In an industry packed with quality brands and innovative products, how does one stand out on the shelf? How can a brand boost sales? How can it help a product outperform its category? How does one go about approaching a brand or rebrand?
These are questions Yael Miller has thought about more than most. As a Partner in and Co-Founder of Miller Creative—a branding agency specializing in consumer product brands—Yael has worked with dozens of companies in the dairy, deli, bakery, and specialty food space. Miller is responsible for the eye-catching identity of brands like Olli Salumeria, BUF Creamery, and the recently rebranded Abeles & Heymann.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Yael and learn more about Miller’s work, it’s mission, and the ways in which companies in our industry can benefit from a brand and packaging design that both functions with customers and resonates with end consumers.
Q: Can you give me a little background on Miller? How did the company start? What would you say is the mission of the company?
Yael Miller: We established Miller Creative over 10 years ago with a passion for food products. Our mission is to bring our specialized knowledge in the field of food product branding and packaging to companies who value this deep expertise.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the particular challenges of working with food—particularly fresh foods—in the design world: How did Miller come to specialize in the food space?
YM: My background in product development for a chocolate manufacturer, and later a small packaging design agency, gave me a well-rounded foundation in the wonderful world of food packaging. We have a broad understanding of the different challenges that face food brands—many packaging substrates, different perseveration needs for shelf-life, refrigerated and frozen packaging challenges—and the very competitive retail environment for selling food and capturing consumer attention with initial and repeat purchases.
Fresh foods have the added challenge of being sold in refrigerator spaces which vary more than standard shelves. A good awareness of the diversity of merchandising formats in refrigeration is important. Another challenge of branded fresh foods is that they are increasingly competing with in-store “prepared fresh” offerings. Careful strategy is necessary to persuade the consumer to choose the prepackaged/branded offering over the apparently “freshly made in store” offerings.
Q: Can you briefly walk me through the process of designing the branding and packaging for a company like Būf™ Creamery?
YM: BUF Creamery had such an amazing product concept—fresh, grass-fed/pasture raised water buffalo that graze in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, some of the most verdant fields on earth. Their milk is spectacular and a very significant alternative to Italian water buffalo mozzarella cheese.
We needed to pitch this brand as the better option, even though consumer perception was in favor the Italian product. The name was derived from the native ‘bufala’ (pronounced BOO-fala). The name was more modern and unexpected in the fresh mozzarella space, which our research had shown to be very traditional and not innovative in branding or communication.
The company put a lot of focus on upgraded packaging since retail buyers expressed frustration with leaking packaging from other suppliers. The packaging integrity and differentiated brand and packaging design strategy, both helped catapult BUF Creamery into a leadership position in fresh cheese in a couple short years.
Q: How does that process differ from something like the rebrand of Olli Salumeria? How does Miller approach the evolution of a brand?
YM: The original Olli branding was created by Miller as well. The rebrand was in fact more of an evolution. The main focus of their 2.0 was to retain the original brand identity which was beautifully outperforming KPIs, yet optimize shelf performance due to a changing shelf environment and the introduction of several new products (it was around the time they were opening the Oceanside plant). We focused on packaging communication so consumers understood why this product is better/different than other brands.
Shelf blocking was an important aspect that we optimized by building a very detailed hierarchy map outlining every Olli product, plus future products/lines. A good balance of consistency across lines, with enough differentiation within each line helped keep this complex launch organized and poised for a manageable, seamless rollout. We’ve found this planning step (and SKU rationalization when needed) is ideal for companies with a large number of SKUs, who want to rebrand and relaunch products in a painless way, that also helps add future SKUs more easily.
Q: What advice would you give to a company in the dairy, deli, bakery, or specialty food space considering branding or rebranding?
YM: We would always advise starting with an analysis of the competitive space. What’s out there? What opportunities are there? What is our brand’s “big idea”? Once these questions are clearly answered and a brand position is defined, a good understanding of your core demographic is important. Design/creative strategy should always follow from these knowledge points so the brand can attract its primary consumer base powerfully and compellingly. There is always an angle where a brand directly and meaningfully meets the consumers wants and needs—uncovering that and expressing that through packaging is possible and it will enable a brand to compete very effectively!
Q: What can you tell us about trends that you’re seeing in that space? How are consumer’s changing interests changing the industry?
YM: Consumers are more interested than ever in clean ingredients and wholesome products. The BFY (better for you) food category is huge and growing, and “free-of" claims are yielding to "simple/whole ingredient" statements. Consumers increasingly want balanced, pure foods. From a competitive standpoint, these values are worth considering when developing and optimizing products, and crafting brand/packaging communications.
For more fresh news in the dairy, deli, bakery, and specialty food industries, keep reading Deli Market News.