8 Trends from Natural Products Expo East 2017

Last weekend, we took a trip to Baltimore for Natural Products Expo East 2017, where hundreds of exhibitors came out from all over the country (and, in some cases, the world) to show the industry what they have to offer. While events like this are a magnet for unique, one-of-a-kind products, there were still some emerging trends that caught our attention. Here are eight trends that we noticed beginning to sweep the natural foods category:

Alternative Ingredients for Special Diets

 

 

Can’t have dairy? Fronana and Revolution Gelato are here to make sure that you can still enjoy a creamy, frozen treat. Can’t have meat? Jackfruit is finally coming into its own as a remarkably meat-like option – the samples of BBQ pulled jackfruit from the Jackfruit Company were practically indistinguishable from chicken or pork. Can’t have eggs, wheat, fish, milk, soy, shellfish, peanuts, or tree nuts? The dietitian behind Crunchy Kitchen feels your pain. After developing severe allergies following the birth of her daughter, she and her husband developed a line of wraps and waffles that feature plantains as a primary ingredient and are free of the top eight allergens.

Kombucha

 

While kombucha has been rapidly growing in popularity as a bottled beverage, we weren’t anticipating the sheer volume of kombucha brands present at the expo. Flavored with everything from lavender to cola, we are getting far more varieties of the fermented tea than we’ve ever seen before. If the expo is any indicator of what’s to come, we could soon see kombucha move out of the niche health space and expand even further into the mainstream.

Sap Drinks

 

 

With the demand for natural sweeteners continuing to grow, beverages that feature ingredients like maple and honey are taking off. Maple also pairs well with fruit, giving producers a wide range of options for flavor combinations.

 

Nuts and Seeds

 

 

The rhetoric around nut allergies is changing, and it’s probably not a coincidence that we are now seeing more and more products featuring nuts. For those whose systems can handle them, nuts are a very healthy snack that can be eaten raw or, increasingly, used as an alternative to dairy.

 

Organic Eggs

 

 

One of the more surprising trends that we noticed was a push for organic eggs. While several brands were selling eggs in traditional cartons, some brands are highlighting the specialness of their product by using alternative packaging, like bags.

 

RTD Coffee

 

 

With McDonald’s selling bottled McCafe drinks, the market is clearly embracing ready-to-drink coffee. Most brands are attempting to differentiate their product in some way, whether in packaging (ie., selling in cans rather than bottles), flavor profile (ie., removing the bitterness for a softer taste), or properites (ie., combining the coffee with an energy drink).

 

Squeezable Pouches

 

 

It’s arguable that brands like Yoplait pioneered this area years ago with products like Go-Gurt, but with the success of GoGo Squeeze (both with consumers and with valuable corporate partners), many more brands are coming out with drinkable products in pouches. Some brands like Once Upon a Farm have developed more traditional products like squeezable fruit blends and puddings, while others are using the packaging for more unusual snacks. Serenity Kids, for example, is using the packaging for savory meat-and-vegetable pastes.

 

Tea

 

 

Possibly due in part to the popularity of kombucha, tea also made a major splash at the show. Instagram favorite Fit Tea was there, as was Moonshine Tea (which partners with children’s charities), and Cusa Tea. Like the RTD coffee category, tea brands are setting themselves apart by offering some kind of added value. Fit Tea is for dieting and detoxing, for example, and Cusa Tea is a convenient choice as a premium instant tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brand Stories: Alex and Ani

Alex and Ani is an accessories and jewelry company that offers eco-friendly, approachable products backed by influential content and powerful brand image. Founded by jewelry maker Carolyn Rafaelian in 2004, the lifestyle brand has shaken up the jewelry world by focusing on how the jewelry makes the wearer feel, rather than just how it makes them look.

 

The brand aims to design bangles, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings, while enlightening the mind and empowering the spirit. The purpose of the accessories is to allow wearer to more easily and effectively express their own individuality.

The small Rhode Island factory basement venture started gaining traction in 2004 when they designed an apple necklace for Gwyneth Paltrow following the birth of her daughter, Apple. In 2011, the Paper Store chain built an Alex and Ani “shop within a shop” at each of its 72 outlets. Tom Anderson, Paper Store CEO, said, “some would call it a risk. But right out of the gate, we couldn’t keep it in stock.”

Wearing Positivity

 

 

The brand is targeted towards those who want to embrace a “positive energy” lifestyle. According to Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, the difference with Alex and Ani is that “they don’t really sell jewelry. They sell positive energy. The bracelet is just a vehicle.”

More Than Meets the Eye

 

Alex and Ani has found a way to market themselves as a lifestyle brand, rather than just a jewelry company. The brand has attracted just as many people through its products as it has through its powerful brand story and social media presence. This has really resonated with millennials, with some even following the brand before ever making a purchase. Many have said that the fandom has reached “cult status”.

In fact, Forbes found that a majority of millennials follow their favorite brands on social media, so it’s an integral marketing strategy. The brand’s mobile app also offers positive lifestyle content and motivational quotes to help further their ultimate goals. Fans were so anxious for the positive boost that the app was downloaded 80,000 times within the first three weeks.

The brand also published an inspirational book to complement the brand image, called “Path of Life: Why I Wear My Alex and Ani”. Written by CEO, Giovanni Feroce, the book includes a collection of inspiring stories from customers about how their Alex and Any pieces have helped influence their lives. He said, “I put this book together to show the world that you can indeed offer products that are infused with intentions of love, peace and positive energy, made in the USA and eco-friendly.”

As Feroce put it, “We advertise Alex and Ani, but we don’t advertise what we do. I don’t care what we do. Alex and Ani is a brand. It has to do with quality, with what we put into it.”

 

Charity By Design

 

The brand has a large impact on the local Rhode Island community – where the jewelry is made – as well as a positive impact on the globe. The “Charity By Design” initiative has been wildly successful, with 20% of sales going to charity, for 20% of sales. This has totaled $44 million donated to non-profits across the globe, to date. The brand’s employees have also volunteered over 7,000 hours to different charitable efforts.

Capitalizing On the Millennial

 

 

Millennials are looking for personalized experiences when they shop, which Alex and Ani has capitalized on. The bestselling patented expandable charm bangles are available in thousands of iterations, or you can customize a unique piece, which makes it instantly more appealing to shoppers (and particularly, millennial shoppers).

 

 

Every bangle also comes with a “meaning card” and the app offers extensive information on the meanings behind different charms, so customers get an interactive experience with each purchase.

Still Gaining Momentum

 

In 2010, when Giovanni Feroce joined the company as CEO, sales for the year grew by more than 20 times its previous annual total. While there have been a string of CEOs and senior managers following Feroce’s departure in 2014, Rafaelian has since stepped back into the CEO role.

Currently, just over 10 million charm bangles are sold per year, with revenue soaring from $5 million in 2010 to just over $500 million in 2016. By the end of 2017, there will be at least 80 company-owned Alex and Ani stores.

Rafaelian has become America’s only jewelry billionaire and is #18 on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Some have scoffed at Rafaelian’s method of consulting the stars before making major decisions, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt her yet. In fact, Rafaelian said her winning strategy is quite simple: “I don’t listen. Which is the best thing I do.”

How CPG Brands are Strategizing for the Gig Economy

The major disruption caused by platforms of the new gig economy (ie. Uber, AirBnB, Etsy) has been widely reported, and it’s still too early to fully understand the long-term implications that it will have for relevant industries. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, called the shift “the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century” and reaffirmed its unpredictability. What we do know is that these sorts of platforms are impacting increasingly diverse fields, and that companies are facing the prospect of either conforming or becoming obsolete. After several years of the gig economy going strong, CPG brands are finally responding and catching up.

 

 

In mid-May, Mars began recruiting event hosts for a new multilevel marketing campaign called “The Cocoa Exchange”. In the vein of Avon or Mary Kay, “curators” buy kits of samples to push at parties, and are awarded a percentage of any online sales that result from it. Mars has collaborated with chefs to create a unique line of products specifically for The Cocoa Exchange, meant to pair well with wine and suit a party atmosphere better than the company’s existing options.

 

Direct selling like this, Mars has said, has been a fairly safe and profitable channel for the past five or six decades. Additionally, this strategy plays into two well-documented facets of millennial economic behavior – first, the “obvious demand” (as Mars put it) for opportunities to earn supplemental income, and second, millennials’ propensity to invest more in experiences than in material goods. These factors combined convinced Mars that an interactive, entrepreneurial program like The Cocoa Exchange would be able to thrive.

 

 

Other companies are taking inspiration directly from popular digital platforms. Deliv, for instance, is a five-year-old startup that works with major retailers to deliver in-store purchases directly to customers using crowdsourced labor. Known as “Uber for the retail industry”, Deliv has managed to avoid the turbulent legal environment that rideshare services have faced because they don’t compete with regulated industries, unlike Uber and Lyft, which have been accused of threatening taxi services. Deliv has enabled companies like Williams-Sonoma and Bloomingdale’s to offer an added-value service to their consumers and aide in competing against companies that deal primarily in e-commerce, for whom home delivery is a major selling point.

 

 

Some retailers – like Macy’s – are collaborating with gig platforms to offer new experiences to a shared consumer base. Last year the Herald Square Macy’s (the company’s NYC flagship store) hosted a pop-up Etsy shop in an area of the store known as “One Below”, a section meant to appeal to millennial shoppers. At any given time, the shop featured around fifty products (including things like household goods and jewelry, which Macy’s also sells) that were constantly rotated out in order to conform to a specific theme. Prior to working with Macy’s, Etsy also collaborated on smaller projects with retailers like Nordstrom and Whole Foods.

 

Another strategy that CPG brands are taking on is challenging gig platforms for talent. According to an article published this month by the London School of Economics, self-employment is increasingly common among those who traditionally have a difficult time transitioning back into the workforce, namely stay-at-home parents and retirees. In order to retain skilled workers and prevent flexible gig platforms from absorbing these types of candidates, many CPG companies are implementing return-to-work programs. Pepsico has been a leader in this with their “Ready to Return” initiative, which accepts professionals who have taken a career break for more than two years and provides them with ten paid weeks of coaching and mentoring before they start their new position. On their career site, Pepsico tellingly specifies that they are seeking associates who can “make an impact in the Age of Disruption”.

 

Economists and commentators also refer to the gig economy as the “on-demand” economy, especially when discussing it from a consumer behavior perspective. Similar to the concept of “McDonaldization” that was so popular a few years ago, the idea now is that companies like Uber are conditioning users to expect quick and easy service from completely unrelated industries. Amazon is also largely responsible for the on-demand economy, and big box stores are strategizing for how to compete. For example, Wal-mart just opened their first automated 24-hour pickup kiosk, which allows customers to place online orders (of at least $30) and pick them up at a designated kiosk in-store. Last year, they directly partnered with Uber and Lyft for a home delivery pilot program, comparable to what Deliv currently offers. Now with Amazon’s startling announcement that they have decided to purchase Whole Foods, retailers are feeling the heat more than ever, and we should expect to see even bolder experiments from unsettled competitors.

 

 

In an article for Food Dive, industry reporter Keith Loria warned against transitioning to independent contractor-based hiring practices, as some food companies may be tempted to do. After all, companies like Uber don’t have to pay for employee benefits, nor do they have to pay for downtime. However, Loria said, the food manufacturing industry can be physically dangerous for those not appropriately trained, as improper storage and cleanup can lead to serious health concerns for both workers and consumers. Many within the industry feel that this is too big of a risk compared to the rewards offered by making the change. Further, it is important to note that Uber and companies like it have come under fire for what has been perceived as a lack of corporate and social responsibility. Many young shoppers are paying close attention to the way that companies treat their employees, and throwing away prized benefits like retirement savings plans and health insurance could potentially lead to problems with public image.

 

The gig economy has already radically disrupted service industries like transportation and hospitality, and it is gradually creeping into the CPG sphere. Its presence is still relatively new there, and brands should learn from what has happened within the service sector and prepare themselves for what’s to come.

 

Redesigns and Refreshes: Why Change is Crucial

 

Each year, new design trends emerge. It’s important for businesses to keep up with these changes in order to remain competitive, and those that are really good at it can even position themselves as change leaders within their industry. As our Director of Business Development, Kory Grushka, put it: “Be very curious and stay on top of the latest trends and news – particularly in your industry, but also outside of it.”

Adjusting to Fit the Times

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory completely rebranded their packaging and store design to better fit in with today’s aesthetic style and feel. Graphic design studio, Wedge & Lever, took advantage of the new chocolate culture by giving the branding an upscale feel, with a color palette inspired by the chocolate itself.

Rebranding Efforts Often Lead to Huge Success

 

If a brand has become outdated, is declining in sales, or needs to stand apart from the competition, then a rebrand can provide the facelift they need to bring the right attention to the product. Rebranding also keeps customers interested and shows them that people are still hard at work behind the scenes making sure the product is the best out there.

 

Target proved this when they updated their generic Market Pantry packaging to give it a hip, trendy vibe. It now feels like a standalone brand, rather than an affordable generic pick.

 

Each product has its own detailed packaging, down to the type. The heavy typography feels fresh, like something that could be seen on a Brooklyn storefront. The badges for health feel like modern stamps now, instead of boring nutrition facts or your typical callout.

 

 

The Crunchy Oats & Honey Granola Bars now have honey dripping onto the top of the type. With the Toasted Rounds Baked Crackers, the “O” and the round portion of the “D” have treatment that feels like the edge of the cracker. The mixed fruit flavored snacks now have the typography as the teeth of smiling grapes to appeal to kids. On the Woven Wheat crackers box, the type is written so that it looks like parts are weaving in the crackers.

 

Some products (like the marshmallows) are transparent with only the logo and bold type showing, letting the product be the star of the show, and saving ink at the printer in the process. Other products, such as the butter, half and half, cottage cheese, and American singles have very flat packaging focusing on the typography alone.

Holiday Packaging

 

Changing packaging to fit a holiday, theme, or season can lead to huge profits. It can make your product stand apart from the competition and help build brand loyalty with your target audience.

Learn to Accept Change

 

 

While redesigning Campbell Soup Company’s V8 packaging, our research process included multiple store visits to each of the three club store retailers, significant desktop research and interviews of club store industry experts. Further, we audited cross-category products as well as the beverage category, and conducted extensive color studies that ultimately informed the variety differentiation strategy. The final designs focused on color blocking, bold callouts for the brand, varieties and pack sizes, and photo-realistic 3D renderings of the products.

Change can be scary, and with the risks that it carries, it’s easy to see why. But with a clear vision and full understanding of trends and modernity, the resulting redesign should successfully bring a design into the present day.

Package Design Trend: Dramatic Callouts

As consumers become more resolute in their preferences for trends that have been growing over the past few years (“simple” ingredients, environmentally-friendly production practices, etc.), brands are responding by dramatically highlighting these traits in their packaging. This has proved successful for many breakout brands, and this strategy should be considered in order to show potential consumers that their needs are the primary concern of the company.

rxbar

 

Protein bar manufacturer RXBAR took a pretty big gamble when they shrunk their logo by 60% in their 2017 package redesign. Their risk paid off enormously – by making the ingredients (which are easy for buyers to understand, a valued feature for modern shoppers) the star of the design, they launched their product into third place in its category.

 chia

KIND chose a similar strategy with their line of pressed bars, minimizing their brand name in order to free up room for the ingredients to shine. The company states that each bar adds two servings off fruit to one’s daily routine, and that the snack is made with just fruit and vegetables or fruit and chia. The packaging callouts emphasize this “simple” makeup.

daytm

This packaging from design agency mousegraphics reads like a recipe, taking what RXBAR has done a step further. While the funky hand-drawn typeface is a little difficult to read, the flavors are easily distinguished because whichever ingredient is most present in each bar gets a corresponding color and small illustration at the bottom. The project won a 2017 Dieline Award for Outstanding Achievement.

halotop

Halo Top majorly disrupted the ice cream category with its loud display of its outrageously low calorie count. The treat is made with stevia instead of sugar, meaning that the brand is able to differentiate themselves from fatty, indulgent competitors. Here, this fact is the hero of the packaging, as the calories-per-pint count is the first thing that draws the consumer’s eye.

water4change

Water for Change, which donates 10 liters of water to villagers in need for every carton purchased, won an A’Design Award for this packaging. The hand-to-hand illustration clearly calls out the value that the product offers beyond its basic function, and floating words like “eco friendly” and “sustainable” further express the image of environmental health that the brand is trying to promote.

 

 

The Present and Future of Alcohol

Alcohol is a multibillion-dollar market in the US, one that must constantly evolve in order to keep up with changing consumer needs. The category has seen some serious innovation so far this year, and our understanding of where the industry is now has provided us with some pretty significant clues as to where we can expect it to go in the near future.

The Present: Millennials Don’t Have Brand Loyalty

 

Alcohol1

According to a recent Nielsen study, last month only 24% of millennials knew what brand they wanted to purchase when they entered a liquor store. This is in stark contrast to 52% of baby boomers, who tend to have more developed, concrete preferences in this category. The study also found that just 11% of millennials bought alcohol on impulse.

What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol brands can look at millennials’ lack of brand loyalty as an opportunity to have greater influence in-store, which means more investment in assets like package design and in-store advertising. Additionally, brands can be expected to make stronger attempts at building relationships with consumers via social media engagement.

The Present: Heineken Just Debuted a Non-Alcoholic Beer

Alcohol2

Heineken just released “Heinken 0.0” in order to compete with industry giants like AB InBev, which has made it their goal for 20% of their beer to be low- or zero-alcohol within the next eight years. Non-alcoholic beer manufacturers are also seeing the product as a potential rival to soft drinks, which have been losing retail momentum to lower-calorie options (Heineken 0.0 has half the calories of Coca-Cola).

What This Means for the Future

 

Beer brands – as well as other alcohol manufacturers – are going to start considering the financial promise of alternative markets. While producing non-alcoholic beverages may seem like an odd departure from convention for Heineken, research has shown that the European market for non-alcoholic beer has grown over the past five years as the overall beer market shrank. In Spain, zero-alcohol beers have as much as 10% market share. The future of the alcohol industry is going to depend on identifying and supporting niche trends like this that show potential for going global.

 

The Present: “Poptails” are Taking Off in the US

Alcohol3

The recent trend of “sloshies” (frozen alcoholic slushies, usually with a white wine base) has now evolved into “poptails”, frozen alcoholic popsicles. Initially introduced into the UK market, the treat has just become available in the US through brands like FrutaPop. Each pop in this particular brand has 5% alcohol and comes in thirteen flavors, including Sparkling Prosecco, Cranberry Mojito, Pina Colada, Rum Punch, and White Coconut Sangria.

What This Means for the Future

 

Innovation in the alcohol industry is trending towards understanding the consumer’s environment. Both poptails and sloshies appeal to young people drinking outdoors – summertime parties, poolside lounging, and beach trips are all served well by these products. Additionally, freezing the drink allows brands to incorporate the kind of special cocktail features that one could find in a bar, like the sprig of mint encased in the boozy Watermelon Mint Lemonade Pop. Finding ways to include these types of added-value traits is going to be imperative for new product development.

 

The Present: e-Commerce is Changing the Game

Alcohol4

The explosion in popularity of both online shopping and subscription box services is affecting the way that alcohol brands are packaging their products. Bulky, heavy glass bottles were never especially ideal for shipping from warehouses to retail locations, and they are doubly impractical for direct mailing. UK startup Garcon Wines has been in the news lately for their ingenious flat bottle design, intended to make the wine easier to fit through a traditional English letterbox.

 What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol manufacturers (particularly wine companies) will begin straying from classic bottle designs and will start looking towards new solutions that preserve the product in a lightweight, yet functional way. It can be as simple as following Garcon Wines’ example with more compact structures, or brands can go as far as Bota Box has with their award-winning cartons, which are both much lighter and far less prone to breaking than standard wine bottles.

Alcohol5

As more brands begin to focus their attention on e-commerce rather than retail, design strategy will move away from what looks best on the shelf and will instead consider what will provide the easiest means of quickly transporting the alcohol to the consumer.

 

How Packaging Can Tell a Story

Effective product packaging can shout from the shelves, even as they grow increasingly crowded. It can instantly answer any question that consumers might have, so that they easily understand the product. Packaging should tell the story of what makes the brand unique and what the product’s purpose is.

First Impressions Matter Most

Consumers are creatures of habit, so they tend to choose what they know and opt for familiar stories, recognizable brands, and engaging packaging. By conveying a story through packaging, a brand can feel more accessible and relatable, instantly building brand loyalty and enhancing the customer experience.

While you can use more than just the packaging to convey your story, the packaging is usually the first thing people see. Considering that the average first impression is made within seven seconds, it’s crucial to hook your customers immediately.

How to Tell Your Story

The packaging design needs to lead consumers where you want them to go, so they understand the story you’re trying to tell. Through the use of colors, materials, textures, type, and copy, your packaging can evoke certain feelings and emotions that draw consumers in.

story-2

A picture is worth a thousand words, and packaging can speak volumes with no words at all. As an example, Scanwood instantly tells the story of the wood’s history with their simple, yet effective packaging design. The award-winning design from Goodmorning Technology Team appeals to global retail markets by telling a story without using words or any additional packaging. As the team put it: “This branded story is now visible and understandable across all different markets and languages”.

Know Your Target Audience

Once you know your target audience, your packaging needs to resonate with that group of people. For example, emphasizing that you run a family-owned business through approachable, “down home” packaging can entice your customers by making them feel like the product is more relatable and could have been made by someone like them.

story-3

Stonyfield displays this perfectly with their storytelling packaging. By displaying cows grazing in an open field, they instantly tell the story of happy cows on a family ranch. It evokes positive feelings and emotions, making consumers more likely to choose it over the competition. By featuring one of the family farms that supplies milk for Stonyfield, Webb Scarlett de Vlam created packaging that Stonyfield feels “now reflects who we are and what we have stood for for over 25 years.”

story-4

Coca-Cola is frequently referenced as one of the best examples of storytelling through branding and packaging. Their effective personalized packaging instantly encourages sharing with friends and weaves a story in the minds of consumers.

story-1

Holiday and seasonal packaging is another great example of telling a story through packaging. By emphasizing the holiday or theme (such as adding a simple bow or wrapping), it makes the packaging feel special enough to share or gift with others.

Your packaging should share a story with potential consumers about what benefits the product can offer them. Taking the time to create a remarkable design can result in long-term profits, a loyal customer base, and an effective brand culture.

Why a Tire Company Determines What We Eat

If you care about food – particularly gourmet food – it’s likely that you’ve at least heard of Michelin stars. If you haven’t, you are probably still familiar with Michelin as a company, which produces both a restaurant guide and tires.

themichelinguide

If you didn’t know that the tire manufacturer Michelin reviewed food, then it probably comes as a pretty big surprise that they visit select restaurants and award them zero, one, two, or three “Michelin stars” based on the cuisine. But they do, and their opinion matters a lot. Like, a lot. To many chefs, their opinion matters the most.

When you learn the history, it does make some kind of sense. The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900 as a hospitality guide for French motorists. Michelin is a French company, and cars were still a relatively new invention at that time, so encouraging road trips within the country served as a way to boost business. Eventually, the guide evolved into what it is today, which is a booklet that focuses exclusively on fine dining.  Anonymous reviewers that work for Michelin covertly visit restaurants around the world and judge the food based on a series of specific criteria. There is a first round of criteria that the restaurant must meet before the food can even be reviewed, namely:

  • The restaurant must be located in an area that is covered by Michelin. In America, that means that it has to be in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., East Bay and Wine Country, or Silicon Valley. Former “Michelin Inspector” Pascal Remy once alleged that the entirety of the United States is covered by just seven reviewers, making it all the more difficult to receive a star.
  • The restaurant must have received a sufficient amount of buzz that Michelin deems it worthy of the company’s time.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding how exactly the Inspectors evaluate the food. There are, however, several key traits that we do know are valued, including:

  • The quality of the ingredients used
  • The chef’s flavor and cooking techniques, and his or her ability to infuse the meal with their own personality
  • Consistency between visits, which Remy stated occur every three to four years

That last point is the most controversial among chefs, as many feel that rewarding consistency inhibits creativity and experimentation. There is a general feeling that once a restaurant receives a star, they can never change the menu, for fear of losing their star, never gaining another, or disappointing the now-skyrocketed expectations of customers.  Because of this, some chefs do not want any stars, and a very small number of restaurants have even “returned” them to Michelin.

michelin2

Even among chefs that do respect the star-rating system, the guide has been accused of fostering an unhealthy obsession. Gordon Ramsey reportedly cried when his New York City restaurant lost its two stars in 2013, comparing it to losing a girlfriend. When famed French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, many believed that he was overcome with anxiety regarding rumors that he was about to lose his three stars.

The 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicled Jiro Ono, considered to be the greatest sushi chef in the world, and his three-starred restaurant in Tokyo. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he noted that “you realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.” For chefs like Ono, perfection has become a measurable goal, and it can be difficult to find a path forward after it has been reached.

jirodreams

Still, for the most part, Michelin stars tend to do a lot of good for the restaurants that earn them. It has been described as a “life-changing experience” for chefs, especially if the restaurant is lucky enough to get all three stars. Plates at a Michelin-reviewed establishment can go for hundreds of dollars, and chefs at two-star restaurants often bring home six-figure incomes in exchange for their mastery. Fine dining is an especially cutthroat field, and Michelin’s opinion can make or break a chef’s entire career.

Words of Wisdom from Scott Bedbury

scott bedbury

Original Packaging that was Better than the Redesign

Package redesigns are famously tricky. On the one hand, updating a product’s look can be an important part of appealing to new consumers and staying fresh in an evolving market. On the other hand, companies risk losing valuable brand equity when they sacrifice recognizable design. When faced with the challenge of a redesign, sometimes brands just don’t get it quite right, and would have been better off sticking with their original look. Here are three recent examples of redesigns that did not deliver the effect that companies intended.

Miracle Whip

miraclewhip

In Kraft’s defense, Miracle Whip was due for a modern upgrade. The redesign that they chose in 2009, however, was uninspiring and bland. It’s clear that they were trying to go more minimalist, but the result made the product look unappetizing and generic, with no indicators of flavor other than the words “The Tangy Original”. Kraft quickly realized the error of their ways, and in 2010 a new design was released that retained more of the fun and color of the original packaging.

Weight Watchers

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In 2012, Weight Watcher’s had their logo redesigned by Pentagram. Keeping with the trends of the time, they opted for a gradient and a heavy font, with no space between the words. The company, which sells products related to dieting ranging from books to packaged foods, wanted their new look to highlight the transformation that consumers experience through the brand. What they were not counting on, however, was that a vulgar British slang word was now smack dab in the middle of the logo, which consumers in the U.K. found very difficult to look past.

The Happy Meal

mcdee

Few things are as iconic to the children of America as the Happy Meal box. The simple, sweet design had a lot of personality, and it represented years of brand loyalty that McDonald’s had built with families. In 2014, the company decided to reintroduce mascots into their branding, including a new one in the form of “Happy”, whose realistic smile and crazy eyes terrified consumers. The new boxes quickly became the subject of public ridicule and scorn, inspiring everything from memes to thinkpieces about how McDonald’s had evidently lost their minds.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that all three of these companies – Kraft, Weight Watchers, and McDonald’s – are multimillion-dollar corporations with huge marketing teams and expensive consumer research, yet even they have gotten redesigns very, very wrong. It’s difficult work, and both the design community and the food and beverage industry are still figuring out the best ways of going about it. But for every failure, we all learn a little more about how to do better next time, which is especially true for companies that are as large as these three. If the public disaster of the new Happy Meal box prevented us from having to deal with more disturbing mascots that may have been in the works, then it was worth it.