Ideas Archives - Buttermilk Creative


How it Started, How its Going: Mortal Kombucha

In the third installment of his series, “How it Started, How its Going,” Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative discusses the the Mortal Kombucha packaging evolution with Founder and CEO, Becca Schepps.

Based in Boulder, copywriter and creative director Becca Schepps came up with the idea for Mortal Kombucha in 2017 when she was working on a packaging design for a new dessert that wanted to say ‘good for you’ but wasn’t that good for you. Holding a kombucha in her hand, she was looking to see how they worded ‘good for you’ and saw the ingredients ended in “100% love.”  Upon seeing those words something clicked and she felt there was an opportunity to develop an aggressive kombucha brand that had nothing to do with love. She came up with the name right then and there: Mortal Kombucha (a pun on Mortal Kombat, the notoriously violent video game). She initially launched in jest without an actual product but when people started buying from her website she got to work and launched her brand in earnest. In April 2020 Becca redesigned her packaging and relaunched the brand.

Andy Kurtts: What prompted you to re-design your packaging?

Becca Schepps: For pricing reasons we made changes to the bottle shape. The new bottle was also used by several category leaders. This made me very scared – so the thought was, if we’re gonna go into the same exact bottle and sit next to these big brands on the shelf, we better look drastically different. It would either work, or fail.



AK: What were your goals for the redesign?

BS: Well we knew we needed to standout on the shelf if we wanted to have any success. While we didn’t want to alienate female kombucha drinkers who traditionally are the largest target customer we also wanted to attract new kombucha drinkers with our reimagined look. Our goal was to create something that could exist in a yoga studio and a boxing gym. Plus we just wanted to have fun in the category. That was a major driver.

AK: What inspired the look behind your current packaging design?

BS: I love vintage Gwen Stefani, circa Tragic Kingdom. Also Santa Cruz skateboards and peak 90s brands like Roxy, Quicksilver, and Stussy sprinkled with a little Lisa Frank nostalgia. Think late 80s/ early 90s brands when fluorescent was the rage. Loud and proud. We wanted the look to be fun and playful with an edge. Plus, I love the aesthetic of hand drawn, but not messy.

AK: How did your messaging on the packaging change with the redesign?

BS: Our messaging actually remained exactly the same, even the back copy. By trade I’m traditionally a copywriter – so I wrote all the original copy. However I also designed our old bottle – which I’m NOT a designer. So while the words on the bottle always conveyed the brand I was trying to create, the visuals did not. Now with the redesign it is just conveyed much more colorfully with better hierarchy.

AK: How has this packaging redesign changed your overall brand messaging and image?

BS: Because the new look is so much more fun we’ve really leaned into bringing it to life on social media and our website. We have beefed up the attitude and personality. Personified our flavors and given them attitudes (and body parts at times). We continue to work towards bringing our look and feel to more aspects of our brand off the packaging in terms of where we show up and how we show up. It’s all about making sure we can be this “alt” kombucha.



AK: How has your packaging redesign impacted sales? What about customer reach? Wholesale accounts?

BS: We launched the new packaging in April of 2020 and in Q4 2020 sales were up 20% YOY as compared to our old labels. Now in 2021 as new packaging has been out a year we are up even more. Every month seems to be our best month. We have received great feedback from buyers who are excited about how different we are. One large chain buyer called and told me that he had reviewed 250 kombuchas and ours was the only one that stood out. We made a lot of changes in 2020, and while they all contributed to our amazing growth – I truly believe the label redesign opened the doors and the team and product’s integrity sealed the deal.

AK: What was your biggest take away from redesigning packaging?

BS: The risk was worth it. When we locked in on doing this design I thought – ‘welp we are either gonna blow up in a good way or blow the brand up in a tragic way.’ We had to choose between safe or dangerous with the redesign and we chose dangerous. It was a delicate dance between standing out and fitting in so we didn’t alienate the existing consumers. To do this we followed things like color trends, but were careful to stay away from design trends that everyone was mimicking.

AK: What was the biggest lesson you learned from the redesign?

BS: Go all in and don’t look back. We were playing it too safe early on. The brand from idea inception was about creating a true wild child rebel brand and to be honest, we are still working on dialing that even more.

AK: What was the biggest surprise from this process?

BS: The response from buyers – we didn’t know how it was going to be received. A buyer had a bunch of samples at her house and she told me that her kid, who never drinks kombucha, loved it. Our broker teams love the imagery of the redesign and it helps the product resonate with people who otherwise would not drink kombucha. I think it makes people thing – hmmm what’s this, maybe i’ll try it.

AK: Tell me about what ended up being your favorite part of the process.

BS: I love innovating. I love coming up with ideas. I love having a vision and pulling in the pieces to make it come to life. It was super exciting to create this brief of everything in my brain, hand it to the design team and see what came back — and how they’d interpret my musings. Usually I’m the one that gets the brief, so it was great to see concepts evolve and grow and play client. This redesign played a huge role in building and creating the brand exactly how I want it to be.

AK: What would you consider to be the most challenging part of the process?

BS: The biggest challenge wasn’t the design part. I think coming from that world I knew what to expect and was able to give the design team all the tools they needed for success. That means having all your assets (logos, upcs, nutrition panels, ingredient lists, flavor names, certification icons), label mandatories (net weight, disclaimers, fda regulations) and anything else important easily accessible and organized for the design team. Give them the box to work in, but also be open to looking outside the box if all the mandatories are met. Timeline wise – everything always will take longer than you think, so I knew we had a hard deadline that we had a production run coming up, so I wanted to have everything printed 1 month before that, knowing that sometimes things creep longer.

Actually the biggest back and forth I had with the designers was color. I think the designer was going to kill me. I kept pushing him in one direction and he really wanted to go a different way. I had him do the color I wanted and then the first time we printed labels I realized I was wrong and had to go back to them, dragging my tail between my legs and ask him to change the colors, because he was right. That said, I think its important to pick a lane and proceed, otherwise you can seesaw on a decision forever and delay things. It’s like yes, it should be perfect, but you can always iterate on perfect.

AK: What advice would you give to other business owners considering a redesign?

BS: Before you jump in on packaging design figure out who you are on a brand. Don’t just go with the trend. You package is all you have to tell your story when you’re on a shelf. Once you figure it out, lean into it 100%. Also trust your designers!

How it Started, How its Going: Must Love, Formerly Hakuna Banana

In the second installment of his series, “How it Started, How its Going,” Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative discusses the Must Lovepackaging evolution with Co-Founder, Hannah Hong.

Best friends Hannah Hong and Mollie Cha came up with the idea for Must Love (formerly Hakuna Brands) in 2016 when they started experimenting with a non-dairy ice cream alternative recipe. Both women have been lactose intolerant since their early 20s and after trying a banana based recipe they whipped up one evening after work they knew they were onto something special. After perfecting their creamy, indulgent recipe they dove head first into launching their fruit based brand Hakuna Banana. In 2018 they launched Totes Oats, an oat milk based ice cream. Then, in early 2020 they relaunched all products under the brand Must Love.

Andy Kurtts: What prompted you to re-design your packaging and branding?

Hannah Hong: By 2018 we had two seperate lines, fruit based Hakuna Banana and oat milk based Totes Oats. We are a small company and while our banana line had gained significant traction and visibility we saw there was a lot of opportunity for our oat line. We wanted to invest in building out those products but we had a hard time creating traction for them. A year and a half after launching Totes Oats we took a step back to strategize and decided to rename and relaunch an umbrella brand for both lines to live under. In early 2020 we launched everything under Must Love.

AK: What were your goals for the redesign?

HH: First we wanted to combine Hakuna Banana and Totes Oats into one brand to eliminate confusion and to be able to refer to all products by the same brand name. Second, we wanted to capture the same appeal of Hakuna Banana for Must Love. We wanted to make sure our new branding spoke to the emotional side of our brand which required some soul searching and strategy. The foundation of our company and brand comes from my friendship with my co-founder Mollie. It was important to us that our products feel like something you want to share with your best friend.

AK: What inspired the look behind your packaging design?

HH: Our friendship! We talked about the brand’s personality and really, Mollie and I inspired it. When you experience our friendship in person, you experience our brand’s culture. We also made sure that the patterns we used on the packaging were inspired by the ingredients.

AK: How have customers received the new packaging?

HH: We’ve received some DMs from people and they ask in all caps “WHY DID YOU CHANGE?”. We of course explain but that’s the most negative feedback we’ve received so far. Most folks are very positive, and those who didn’t know about Hakuna Banana absolutely love Must Love.

AK: How has your packaging redesign impacted sales? Customer reach? Wholesale accounts?

HH: For our wholesale accounts we already had good buyer relationships with Whole Foods and Sprouts. We waited until we knew what we were going to rename the brand and had it 99% ready to share and then brought these buyers into our rebranding and redesign discussions to gather their feedback. We wanted them to be partners on the journey and they immediately understood and got excited about it. At this time we expanded nationally with Sprouts. We were strategic about this and intentionally timed the packaging relaunch with the expansion so that we could start fresh with a new brand and packaging. We don’t fully know the impact of the redesign on sales yet but we feel a lot more energy behind the new brand. Customers are really excited and we’ve gotten some great feedback so far.

AK: Did you use any marketing research or data to inform the aesthetic?

HH: We sought out feedback from one of our mentors who used to work in the ice cream category. We waited until we were about 60% done. At that point we showed the design to her; she gave us some great real talk and advice. I’d definitely recommend tapping into your network.

AK: How did your messaging on the packaging change with the redesign?

HH: We were very mindful of putting product photography of the product on the packaging. We did this to increase taste appeal. We also sent out a simple survey to help us zero in on which claims to include on the packaging. The survey results helped us chose the ones that best served our brand and resonated most with consumers

AK: What was that biggest lesson you learned from redesigning your branding and packaging?

HH: Our biggest lesson learned was to hire an agency to help instead of creating the design myself. We knew we needed professional help. It’s a major process and a journey when you’re undertaking a whole rebrand. It takes time to build trust and go through the iterative process. It was scary but you have to trust that your agency can handle it. We were scared in the beginning but quickly realized the only way out of it is through!

AK: What was your favorite part of the process?

HH: The end! Once we got through 80% of the design process we started talking about fun stuff like color families and really got to see everything come together. When you finally see all the proofs from the printer, it’s so exciting.

AK: What was the most challenging part of the process?

HH: Because the Hakuna Banana brand had a strong POV with imagery, divorcing from that packaging and thinking about new imagery was hard. We had to completely detach from the old brand in order to create the new packaging and branding. We loved the old packaging which was hard to leave behind.

AK: What advice would you give to other business owners considering a redesign?

HH: What really helped us was we had to be honest with ourselves. When we first decided to consider a rebrand it was very scary to rebrand both brands. But you have to really look at it and be honest with yourself with what is best for the brand long term. You have to do the hard work!

How it Started, How its Going: Bare Bones

Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative launched a new packaging design column for The Spotlight called How it Started, How its Going. In his first entry, he discusses the Bare Bones Broth packaging evolution with Co-Founder and CEO, Kate Harvey.

Bare Bones was started in 2014 by Kate and Ryan Harvey to breathe new life into a timeless staple: bone broth. Since launching, they’ve become one of the leaders in the category and continue to grow their distribution on a national level.

Andy Kurtts: Tell us a little bit about the packaging origins for Bare Bones.

Kate Harvey: As with most startup brands we bootstrapped in the beginning. The original packaging idea was limited by a couple of points: materials, minimums and lack of experience with what works in packaging. Our first bags were stock bags with printed labels because we did not meet the minimum order quantities for custom printing.

We initially worked with a local San Diego designer whose specialty was restaurant branding and design. Since the designer was more accustomed to restaurant design, translating to packaging was tough. The designer explored shapes related to the history of stock making, prehistoric shapes and hieroglyphs, however those details were lost on the consumer.

AK: What prompted you to re-design your packaging?

KH: While our original design was steeped in research, the concept did not communicate the brand’s core message and differentiators that Bare Bones would need to resonate with our target customer and stake our claim in the category. We knew this was a priority, so we included packaging design into our first round of investment which enabled us to work with a studio that specializes in packaging. The idea behind the first redesign was to convey home cooking, transparency, and farm to table. To do this we included a large window and animal illustrations. However, the first redesign had several shortfalls such as missing flavor cues which led to customers having trouble differentiating between the flavors. The window took up too much space and the animal illustrations were off putting to customers. They liked the product, they just didn’t need to know how it was made and seeing the animal made it very literal.

AK: So that’s interesting – for your redesign it actually took 2 iterations to get where you are now.

KH: Correct – while the second round was an improvement from the launch packaging, we knew the animal imagery had to go and the communication needed to be revamped.

AK: What were your goals for the current redesign?

KH: We really wanted to bring attention to the flavor and product name, bring them front and center and let the brand recede a little bit into the background. We also wanted to highlight valid claims on the front of pack such as Whole30 Approved, USDA Organic, etc. These were certifications we had invested in yet previously had hidden on the back. We realized they were important to our customers and to us and deserved more prominent placement on the packaging. We also addressed our consumers’ concerns over the literal representation of the animal on the package by removing it altogether. In our research we noticed the soup and broth set was stale and dark so we wanted to infuse light and bright into our packaging as well as feature illustrations of ingredients such as herbs and vegetables to really bring home the farm to table feel. Last, you’ll notice the product window is framed by a mug – we wanted to show customers a common use case for our broth.

AK: How has your packaging redesign impacted sales? Customer reach? Wholesale accounts?

KH: We started shipping the new packaging in the fall of 2020 and have seen velocity lifts of 20 – 45%. Buyers have been really excited to see the new packaging as well – seeing the animal illustrations go was a big deal. Also the previous packaging design made it difficult to differentiate between the various SKUs but our most recent redesign solved that problem. We also attribute a lot of the success to making sure meaningful differentiators were on the front of pack, specifically callouts like protein level and “gels when chilled”. We knew these were messages that would resonate with our core customers. The new packaging has also opened the door to more conventional retailers and given us flexibility to explore product development and line extensions such as our Instant Bone Broth line.

AK: What was your biggest surprise during the redesign process?

KH: We thought we had carefully planned operationally how to run through all the old packaging yet it still took five months for everything to flow through and transition to the new packaging. We just didn’t think it was going to take that long! Between all the different channels where our products are sold, we felt like we were not in full control of the process of transitioning the packaging on the store shelf.

AK: What did you find to be the most challenging part of the process?

KH: Finding consensus amongst the various stakeholders. Ryan would get feedback from board members, then we would synthesize and share with the designers. Then they would design and tweak and we’d present back to the board. It took about 3-4 rounds of revisions to finalize the design.

AK: What advice would you give to other business owners considering a redesign?

KH: Invest the money in hiring people who know what they’re doing! Do your research and familiarize yourself with the major designs in your set. Have an understanding of what resonates with your target customer as far as imagery and messaging. Make sure you highlight what makes you different and superior on your packaging and create clarity in the hierarchy of information on your packaging. Last, invest in mockups – we actually took them to a tradeshow and were able to gather feedback!

AK: What was the biggest take away from redesigning packaging?

KH: On the second round of packaging, we let an aesthetically driven approach drive the lack of marketing callouts- we wanted a clean design but did not realize the opportunity to market on the front of pack. This made us think about how there wasn’t enough emphasis to help customers make the decision to purchase us. We learned our packaging can work much harder for us.

AK: How has this packaging redesign influenced your overall brand messaging and image?

KH: While it did not change the identity fully, it did change the direction of lifestyle photos. We are rebuilding our drip campaigns to better highlight and support the new packaging. We want to get more mileage and allow the claims that matter to us and our consumers, reinform our marketing strategy.

AK: What was the biggest lesson you learned from this process?

KH: That you are never done with the process and evolution of optimizing your communication – visual and otherwise – for consumers.
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5 Things to Do When Attending the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York

We’re New York City bound for this summer’s Fancy Food Show! Are you? Do you want to go somewhere new while in town for the show? We wanted to share five of our favorite places to visit when we’re in NYC. Try one or a few of these hot spots while you are in town––we promise you won’t regret it!

We would love to meet up during the show and chat about how we can extend your on shelf presence. Click here and we will reach out to set something up!

1. Thea Grant

Whether you are looking for a unique gift to bring home, want a one-of-a-kind statement piece of your own, or want to be inspired––head to Thea Grant in Brooklyn. This charming design-and-lifestyle store is family-run by a talented husband and wife team and offers high end, handmade jewelry and intricate metal pieces. They specialized in uniquely beautiful antique and estate pieces that tell a story, you never know what gem you will find. We could not leave without purchasing a custom stamped brass keychain that they made right in front of us.

BONUS: While in DUMBO, make sure to check out mexican hot spot Gran Eléctrica. We love their fresh eats and unique cocktails, especially on a hot day in the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, sample a few of their speciality tequilas and unwind while dining al fresco.

2. Two Kids and a Dog

While in Brooklyn, stop by Two Kids and a Dog at the Pearl Street Triangle. We stumbled upon this sweet children’s store when searching for the perfect authentic (yet fun) souvenir for our son––a NYC garbage truck toy that was a HUGE hit! The store is perfectly curated with unique toys, children’s clothing, gifts, and speciality items.

3. New York Water Taxi

Looking for a different way to explore the city? Head to the water! The New York Water Taxi to be exact. This is the perfect way to see different parts of the city and its surrounding areas, especially if you are short on time. We suggest buying an all day pass to explore and stop along the way, then hop back on and venture to another part of the city. Our favourite route is to go from Midtown/Hell’s Kitchen to Battery Park to view the exquisite gardens, then head over to South Street Seaport for waterside shopping in unique, restored wharfside buildings from the early 1800’s. From there, we like to head to Brooklyn/DUMBO for some more great shopping and good eats. Then, travel back up to Midtown via the State of Liberty and Ellis Island. Pro tip: bypass the long lines to see the Statue of Liberty, and drive by it while on the water taxi. You get super close and stop for about 10 minutes for some quick photo opportunities. The water taxi guides are very friendly and provide a wealth of knowledge about NYC while ferrying around the city.

If you want to explore art galleries, we love to start at 28th Street in Chelsea and snake our way between 10th and 11th Avenues taking in the different art along the way. The galleries are free to enjoy and most are open Monday through Saturday. Make sure to check out this interactive gallery map to see which artists are showing and plan your trip. The last time we gallery hopped, we happened to stumble upon a Damien Hirst exhibit by spotting one of his famous formaldehyde sharks in the gallery’s front window. Cue fanboy/fangirl moment! You never know whose art you will run into. This is a great way to recharge and get inspired by all of the creativity around you.

It’s hard to believe that the High Line was set to be demolished in the 1990’s! During the 1930’s, the city built this elevated freight rail line above the streets of the West Side in response to the dangers of pedestrians walking on the street level tracks. After dwindling train usage, this space became an unused wasteland. Thankfully, the community pulled together to save this now beautiful 1.45-mile public space that is home to over 500+ species of plants and trees. We love getting fresh air along the greenway and stopping for refreshing treats such as an Italian ice or even pop into a local bar for a quick pint.

We can’t wait to see you at the Summer #FancyFoodShow.

Drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can help amplify your brand’s voice and on shelf presence. Click here to learn more about what we will be doing at the conference or use the form and we’ll reach out to you!


Wanting to try somewhere new to grab dinner after the show? Check out our 5 favorite places to eat while in New York.

Want to meet up and talk branding?

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Expo Insights: Our Top 3 Trends from this year’s Expo West

Early in March i made my yearly pilgrimage to Expo West, the largest natural products trade show. I go to discover new products, get inspired by innovative packaging design and meet the amazing folks behind some of our favorite brands. Below is a recap and insights of some of my favorite finds – enjoy!

1. Kombucha is still king (or queen)

We saw (and sampled) a lot of the fizzy stuff. What we’re noticing is flavors are getting more subtle and nuanced and the potent “vinegar” reputation have all but gone away. Kombucha brands are innovating and really growing into their own. This is partly to push the boundaries of how we define kombucha but also to differentiate between the insane amount of brands on the market.


The packaging design of Better Booch is what caught my eye. The colors were very inviting and looked great as a family. As I sampled the flavors they were all quite tasty but my favorite is Golden Pear flavor. I also really appreciate the use of the boston round bottle (a familiar sight in the category) paired with their solid branding.


The folks at Flying Embers were great to chat with while I sipped on their tasty Ancient Berry flavor of hard kombucha. Their perspective is as millennials become more and more focused on health and wellness (but still want to have a good time). They’re looking for alternatives to beer – enter hard kombucha – a light fizzy probiotic way to get a buzz. Based on the rising popularity of ciders I think they’re onto something. Design-wise I love their can design with the bold foliage illustrations along the top and bottom of the can.


Wild Tonic was the first hard kombucha out in the market we sampled at last years Expo so it was fun to check in and see what they’re up to. They highlighted their new seasonal selection: Strawberry Blood Orange – super refreshing and tasty. Wild Tonic’s design is very distinctive and recognizable – from their bold logo to their blue distinct bottle.

2. Unique & ownable vessels

As I walked the show I was stopped in my tracks by some amazing packaging substrates. These ranged from little pots containing plant based yogurt to baby blue powder coated bottles. These brands understand that it’s a crowded and busy world out there and if you want to stand out you need to look different on every level.


Culina Yogurt was by far my favorite product of Expo. I literally was stopped in my tracks when I saw these little crocks that look like pots for plants. Not only does the little pot look amazing and so different from other yogurts, after you’ve eaten the tasty plant based yogurt you can use it as a planter!


As I approached the Sunwink Beverage booth I was drawn in by the baby blue bottles assuming they were just full wrap labels. However As I was chatting with them and sampling their tasty tonic I learned they were powder coated! They really went above and beyond with this treatment and it matched their minimal flavor illustrations perfectly. I’m not sure how scalable powder coated bottles are but here’s hoping they can make it work.


It’s hard to top all the great chocolate bar packaging at Expo however Elements Truffles definitely showcased an innovative but also handmade packaging in their Ayurvedic Inspired Chocolate bars. Embellishing each kraft box is a hand stitched fabric label highlighting the item name and a nice little illustration. Having the hand stitched label really drives home the attention given to their products and their specialty nature.

3. Redesigns

Expo is a great time to spot redesigns and new looks launching and a few caught my eye. What struck me about these particular redesigns is the boldness in each – stepping out of their brand’s comfort zone and creating something that is quite exciting.


If you are a fan of bitters I’m sure you’ve come across Hella Cocktail Co and their bespectacled bowler hat packaging design. I’ve always enjoyed their old-timey barkeeper look however their redesign is a big jump into a more serious, established brand that is an authority in all things cocktail. From their refined chiseled logo to their flexible design system across their family of products the new look is a great upgrade and helps to build their reputation.


Compostable picnicware is not a category you’d think would be all that exciting – necessary and extremely important- but not super exciting from a packaging point of view. Well the redesign of Repurpose is here to blow all our minds and make us question why we’ve accepted boring packaging from picnicware all these years. Their old packaging was fairly basic and standard for the category, but their redesign features bold colorful illustrations and clever copywriting (Strong as F*rk, Kind to the Earth is the item name for Forks.) Repurpose shows us that you can have asense of humor and save the world at the same time!


I’ve loved Sir Kensington’s ever since they came out with their dapper packaging and their redesign is paired with the launch of some new products including a line of Vinaigrettes. The redesign focuses the attention on the iconic Sir Kensington with a simple bold blue background, fun ingredient illustrations, and simple clean typography. It’s great to see an established brand with a great personality continue to evolve.

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Story Telling with Merch

Brand Storytelling with Merch

Using Your Merch to Help Tell your Story

Whatever kind of product you create, developing a merchandise strategy for your brand is universal. Merchandise, or “merch” is an easy affordable way to provide different opportunities for your fans to connect with your brand and share with their world. The best brands tap into trends and pop culture (think about the current hot trend of enamel pens) to create buzz (and sales!) In the post below you’ll learn about two brands we’ve helped craft their merchandise strategy and extend their brand.

Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Merch Story

Coffee brands are masters at harnessing the power of merch. From t-shirts, mugs, and headwear to custom grinders and kettles there are tons of ways for rabid coffee fans to show their love to their favorite roasters.

The team at Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters have a very clear vision of the types of merchandise they wanted to explore. They wanted their products to play off their easy going, unpretentious island vibe. The products designed for them are very approachable, not only from a look stand point but also cost and put the brand front and center.

For the hats they wanted a trucker hat because they knew folks would likely be wearing these to the beach and wanted something that would dry easy and wasn’t too fancy. The two color ways reflect a laid back surfer vibe while still feeling part of the brand family.

For their coffee mugs, Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters were very clear about sourcing a diner mug. Not only is the shape timeless functionally it feels good in your hand. The diner mug also reflects the blue collar hardworking aspect of the brand – solid, consistent, no fuss. We took advantage of multiple imprint areas to not only represent the logo but also call outs featured on VICR’s packaging which repeat brand qualities like small batch and direct sourcing.

T-shirts are very popular among coffee brands so it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. We wanted the Sober Pirate shirt to be a bold statement. The bananaquit bird atop the skull and crossbones is a strong image that not only looks cool but echoes a major element of their primary logo. And because the shirt doesn’t hit you over the head that its for a coffee brand it transcends audiences – whether you like birds, pirates or coffee – the shirt speaks to you.

Having Fun with Fire Cider

For Fire Cider, the merch strategy was built around a bold statement they use in their branding, “Feel the Tonic Boom!” This statement represents the feeling of taking a shot of their signature tonics. It also reflects the personality of the brand – a little loud, irreverent, and in your face.

The t-shirt utilizes the bold statement and another element of Fire Cider’s iconography – the flaming shot glass. We wanted to create an image that would grab peoples attention. We layered white type onto of the black shot glass to create contrast. The result is a fun shirt design the feels a little punk rock.

Fire Cider’s tote bag carries the statement and flaming shot glass but in a different layout to not only take advantage of the different format bit also take into account the limitations of one color printing. The design is still eye catching within the different layout but clearly communicates the brand and consistently carries the overall look and feel.

Do you have a brand and need it reimagined into merch and need a strategic partner to help? We’re here for you.

Fire Cider Packaging Redesign

Behind the Design: Fire Cider Packaging Redesign

Fire Cider Tonic Packaging Before & After

When we tackled the redesign of Fire Cider we knew we were refreshing a brand that has passionate stakeholders inside the company and devoted fans outside. However, we also knew that the packaging needed to evolve for a changing retail landscape and a more savvy shopper.

A major priority was creating hierarchy in the label while balancing elements that needed to be carried over from the earlier design. Some of the updates included adding white to highlight their logo and brown to the forest creating depth in the label.

Fire Cider Packaging Redesign
Fire Cider Packaging Redesign
Fire Cider Packaging Redesign

Reprioritizing and Hierarchy

Working alongside the Fire Cider team, we helped them redesign and reorganize an often overlooked area on the side of their label. Storytelling and communicating important information to shoppers is a large part of packaging design. Our redesign created an area to prioritize and highlight key elements.

Fire Cider has such a great story that needed featuring but we also wanted to convey other aspects of the tonic. Mainly pairing the item name with flavor cues (answering the question: How’s it going to taste?) and key ingredients that are not only essential to the recipe but also would pique the interest of a health conscious or foodie-minded shopper.

The illustrated ingredient icons are in line with the overall look and feel of the Fire Cider brand and help shoppers quickly see what makes these tonics so special.

Bringing Fire Cider Packaging Design to Life

When we started working on the redesign of Fire Cider we immediately saw an opportunity in reorganizing their PDP (principal display panel). We wanted to create focus on the important information like brand name and flavor. We created a frame that not only holds all the content, but also creates a space to add color which helps differentiate between the different flavors.

We didn’t want to confuse existing customers so we carried over the established color system. The focused color blocks paired with kraft paper label helps Fire Cider stand out on the shelf but still retain their natural feel.

Do you have a beverage (or any product) and need a strategic partner to help? We’re here for you.

Tru Ade Drinks

Behind the Design: TruAde Drinks

With the redesign of TruAde we were tasked with refreshing a heritage brand from the 1930’s to appeal to a new customer while also keeping the spirit and honoring its roots. We tapped into vintage TruAde ephemera for inspiration.

The typography we chose and the elements, including the star, were all inspired by our research. The simple and clean label redesign reinforces a reformulation and streamlining of ingredients as well.

TruAde Drink Packaging
TruAde Drink Packaging

Before & After

For our redesign we wanted TruAde to stand out on the shelf and offer a different look and feel to what we expect from C-store drinks – bubbly effects, splashes, and cartoony illustrations to name a few. We also wanted our design to have more contrast and bold limited colors to grab thirsty shopper’s attention.

Bringing TrAde Packaging Design to Life

These 12 pack can wraps were the most exciting part of the redesign for us. We really wanted to take advantage of the billboard opportunity and elaborate on the design system set up for the single formats. The wavy line shape was a throwback to an old TruAde door sign. You can imagine walking into a C-store and running into a whole display of all those bold colors!

Do you have a beverage (or any product) and need a strategic partner to help? We’re here for you.

buttermilk creative

Defining Your Brand’s Personality Through Illustration

Color, shape, movement, imagery, emotion, brand recognition, sales- illustration is a great solution for capturing and conveying the unique qualities, feelings, and emotions of your product on its packaging design. Whether you chose to be literal or abstract and expressive, illustration can be a great way to help your product to stand out, differentiate your brand from competitors and create brand recognition with shoppers.

While we can talk about illustration all day, we know less talk and more pretty photos are what you crave! So let’s dive in and take a look at a few different examples of illustration in the marketplace including one of our recent projects which features rich, expressive drawings to capture a sense of place.

Bold Characters

burnt salty buttmilk

Burnt & Salty create bold and unique flavor twists on traditional condiments like mustard and glazes. To capture their daring, irreverent take on traditional cuisine they’ve chosen to highlight a fun illustrated character for each of their flavors with stark silhouettes, crazy eyes, energetic shapes, and bright colors. The playful characters speak to the brand’s personality and adventurous products.

sauer Frau buttermilk creative

Sauer Frau bills itself as the first ever squeezable sauerkraut, kicking up the bratwurst game a few notches! Sauer Frau’s illustration style feels like something out of a comic book with restrained, formed lines. The “Sauer Frau” character as part of the logo pulls you in with her serious, no nonsense expression. Each flavor in the family has a simple yet bold color associated with it creating an unexpected billboard that still feels relevant in the condiment category.



Epic Provisions has always done an amazing job showcasing their products through packaging design. One of their latest products, Pork Cracklings, feels like its been pulled from the pages of a mid-century kid’s adventure novel complete with a limited color palette and vintage inspired typography and shapes. The pig illustration is realistic and feels scientific or from a veterinary textbook. The illustrations on their packaging speak directly to their ‘back to basics’ view of food and their desire to utilize the simple yet powerful diets of our ancestors.


Roland Foods is an importer of more than 1500 foods from around the world. They have a variety of packaging design within their product catalog, but the style that caught our eye is the realistic representation of products on their canned food. At first glance it almost reads as a photograph because the illustration is executed so pragmatically, yet upon further inspection you start to see little splashes here and there which add a layered homemade artisan feel to the restrained style.

Our Latest Project – Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Packaging Redesign

buttermilk creative

When we first started working on redesigning Virgin Islands Coffee Roaster’s packaging we knew we wanted to find a way to feature the lush colorful views of the Virgin Islands and try to create a sense of place.


We drew inspiration from Dorothy Draper’s iconic tropical floral wallpaper and merged that style with a coffee plant and bananaquit, a bird that is part of the Virgin Islands story and the brand. Wanting the plant to feel wild and organic, we allowed the coffee plant illustration to climb up one side of the front of the coffee bag then spread across the gusset and around the back.

We worked to create the feeling of looking through a coffee farm and discovering this packaging nestled in the leaves. The coffee labels each feature a scientific line drawing behind each coffee name in the product family, which provides a contrast to the more fluid coffee plant. Fresh, exotic, energetic and memorable we feel this packaging redesign captures the spirit of the brand and the product that lives inside.

Click the button below to view our Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Redesign project and many more ways we’ve helped client’s define their brand’s personality through compelling design. 


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Why We Joined the Specialty Food Association (It’s not just because we love food!)

We recently joined the Specialty Food Association (SFA), a trade group that represents the specialty food industry. Sure, we LOVE to eat and are always on the hunt for new foods and beverages to fall in love with, but the decision to join was actually in an effort to further educate ourselves on all aspects of the industry, increase our company’s expertise in the specialty food packaging realm and in turn, give us the ability to help more clients realize their success.

Why We Think It’s Important

We’ve been familiar with the Specialty Food Association for many years, learning about their importance in the industry back when we worked in house for The Fresh Market. Their sofi awards – think the Oscars of the food world – have been informing grocery buyers and and industry professionals of innovative and trending products in the current market for the past 46 years. We remember helping with the submission that would lead to The Fresh Market’s 2011 sofi award win for Outstanding Specialty Food Retailer Award. There was also the bi-annual buzz throughout the office when the buyers and executives would prepare for SFA’s Summer and Winter Fancy Food Shows and return with tales (and sometimes samples!) of exciting new products and trends they experienced at the show.

When we set out on our own to establish Buttermilk Creative as the premier specialty food and beverage packaging design agency we already understood how essential keeping a pulse on the industry is to the success of our clients. Since the launch of our business we have attended several food shows throughout the year each year, including SFA’s Fancy Food Show. However, this spring we took it a step further by becoming official card carrying members the Specialty Food Association! Woo hoo!

What Our Clients Stand to Gain

While we appreciate all the warm fuzzy feelings associated with being a part of this organization, we also recognize that this is a great asset for our clients and the enhanced services we can offer them. We will continue to annually be in attendance at the Summer Fancy Food Show. In 2017 the Show featured more than 2,600 exhibitors, with representation from 57 countries around the world and showcasing more than 180,000 specialty food products. The Show is the largest marketplace in North America devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages. These shows provide us with an opportunity to see the near future of specialty food and beverage, meet the makers and founders, connect with many of our clients and stuff our faces with some of the most amazing food and beverages (we told you we love to eat)!!! Yet the true highlight is that we are able to observe what is trending in the marketplace in all areas of packaging design including advances in sustainable materials, cutting edge printing techniques and diverse interpretations on what resonates with shoppers (plus we geek out on a lot of amazing packaging design!). We also gain new perspective on the challenges and struggles unique to the specialty food and beverage world and learn how we can help alleviate these hurdles for our clients.

Yet the true highlight is that we are able to observe what is trending in the marketplace in all areas of packaging design including advances in sustainable materials, cutting edge printing techniques and diverse interpretations on what resonates with shoppers

Becoming an SFA member also allows us to become further immersed in the community as well as get in the inside track of the industry. We hear about every policy update, headline, or cutting edge trend. That means we can build on our knowledge and continue to speak specifically to our clients needs and opportunities that relate to production, consumer trends, shopper insights, and learning about overall strategies that will help drive sales and lead to their success.

Here’s to more knowledge, more connections, more food and of course the most success for your brand!

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