Having just returned from the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, meticulously walking isle after isle, I can honestly say that there wasn’t a booth (or tasty treat!) that I missed. Upon my return, I couldn’t help but reflect upon a couple of the brands that stood out among the rest due to their frivolity and the lightness of their message, where celebrating personal experience and evoking a sense of spirit and personality seemed to trump a more genuine health, sustainability or social message.
In the world of natural products where information share and transparency reigns, it was refreshing to see that some brands were confident enough in their message to break from convention and take some category “risks”. Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but question whether these brands were taking risks in the first place, but were, in reality, building really smart branding initiatives that allowed for some personality and fun to enter into a category that is otherwise quite serious in tone, information-rich, and built on platforms focused mostly on promoting the level of one’s naturalness.
That being said, there were plenty of brands at the show — across all of the representative categories — that did a great job at communicating a really well-defined, cohesive brand story, without being frivolous or too playful. Some of these brands included Flora, Vega, Swisse, Bull Dog, Adagio Teas, Maison Orphéé, Storye, Kind Healthy Snacks, The Chia Co., Steve Smith Teamaker, Quinn Popcorn and Own Skin Health, to name a few. But the two brands that were not only doing a great job of communicating their story, but did it in a way that seemed to throw aside all of the traditional category conventions, were Angie’s Popcorn and Love & Toast Naturals.
In the case of Angie’s Popcorn, the idea is brilliant. Their bold, playful messaging that affectionately pays homage to the famous children’s book, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, and the simple use of color and typography was by far and away the show-stealer for me. The booth quite literally “popped” with its overall expressiveness and impact among the other brands in its vicinity. The only direct representation of product was within photo illustrations where popcorn is playfully jumping out of a suggested bowl of flat color and shape. Beyond that, it’s pure brand personality and the suggestion of fun. I actually had the pleasure of speaking with Angie directly, who graciously shared the evolution of the new branding with me while feverishly working the popper!
Love & Toast
Love & Toast was another brand that made a huge impact at the show, and was a close second to Angie’s in terms of brand appeal. While aesthetically very different from the branding of Angie’s, their playful use of stylized illustration, hand-rendered typography and a graphic language and color palette broke from the sea of seriousness and control. Everything about the brand was full of energy, life and optimism. The booth design, even with its tight corners and limited walk-through, was easily one of the most engaging and well-considered at the show, graphically. One truly felt as though they were entering into a portal of joy and excitement. Similar to Angie’s, at point of entry, the branding was a celebration of personal experience and brand personality, rather than a celebration of product.
Clearly, both of these brands have chosen frivolity at the expense of a clear brand promise or mission, but there’s opportunity for brands to do both — yet very few are doing it. Brands who are confident in their offer and the position they hold take risks. They challenge the status quo and aren’t afraid to embrace a bit of personality, regardless of how that might play out in design. So while Angie’s platform is bold, simple and minimal — and Love & Toast was layered and rich with art and graphics — both accomplished one thing at the show: they stood out (and had fun doing it!).