The Neenah Paper Award-Winner Saga Grand Gin Showcases Acadian History Through Stunning Packaging
by Rudy Sanchez on 06/03/2021 | 5 Minute Read
In the 17th century, a group of French settlers that would come to be called Acadians settled an area in present-day Northeastern Canada. Though already occupied by First Nations people such as the Mi?kmaq, the Acadians cohabitated the land in relative peace, creating a community in then-New France relatively untouched by European powers.
That is until French and British imperial interests put the Acadians squarely at the center of a geopolitical conflict that would lead them to be ethnically cleansed by the British and displaced in what is called The Great Upheaval or Le Grand Dérangement. They forced thousands of Acadians out of the area, with many getting deported to New England and Europe. Some settled in nearby French Canada, and many went south to Louisiana, and their descendants would become known as Cajuns.
Many of the displaced Acadians died of starvation and disease, but those that survived showed exceptional resilience, the same hardiness that gave them the ability to thrive in Acadia and endure mass displacement. It also served as the inspiration for the 2021 Neenah Best Use of Paper Award-winner Saga Grand Gin. By telling the story of the strong Acadian men and women that settled in Lanaudière, where the distillery Le Grand Dérangement is located, the gin makers pay tribute to the heritage and spirit of the area.
The beer, wine, and spirits market is a competitive one, and packaging plays a crucial role in winning over consumers. Aside from serving as a vessel for boozy goodness, bottles have to stand out on crowded shelves and draw in the curious. Saga Grand Gin’s packaging design, created with Montreal-based studio Paprika, does just that, using a contrast of colors, textures, and materials to conjure intrigue while showcasing the history of the Acadians.
“The town where they established the distillery was founded by Acadians that escaped the deportation in 1755. And when they arrived in the Lanaudière area of Quebec, they founded four villages," explained Daniel Robitaille, designer and creative director at Paprika. "The distillery founders are the descendants of the deported Acadians, so that was important for them to bring that story to the city."
“When we did some historical research for the project, we had the idea to bring those people and put them in front and just let them tell their stories on the four different labels for the packaging. We found four Acadian individuals that really existed, and we just felt that the missing pieces of their stories were important as founders of the city. But we also thought that it would be great storytelling for the product as well,” Daniel added.
The Acadians featured on the Saga labels, whose stories get told on the outer packaging of the case boxes, include Marie Forest, a young, single woman who resettled in New Acadia. She quickly became part of a thriving crafts scene, helping create the distinct Acadian style of Ceinture fléchée, the sashes used to help keep wearers warm while traveling in the winter.
Another Acadian Paprika included on the labels is tough guy Louis Fontaine dit Beaulieu, a brave man that single-handedly knocked a sentry out. Then, along with five other men, captured a ship carrying over 230 fellow Acadians and sailed towards Lanaudière, all while evading the British. Madeleine Doucet was an early settler of New Acadia, arriving in Deschambault after being widowed and deported. A devoted midwife often seen traveling for work day and night even in the coldest winters, she helped usher countless fellow Acadians into the world. Doucet would come to be a pillar of her displaced community.
Lastly, patriarch Germain Landry—in addition to his wife and eleven children—was initially deported to Andover, Massachusetts, where he toiled in the flax fields. Eventually, he would join his compatriots in New Acadia, where he earned a reputation for making a mean brandy.
Portraits of each of the characters get printed on premium, highly-textured paper, lending to the historical feel of the packaging. The bottles themselves also get dipped in a bright yellow wax, which not only provides a stunning contrast to the label but strengthens the themes in the packaging. Yellow is a significant color to the Acadians, as a yellow, five-pointed star features prominently on their flag.
The labels, printed on Neenah’s Classic Crest Solar White, had to withstand the wax application process, as well as adhere to it. The case boxes are also in black and white, and the stories of the Acadians depicted on the labels are laid out newspaper-style on the box, which gets topped with bright yellow tape.
“All I can say is ‘WOW.’ This stunning packaging blew me away with the high contrast of the bright yellow wax seal over the black and white photography on the label,” said Dallas Franklin, creative director at Neenah.
“From the yellow tape on the outer carton to the surprise of the yellow wax tops when you open the box, to the collectible set of labels on each bottle, this packaging surprises and delights again and again. It’s a modern take on the iconic Maker’s Mark wax label but with a Pop Art twist. Oh, and by the way, it also corresponds—intentionally or not—to the 2021 Pantone Colors of the Year! That is truly a package design as ‘fresh’ as the organic gin on the inside.”
Paprika elegantly and artfully ties the heritage of the Le Grand Dérangement’s background on the bottles, lending an air of intrigue and mystery by covering the eyes of the featured Acadians on the labels. The execution generates intrigue and invites the viewer to learn more about the Acadians and their story.
“The thought behind the eyes getting covered is that we wanted to keep the identity of the characters a secret. It gives the bottle an enigmatic cachet and allows the consumer to be curious about the history behind those four strong individuals and enhancing the mystery around their life and journey,” Robitaille explained.
“We were so happy that we were able really to produce exactly what we had envisioned at first, which was this special bottle with the wax and to tell the story we wanted to on the packaging. So I think it was challenging but really rewarding for us,” said Joanne Lefebvre, CEO of Paprika.