‘Evolutionary’ Redesign Fires Up Kettle Chips Packaging
By Kate Bertrand
When Oregon’s Kettle Foods launched all-natural potato chips in 1982, it pioneered a product concept. But in recent years, the movement to natural and organic foods has resulted in many new potato chip brands—Cape Cod, Natural Lay’s, Boulder Canyon Totally Natural, Terra Chips—moving into the all-natural territory.
In the face of this changing competitive landscape, Kettle used 2005 to rethink its brand strategy.
“Kettle was the first to launch an all-natural potato chip,” says Michelle Peterman, Kettle Foods’ vice president of marketing. “Now people are coming in and making hay with what we consider old news.”
As a result, the company decided to “raise the bar” and leverage the things consumers valued in its brand, namely the bold, unique flavors and the brand’s all-natural essence.
Kettle began by hiring Enterprise IG, a brand strategy firm, to perform a repositioning study that examined changes in the chip segment and Kettle’s role in the marketplace.
In the course of that study, Kettle identified the need for packaging that would make it easier for consumers to shop the Kettle Chips shelf set. The company also identified the need for a brand architecture to guide the design of packaging across all product lines.
Beyond its Kettle Chips flagship, the company sells Organic Kettle Chips, Kettle Krinkle Cut Chips, Organic Kettle Tortilla Chips, nuts and nut butters, and low-fat potato chips, Kettle Krisps, the company repositioned as Kettle Bakes Potato Chips last fall.
DNA carries forward
Though determined to refresh its packaging, Kettle also recognized that the new design had to be enough like the old one to maintain communication with loyal consumers. The company had never in its history changed the look of its packaging.
“A large amount of the DNA of the original package had to pull forward in the redesign,” explains Michael Osborne, president of San Francisco-based Michael Osborne Design, the firm that created Kettle’s new packaging. Veteran Kettle Chips customers might not notice the changes at first, because the redesign is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Osborne explains. “This is very well-known packaging. If we changed it too much, Kettle would lose market share,” he says.
The company worked with London-based Colourfield Research to conduct focus group research in the United States and also in the United Kingdom, a market known for its devotion to chips.
In the sessions, Kettle identified the design elements that could not be scrapped: consumers expressed a strong attachment to the Kettle logotype, which looks like a woodcut. And the packaging’s bold color coding was identified as an equity element.
The research called out Kettle’s all-natural status and its portfolio of 20-plus unusual flavors, including Spicy Thai, Roasted Red Pepper with Goat Cheese, and Cheddar Beer, as core equities of the brand.
Consumers also shared their perception of Kettle as an honest, straightforward, down-to-earth brand; they told the company to keep the packaging simple.
Bold colors equal equity
The challenge for Kettle was to graphically interpret all of this information. For instance, keeping the existing color coding for the various flavors, such as green for Yogurt & Green Onion and blue for Sea Salt & Vinegar, was fundamental.
“We have very loyal and passionate fans, and people who have been buying our brand for a long time buy it by the color,” says Peterman. “We didn’t disrupt that.”
However, to freshen the look, Michael Osborne Design slightly modified Kettle’s colors “to be more sophisticated” and created tone-on-tone banding to carry the flavor name. Horizontal score marks of metallic gold ink delineate the band at top and bottom.
The flavor band also includes a descriptive phrase that reflects what consumers told Kettle about each flavor. For Cheddar Beer, the phrase is “a match made in HEAVEN”; for Spicy Thai, “ginger with ATTITUDE”; and for New York Cheddar with Herbs, “bold GROWN-UP cheese.” Peterman says the phrases act as an “ice breaker”.
The copy on the back of the pack continues in that same down-to-earth, whimsical tone, noting that these are chips “you’ll still respect in the morning”.
‘A natural obsession’
The flavor names, which had been at the top of the bags originally, now appear below the Kettle logo. In the past, the flavor name was hard to see if the grocer had squeezed the bag onto the shelf, creasing the top.
On the new packaging, the names are rendered in a distressed, classic, serif typeface similar to that on the original packaging but, now, significantly larger and in upper case.
The new design also renders the ice breaker copy, package weight and the phrase “all natural potato chips—never any trans fats” in a distressed-typewriter typeface that mixes upper case and lower case fonts—a tactic said to communicate the brand’s quirky personality.
Michael Osborne Design also whittled the logotype down from “Kettle Chips” to “Kettle”, but preserved its equity by keeping the woodcut look. Just above it is a new design element, a tagline that reads: “A Natural Obsession.”
Peterman calls this top section of the bag “sacred territory”. “The top third of any pack of our brand will always look the same,” she says, explaining that, in the past, line extensions caused variability in the look and feel of the brand’s packaging.
One original design element that was not carried through to the new packaging was the illustration of a man cooking a batch of potato chips that appeared on the front of the pack. The illustration now appears as an icon on the back of each bag.
A clear path
Thanks to the redesign, Kettle has a clear design path to follow as it introduces new products. But at the same time, each sub-brand is allowed to have its own personality. “Just like family members, they all have the same DNA, but they all look different and have a different personality,” Peterman explains.
Packaging for the new Kettle Bakes Potato Chips, for example, uses the same design format as Kettle Chips but incorporates a cursive typeface that differentiates it as a sub-brand.
This design approach satisfies Kettle’s bias against changing package design for the sake of change.
“We wanted something with some staying power. We didn’t want it to look outdated in one or five or 10 years,” Peterman says. BP
Where to go for more information...
Package design. At Michael Osborne Design Inc., contact Michael Osborne at 415.255.0125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brand strategy. At Enterprise IG, contact Kristine Barakat at 212.755.4200 or email@example.com.
Market research. At Colourfield Research Ltd., contact Mark Harrison at +44.0.1428.641543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.