The story: What do you do when you realize that consumer trends have aligned more closely than ever with the products you’ve been selling for a century? How do you capitalize on that? For Sunsweet, a global market leader in dried fruit and juice products, the answer came from its packaging partner of more than 20 years, McLean Design.
“A new generation of young, health-conscious consumers is looking for wholesome, nutritious snacks,” says Ian McLean, founder and creative director at McLean Design. “Meanwhile, Sunsweet has been offering exactly that for generations. Our job was to help Sunsweet present its juices and dried fruits in a fresh new way so this incoming generation could easily see that the package contains what they want.”
The challenge: Ian McLean believes an essential part of the process for any packaging redesign strategy is to understand what consumers expect and what they respond to. McLean’s design team needed to turn insightful concepts into visual cues that communicate the values of wholesome, natural food to modern consumers.
“Consumer perceptions about how a healthy product should look have changed,” McLean says. “In the 1970s and 80s, the imagery surrounding healthy food was very earthy. Today it looks clean, pure and unprocessed. For Sunsweet, what’s inside the bag didn’t need to change. Our task was to strip down the legacy of its packaging to its freshest interpretation. We set out to meet today’s expectation of what a healthy product looks like.”
The solution: The team at McLean Design redesigned the packaging of Sunsweet snacks and juices using beautiful, soft-focus custom photography of real fruit and used the sleek, contemporary new bottles to communicate the qualities of the juices inside.
Previously, Sunsweet has used illustrations of fruit on its packaging. “We recommended Sunsweet use high-end photography of fresh fruit to take advantage of its rotogravure printing and what that imagery can do for the brand,” says Cathi Salem, design director at McLean Design.
“To help convey the close-to-nature ideal, we shot the fruit using natural light,” Salem continues. “We knew Sunsweet would be the only product line in its categories using editorial style photography. It sets them apart on shelf, and it helps fulfill the brand promise of fresh fruit straight from the tree.”
The team photographed plums almost a year before the rest of the system in order to capture images at the height of the season. Berries, dates, apricots and other fruit were photographed over a three-day session when the seasons overlapped and fruit was at its best.
Integrated sunrays cascade over the graphics, variations in background hues echo colors in the fruit photography and glow effects provide a sense of depth and space. The team also did a minor refresh of Sunsweet’s familiar brand mark with its iconic sunburst.
To ensure the new packaging wouldn’t alienate established customers, McLean Design added a little nostalgia with a stylistic nod to vintage fruit crate art in the “fruit sticker” element. “Older consumers are accustomed to their favorite brands,” Salem says. “We were careful to preserve some familiarity to help them maintain their connection to the products they have trusted for years.”
“The creative thinkers at McLean Design brought new ideas, strategies and insights that are grounded in reality,” says Dane Lance, president at Sunsweet Growers Inc. “They are helping a whole new wave of consumers recognize our products as healthy snacks.”
The redesigned packaging is resonating with shoppers. Since the refresh, sales are on the rise for Sunsweet snacks and juices, with some product lines showing an increase of as much as 20 percent. A boost in sales of six-pack cans of prune juice suggests that a younger generation responds to a healthy product that fits a mobile lifestyle. Dried fruit has increased in both sales and units. All the juices are attracting a more youthful demographic than before.
And prune juice ranks in the top 20 items in the $4.7 billion shelf-stable juice category.
“The market and the consumer have moved,” McLean summarizes. “Our goal wasn’t merely to meet them where they are, but to lead off a little bit, and get ahead of them. This design should yield dividends for Sunsweet for a considerable period of time.”
The July issue of Packaging Strategies highlights active packaging benefits; the private label boom post-COVID, staying competitive with X-ray machinery, a new OpX column, how factory of the future solutions unlock equipment efficiencies, expanding business with new product development and a household care company who believes it’s humor and sustainability that make the brand.