy fruit-flavored taffy-like candy, wasn’t always known as such. When the snack debuted in 1960, Mars called them Opal Fruits as the result of a naming contest. It would be known as such in the UK and Ireland until 1998, when they changed the name to match its American counterpart, much to the dismay of fans. It’s not difficult to understand why; candy evokes happier times, childhood memories, and that sweet sugary rush can bring unbridled joy. 

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Well, the folks at Mars are giving the UK and Ireland a hefty dose of sentimentality by bringing back the Opal Fruits brand out of the corporate vault for a limited time.

Nostalgia is a powerful force, one that can anchor our existence and remind us of happier times. Wielding such power takes a certain deftness and understanding that memories, even fond ones, change; they are not just screenshots of our consciousness captured, archived, and preserved in an immutable state. 

For Opal Fruits, agency Straight Forward Design went beyond replicating a vintage scheme and instead used nostalgia to inform a new design evocative of the past without being the past.

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“When much-loved brands like Opal Fruits disappear, they leave people wanting," says Mike Foster, creative director and founder of Straight Forward Design. "People miss them, and bringing them back carries a certain weight of responsibility. You’ve got to do it properly if you are going to fully reconnect with the original consumers as well as draw in new ones."

“Nostalgia is interesting, because perceived and actual memories are two different things, and people are drawn to one particular iteration," Mike adds. "The task for the designer is to marry all these factors and come up with a brand and packaging identity that works for today and is universally reminiscent of the past."

Straight Forward Design dove into print and TV commercials from the past, as digital files of previous designs no longer exist. But they also made sure to understand what Opal Fruits meant to consumers, making sure to hit those nostalgic notes just right. Straight Forward Design then worked with typographer David Bateman and illustrator Simon Critchley to create the new packaging and visuals. The result is something that speaks to the past in a way that a broad range of fans, including youngsters that have only known the candy as Starbursts, can appreciate and understand.

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The colors are bright, and the typography is bold-it’s definitely vintage but also timeless. The fruit illustrations not only scream flavor and juiciness but are also reminiscent of the past, although not any specific point in time.

“Mars doesn’t own Opal Fruits,” says Mike. “The people who love them do. To get the design absolutely right, we needed to immerse [ourselves into] the archive to find the right solution to transport people back to their youth. It also creates an opportunity for Mars to reach new consumers as parents introduce their kids to the sweets they loved in their youth.”

The limited-edition packages of Opal Fruits, which include the original flavor lineup, will debut exclusively in Pound Town stores in early March, with broader availability starting in early May.

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