Pack of the Month: Japanes Condiment Brand Cabi Wants You To Get Back In The Kitchen For a Little Fun
by Bill McCool on 11/01/2022 | 4 Minute Read
When it comes to sauces and condiments, there’s a pretty simple rule brands can follow when it comes to marketing their sauces:
Put a cute cartoon character on it.
Now, you likely won’t be watching the money roll in, but it does help engender a friendly vibe for consumers seeing your product on the shelves for the first time. Our October Pack of the Month project, designed in-house by Cabi, a line of Japanese condiments, is an ideal example of this. Not only does it give the brand an approachable identity, but it can even inspire consumers to hit the kitchen and experiment. After all, it’s about injecting a sense of play and fun into our everyday lives.
We spoke with co-founder and design lead at Cabi Eri Miyagi about how the brand uses design and a playful identity to bring Japanese flavors to everyday home cooking.
Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project. What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with the Cabi packaging, and how did you accomplish it?
Japanese condiments, especially a product like soy sauce, have been marketed more as a utilitarian item. You might see soy sauce as one of the ingredients in the recipe, so you might pick it up in the grocery store. If they were marketed in high-end stores, they feel too premium and tend to sit in your cupboard or fridge for a long time because you might feel too precious about using them.
We wanted people to get excited when they pick up Cabi bottles and inspire them to incorporate our condiments into their daily cooking.
The whole Japanese condiment section felt as if it had not been challenged, although if you go to Japan, there are an infinite amount of condiments, sauces, and dressings that are unique to our culture. Cabi entered the game with a new idea and fun, approachable designs. Along with creating the brand, website, recipes, photography, and illustration styles, we wanted to unify the brand with an approachable and friendly tone.
We had the insight and strategy in mind and developed the tone of voice and personality from a visual and copy perspective. We have conducted a lot of field research (i.e., what kind of products exist and how it feels on the shelf in many supermarkets globally, not just in the U.S.) and did a chunk of research in vintage packaging and Japanese design.
The illustrations have so much personality. Why did you opt for an illustrative style with a heavy emphasis on character?
As I explained above, we wanted to make sure we communicated approachability to the customers. As products with educational elements (people might not be as familiar with dashi or sansho) we depicted the flavors and ingredients in a way that would describe the flavors and feeling as you taste them. We wanted people to love these characters and find them endearing in a way that they are very grabbable from shelves, cupboards, and fridges.
We didn't want them to feel too precious, but they also needed to be extra friendly to stand out and encourage people to use them.
What was the most challenging part of this project?
The packaging design process was both simple and complicated at the same time. I would describe it as a straightforward process since many restrictions came from the manufacturing side, which we needed to consider. That left us to design within those constraints, which I thought was a fun challenge. However, as a founder creating the brand, I feel conflicted as you want to break out of the restrictions and challenge yourself to do something extremely unique. But you always have to keep the cost and business in mind.
If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel proud of, what would it be, and why?
We made sure the brand came through in every channel. The whole brand feels cohesive—from packaging to digital—in a way that's very lovable and approachable.
Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.
Making creative decisions for your own business is something else. You will have the freedom and flexibility to keep updating until you are fully satisfied—which you might never be. It is extremely important to set a timeline and stick to the plan.
Images by Fujio Emura
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