Meng Zhang Describes The Inspiration Behind His Neenah Paper Award Winner, Covet Chocolate

by Rudy Sanchez on 08/03/2020 | 4 Minute Read

Every product has a story, sure, but how a brand communicates it to consumers is critical. 

You have to be distinctive enough to grab a consumer’s attention and engage them while presenting the value proposition convincingly, and, finally, closing the sale. That's a tall order for any brand or agency. Three straight-shooting arrows in a designer’s quill, however, are high-quality packaging materials, intrigue, and novelty, shown in full effect in Dieline’s 2020 NEENAH Paper Award winner Covet Chocolate from Sydney-based designer Meng Zhang.

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Covet Chocolate produces small-batch, premium chocolate bars, using carefully sourced organic cocoa from around the world. To highlight the care and craftsmanship that goes into every bar, Zhang used a bird carrying a cocoa pod perched upon a deep, cozy armchair.

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“I'm a fan of utilizing animals as a main character or as an element of design," Meng says. "I think in my experience, inspiration is like nature. I want to show the audience the connection between humanity and all animals."

Rather than use hues long associated with chocolate, Meng decided to use a white box, one inspired by the purity of Covet’s ingredients and Japanese design. Some of the type is set in gold foil and projects an air of luxury and indulgence. The poetry that serves as a backdrop to the high-backed chair comes in a smoky grey with a fanciful script, pulling the viewer in and inviting them to explore the packaging.

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“I'm a big fan of Japanese packaging design,” Zhang said. “Japanese design style is empathetic, pure, and has a sense of Zen. Normal chocolate packaging uses a chunky kind of color, like a dark brown or a black as the background, but I wanted to create a sense of pureness. I wanted to use white [as the background] and use the badge on the top to differentiate different flavors and create a contrast between the main dominant character, the main image, and the rest of the package.”

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Bringing customers in closer also highlights the premium quality of the paper used for Covet’s project. One of the brand’s goals was to create packaging that would have broad, international appeal. The heavy, high-quality cardstock also serves another purpose - it allowed Meng to create a chocolate box that is customizable and encourages customers to save and reuse part of the packaging, either as a coaster or a bookmark.

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The primary visual on the front of the box-the chair with “the sitter” and the bird-comes perforated, and you can change the pattern using one of the included stickers. The cutout is both sturdy and durable and gives the packaging a sustainable second-life.

But, they needed a quality paper stock to get the packaging over the finish line.

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Zhang and Covet turned to Neenah and its large selection of different paper and card materials to give the chocolate boxes an upscale presentation worthy of the small-batch artisan bean-to-bar products, maintaining a stylish, and intriguing presentation.

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“Meng Zhang's design for Covet stood out from the start for its playful interactivity and thoughtful detail," says Dallas Franklin, Neenah Creative Director.

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“From the hand-drawn pencil illustration on the front cover to the personalized pattern stickers inside, Meng is obviously thinking about the holistic unboxing experience of the consumer, and delivers multiple moments of surprise and delight as one explores the design,” Dallas adds about why they chose Covet as the 2020 winner. “Sustainability and reusability also loom large, through the uncoated recycled paper choice and the sticker portion that can be torn off and repurposed as a coaster or bookmark. The packaging truly continues to live on long after the chocolate has been enjoyed. Meng’s packaging design is truly worth coveting and thus our top choice for the 2020 Neenah Dieline Award.”

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Covet’s packaging helps the upstart chocolate brand create a whimsical and elegant universe, from the bird offering a mysterious stranger a cocoa pod to the personalized nature of the wrapper that includes 18 patterned stickers you can swap out at any time. They successfully pique the consumer’s interest at every turn, and there’s enough left open to interpretation that they become part of the story while also telling it. With countless artisan chocolate brands on the market, it's tough to stand out, but Covet's customizability and collectability not only strengthen the bond between the brand and its new patrons, but it also creates an experience unto itself.

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