A spoonful of sugar

A spoonful of sugar
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... and a whole lot of creative thinking by Coats Design let Barker's of Geraldine take the farmers' market to the supermarket

Barker's of Geraldine put it all on the line when it set out to rebrand and repackage its extensive range of more than 50 premium jams, sauces, chutneys and syrups. Being relevant to today's consumers is, of course, at the top of every brand's agenda. Identifying the special qualities that will successfully connect and engage those consumers is critical for survival. Barker's felt its brand needed to work harder against competing brands, particularly in the large Auckland market.

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Single wrap-around labels on matte white stock in the traditional style

Design company and packaging specialists Coats Design was introduced to Barker's by marketing consultants Assignment, who had been commissioned to review the company's brand strategy, lay out a framework for rebuilding the Barker's brand and define a clear set of brand values that established who Barker's is, where it came from and what makes it different. There was a lack of awareness in the market of the 'truth' of the brand: in other words, the pioneering, authentic and quintessentially New Zealand story behind Barker's. Coats' task was to develop a Design Strategy and Architecture to illustrate these values across the product range.

No substitutes

The company's roots lie firmly in the South Island town of Geraldine. It was established on the family farm in 1969 by inventor Anthony Barker who, after learning his mother's skills for preserving fruit, went on to develop a successful cottage industry with a wild elderberry wine as his first product. This was followed by blackcurrant liqueurs, syrups, fruit spreads, jams, marmalades, chutneys, pickles and savoury sauces.

There was a lack of the pioneering, authentic and quintessentially New Zealand story behind Barker's

"Today, Barker's of Geraldine represents many of the latest developments in the technology of fruit preparation," says Michael Barker, CEO. "However, our family business is based on a lot more than machines and techniques. We believe there is no substitute for the variety, flavour, texture, colour and appeal of real New Zealand fruit."

Barker's wanted to build into the brand an instantly recognisable character and personality of its own, based on the belief that it had unrivalled credentials as a New Zealand heartland-owned family business and as makers of premium quality homegrown products. Therefore, Coats Design was asked to develop a design strategy based on marketing Barker's as a robust, truly authentic New Zealand brand.

Down-home values

Building on Barker's heritage, the brand name was changed to Barker's of Geraldine. The date of the company's establishment was added for support. The overall strategy involved building on Barker's culture and story, as well as tapping into the current social shift towards recognising the value of homegrown produce and the provenance of ingredients. The idea was to take the farmers' market into the supermarket, in order to compete against strong mainstream international brands.

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The previous packaging failed to reflect the inherent values of the Barker's brand

The new brand marque was designed to be traditional but modern, with a handcrafted font inspired by early New Zealand swingboard shop signs. To reflect the natural ingredients used in the company's products, Coats used a fruit vine and selected a new dark green as the brand colour.

Coats' expertise in packaging came into play early on, when it demonstrated its design solution was not only creatively strategic, but translated through all the technical processes to ensure the end result met expectation when it arrived on the shelf. The design architecture had to be flexible enough to adapt to the range of different label sizes and product information requirements, as well as to meet technical constraints. For example, the small batch runs on some products made it more economic to use digital printing, placing limits on certain creative initiatives such as illustration style, choice of stock and selective use of colour.

Return to the source

Coats also researched styles of glass bottles and jars that reflected Barker's "down-home" values. In particular, they wanted to reference the nostalgic look of early milk bottles and old preserving jars, with their tactile and visual memories of a shared past. A new syrup bottle was manufactured and embossed with the Barker's of Geraldine marque and South Canterbury origins. The labels are all single and wraparound on matte white stock to reflect the traditional 'home preserve' nature of the brand.

To show Barker's commitment to using New Zealand produce first and foremost, and to tell customers where the fruit came from in a friendly tone of voice, the font Coats selected for the product variants aimed to evoke a handwritten, natural spontaneity, without looking tight or contrived. A '100% Homegrown New Zealand' stamp was created, featuring a line illustration to support the idea of locally sourced fruit.

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Each facet of the new packaging was carefully considered, from the labels and lids to the Barker's stamp of authenticity

The lids were also called into service, and now feature a traditional orchard scene on the top and a personal endorsement from Michael Barker, CEO, on the inside. The Barker's story features on the main label, again signed off by Michael Barker.

Each product variant is complemented with an illustration to add a small splash of colour. These are rendered in a relaxed, natural watercolour wash style that won't date and simply reflects the home preserve nature of the products, without overwhelming the other messages on the labels.

Despite the recessionary environment, the new Barker's of Geraldine range has launched successfully with a marked increase in sales, particularly in the Auckland region (up by almost 16 percent against the same time last year). The company has also seen an increase in distribution in the Auckland market with close to a ten percent distribution lift in their syrups category.

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