Beautiful Package Design Positions a Natural Vegan Food as Specialty

For a retail food, beverage or most any product, often the first customer touchpoint is your packaging. A product has just a couple of seconds to make a sale.

Getting the value and messages across quickly is just as important as catching the shopper's attention.

The Making of a High End Vegan Cheese

Miyoko's Creamery vegan cheese packaging
A beautiful unified product family and brand mark. Miyoko's Creamery

Miyoko’s Kitchen decided to differentiate its vegan nut cheese by delighting health food shoppers with something different from the usual : a specialty / gourmet package and brand more common to dairy-based artisan cheeses than the vegan category.

To achieve its vision, the Fairfax, California-based artisan partnered with Juli Shore Design (JSD). At a high level, JSD articulates the soul and mission of a brand through visual storytelling—pairing beautiful images with relevant messages.

JSD  creates a brand image and packaging, marketing materials and websites that tells a food or beverage company's authentic story, with a goal of forging emotional connections with your customer, encouraging purchase and building loyalty and profits.

Here Juli Shore shared how the brand design process worked, from strategy to grocery shelf:

Steps In the Food Brand Design Process

Brand and package design process. Juli Shore Design

Step 1: Define the Design and Business Goals and Opportunity

Through design briefs and conversations, designers such as JSD's firm coax out a company's essence by learning about:

  • the business and strategy
  • the customers (both retail and the buyers at wholesale, who have their own set of requirements)
  • differentiating and special characteristics versus the competitive set
  • a general (or specific) idea of the client's desired image as well as what they don't like

This information then gets translated into visual style and brand identity that is applied to various touchpoints  your customer interacts with, from print to online to, of course packaging.

Entrepreneur Tip: You may have a very specific idea of the look you want to achieve. Open your mind and give your designers creative freedom to suggest something different, then test it with impartial feedback.

Step 2: Reflecting on the Gourmet Cheese-Eating Experience
The act of eating cheese is often rooted in rituals:

  • Consumers have fun exploring and discovering new kinds of cheese.
  • Cheese pairs well with wine, offering a time for friends to get together around a snack and talk.
  • It’s is often part of a special occasion.

Step 3: Pinpointing a Niche for an Upscale Nut Cheese
In analyzing the competitive set of vegan cheeses and spreads, JSD saw that the majority of alternative cheese products didn’t feel special, or promising of a culinary experience.

The goal: For Miyoko’s Creamery, JSD wanted to create a package that someone would be proud to bring to a party or share with a friend—the product being a conduit for experiences that bring people together around good food.

The constraint: The line includes several flavors of the vegan nut cheese, so the design process included envisioning lining up the flavors in a "block" in a store's refrigerated case.

From Packaging Concept to Store Shelves

Miyoko's Creamery at the grocery store
Miyoko's Creamery vegan cheese lookin good on the shelf. Susie Wyshak

Step 4: Producing the Packaging

Any print design process includes optimizing the file layout to maximize the number of impressions per sheet of paper, to reduce the printing cost. After the design studio and the client (Miyoko) finalized the design, JSD handed off the design files to the packaging printer while remaining involved in the printing.

Entrepreneur Tip: Be sure your print designers go to the "press check" to ensure the colors, position and any other nuances of the printed pieces or packaging is turning out as desired.

Step 5: Miyoko Creamery Gets On Store Shelves

Like most small artisan food makers, Miyoko launched locally in popular local grocers. This small scale distribution would not be for long.

Miyoko reported that at the 2015 Natural Products Expo West, "we got high praise for the package design – everyone remarked on it. It is simply beautiful, especially the redesign with the color differentiation which everyone loves."

Entrepreneur Tip: Specialty food shops and even major natural grocers like Whole Foods love meeting the maker, the owner, the entrepreneur. Even if you're a shy type, presenting and sharing your food forms a similar emotional tie with buyers as the one you hope your packaging will make with consumers. Later on, you can get sales help as described in my book.)

All Set For Widespread Distribution

With rave reviews and experienced leadership (including the founder of Wildwood Tofu), Miyoko Creamery non-dairy cheese may very well become a fixture in the refrigerators of not just vegan eaters but anyone who appreciates a finely made spread.

As of now, Miyoko says, "We are currently distributed primarily on the West Coast through two distributors, as well as Australia. We are trying to branch out through the United States."

By the photo I shot at a local market, you can see the store buyers are as enthusiastic as vegan eaters have been about these nut-based cheeses.