With just 10 years in the market, Chobani is now the country’s biggest yogurt brand—not Dannon, not Yoplait, and definitely not Jamie Lee Curtis’s prized Activia. In the great battle royale of the yogurt aisle, Chobani reigns and they’ve now completely redesigned their packaging.
So, why now? If ever there was a time to rest on your laurels, isn’t this that moment? According to Chobani, absolutely not. In fact, it’s precisely the right point in time.
“It wasn’t so much just a packaging redesign, it was actually a rethink on the positioning of our company for future growth,” says Chobani’s Chief Creative Officer, Leland Maschmeyer.
“Most people do this when they’ve fallen behind or fallen out of relevance, so they tend to rebrand from a position of weakness which I think causes some hastily-made decisions or for people to not achieve what they could have from a position of confidence. The fact that we are in a leading position makes it the best time to do it. It’s much harder to build on your successes and stay in the lead than just coast on them and fall behind.”
It was also a back-to-basics moment for the brand, one where they could go back to their essence of being a company that sells wholesome, organic products. Chobani sees themselves as part of a much larger food movement, one that in recent years has focused on the supply chain and just where our food is coming from.
What’s so impressive about this project is that 99% of the work was done in-house at Chobani and in the unheard-of time frame of eight months. “Typically, if you were to do this quickly in any other fashion than with an in-house team, it would still be a two-year project, and for some larger food companies, it’s a five- to seven-year project,” says Maschmeyer. “For this project, everyone rolled up their sleeves.”
One of the first goals of the redesign was to give each of the Chobani platforms its own identity. Over the previous 10 years, as each new product line was introduced, the company used the same graphics as it used for its original product. “What we saw was that while that created unity, it also blurred what the consumer was being invited to eat and to experience with each of the platforms,” says Maschmeyer.
In order to create a focus or strategy for each line, Chobani looked closely at how consumers were engaging with the platforms, assigning each of them to one of four distinct “buckets” -- every day products (products consumers choose as good, healthy staples in their lives), food that consumers eat for fun, performance products (eaten for certain functional benefits), and social side of food (products associated with family gatherings).
To allow for differentiation of the platforms while preserving brand unity, there were several design values carried across all the lines. As Maschmeyer explains, the design had to:
Be handcrafted, “You had to see the human hand at work in the design.”
Be approachable. “It couldn’t be so sophisticated that it looked too expensive.”
Have a sense of naivety. “This is a brand with some innocence associated with it; there’s a sense of purity, a sense of nature. All of these things we thought could be beautifully suggested through a sense of naivety.”
Have a sense of nostalgia.
Inspired by the folk art of the 19th century, their bright and vivid hand-drawn illustrations of fruit look as if they were lifted from a calendar straight out of the American Folk Art Museum. They clearly stand apart from the competition.
Another large piece of the redesign project was the creation of a new wordmark. To signify Chobani’s warmth and naturalness, the company moved to what Maschmeyer calls “a human typeface,” or one that looks like a human hand created it. It has curves, which are typically associated with organic gestures like leaves and flowers. Also important was making sure it had a heavy weight, so that a consumer can see it from 10 feet away, even on a crowded shelf. “That was super-critical because what we know is that when consumers shop the shelf, the very first thing they look for is their brand,” says Maschmeyer. “With the old Chobani wordmark, when you stood ten feet away from a very crowded shelf, it disappeared. It wasn’t visually heavy enough to stand out.”
So much of the brand is about people and community, it’s about doing things the old way, the simple way. And those are a lot of characteristics of folk art. At the same time, 19th-century folk art, if you look at it, actually looking like Bauhaus artwork and it predates it by 50 years.
That sense of modernity and tradition are on full display with the redesigned packaging by Chobani’s newly assembled in-house team. But don’t just say it's a redesign and call it a day.
“This was about evolving the brand,” Leland says, “rather than changing the brand. We see it as just an improvement and re-articulation of what we’ve always been.”