The Unicorn Flavor Trend Continues to Sparkle

The Unicorn Flavor Trend Continues to Sparkle

These days, the word “unicorn” conjures up an image of more than just a mythical, horse like creature – it’s a sight of sparkly, rainbow colored saccharine. Whether the surge in unicorn themed food products is a product of nostalgia reminiscent of the nineties Lisa Frank craze, or simply the byproducts of an Instagram friendly trend, we’re seeing a lot of it right now. As it turns out, unicorns do exist. And it’s usually in the form of a sweet, flavor ambiguous treat. When Starbucks unleashed its Unicorn Frappuccino last year, the general consensus was that it looks a lot better than it tasted, but that didn’t stop the droves of consumers seeking out the mystical milkshake. While that super limited beverage disappeared almost as quickly as it came, the theme has continued to spread. It’s mostly shining in sweet breakfast foods, desserts and drinks. While we typically associate “unicorn” or rainbow hued foods with high sugar and artificial colors, there’s also a movement of naturally colorful foods that are winning over the hearts of millennials. Healthy rainbow foods have stayed popular, continuing to appeal to those who crave a whimsical vibrancy in their food while still eating purpose driven and wholesome foods. And a unicorn cookbook filled with colorful, plant based recipes was just released, allowing consumers to make healthy, fanciful foods at home. Whether as a sweet tooth fix or a daily pop of excitement to a meal, we can all appreciate bright and beautifully colored food. As we see with “mermaid” food (dreamy blue-green hues gracing lattes and toast) and charcoal tinted black foods, consumers are...
Why Natural Needs Design, More Than Ever

Why Natural Needs Design, More Than Ever

Every week, waves of all-natural, cleaner, better-for-us food companies push their way into the crowded food landscape, packed onto the shelves like a can of non-GMO, sustainably-harvested sardines. Categories balloon with products cut from the same, simpler-food-cloth. The pressure is such that even overly processed brands, many of which are American favorites, are reinventing themselves, fighting startups and innovators for relevancy. Food has taken its rightful place in culture, as any millennial’s Instagram will prove. Yet this shared ethos amongst almost every modern-day food company and founder, may present a hurdle to the brands they’re building today. Over the last several decades, the Natural and Organic foods industry has seen unprecedented growth, coming at the expense of Big Food. This changing of the guard has accelerated as more and more people become interested in their food. What’s in it? How is it made? Where does it come from? Natural’s ability to proudly deliver these characteristics has built valuable trust in the movement. Yet as the entire food system becomes more wholesome, more organic, and less processed, a dangerous dichotomy is emerging: When everyone crafts simpler foods that are closer to the earth, we simultaneously lose a valuable brand building asset – taste differentiation. Everyone and their investor is now in a race to the bottom of the clean, transparent ingredient list. Seemingly harmless “natural” flavors are now under growing scrutiny, furthering this flavor dilemma. Large food producers are leveraging their size, money and reach to play a serious game of clean-up. With all this going on, and a clear consensus around consumers’ interest in and demand for less, we’re now...
Ask the Team: What Brand Would You Redesign?

Ask the Team: What Brand Would You Redesign?

Some of the most successful food brands have enough staying power that their packaging stays recognizable over the course of time. Yet, target demographics are constantly shifting and though a brand can still be relevant, shaking things up provides an undeniable intrigue. We live for companies that push the barriers of the packaging world. So what would we redesign? Here are a few responses from the team. If I could redesign any brand it would be Nutella. I feel like Nutella and La Croix have the same mentality of “we’ve already cornered the market, so who cares what our packaging looks like”. The illustrations are outdated and uninspiring and it’s clear this packaging design hasn’t been touched in years. Now that the Nutella wordmark has so much recognition, there is a great opportunity to either minimize it or use just parts of it – similar to what Coca Cola has done in past packaging refreshes. The brand has achieved a level of status that not many brands are lucky to attain and they now have license to reinvent themselves for the next generation of Nutella eaters. – Kelley Smart food white cheddar popcorn. This is a classic product from our generation – it’s one of the very first “healthy”, yet indulgent gas station snacks. It is truly a nostalgic; think road trips, sporting events, that beloved after school treat. The packaging seems unchanged, old and busy. I would love to see Smart Food to get a modern facelift to match it’s still VERY relevant place in the grocery and gas station aisles. -Abby I’d redesign the kid trifecta: Fruit By the...
Premium Snacks Increase in C-Stores

Premium Snacks Increase in C-Stores

When stopping by a convenience store for a snack, it’s typical to be met with a selection of processed, sugar laden and high sodium choices. Big food brands have dominated these spaces for as long as we can remember. However, as consumers are leaning toward more online retail options, c-store shelves are starting to make room for more products that cater to individual lifestyles. Staples like jerky, sports drinks, coffee and candy remain stable in the space, but more premium alternative options are being introduced to the mix. Personalization is shaping the future of the convenience food industry. Fresh food options are getting dressed up from the highly processed clamshell packaged sandwiches and microwave burritos typically found in convenience stores. Retailers like GetGo and Wawa now offer made-to-order fare for any time of day – all accessible via touch screen kiosks. Even airport retailers are upping the quality of their offerings. No longer limited to conventional snacks and chain meal options, travellers can now expect a wide variety of curated foods at CIBO Express Gourmet Markets. CIBO embraces established and emerging brands alike for a premium food and beverage experience on-the-go. In addition to being threatened by online retail, c-stores are experiencing direct competition in the form of Bodega – a fledgling company which sets up location specific pantries that appeal to the demographics of those particular areas. “The idea is to preempt what people might need, then use machine learning to constantly reassess the 100 most-needed items in that community.” (Fast Company) This would negate the need to visit a storefront, as the most demanded product per location...
Trend Watch: Healthy/Fast/Sustainable

Trend Watch: Healthy/Fast/Sustainable

Sustainability efforts revolve around the three R’s: Reduce, Recycle and Reuse. One of the most opportune spaces for eco-friendly change lies in food and beverage packing. There’s been an influx of biodegradable packaging, but the zero waste movement takes focusing on the Reuse aspect a step further by forcing the consumer to provide their own containers for commodities. It’s hardly a new concept – milk was often delivered in reusable glass bottles, with consumers incurring a small returnable deposit for the container. But with today’s consumers are on the hunt for healthy and convenient food option, the concept of Reuse is coming into play more often. Boulder’s own Wonderpress is a humble testament to great quality of life. Transparent glass bottles with eye catching gold accents showcase the vibrant colors of juiced fruits and vegetables. Customers are charged a deposit for these containers and are encouraged to return them, but they can just as easily be repurposed for water or your own nut milks and juice concoctions. Tyme, a “fast food” start-up based in New York, serves vegan meals in transparent rigid plastic jars. These containers can be reused, and when doing so, will earn you a $1 discount on your next meal. They are reshaping the concept of fast food, which we tend to associate with far that is greasy, fatty and certainly not vegan. This level of convenience combined with a sleek and sustainable structure is already making a splash and the company founders are already hoping to expand outside the New York area, and eventually drive down costs.   In Chile, a brand of movie theaters called Cinemark...
The Protein Wave May Soon Crash

The Protein Wave May Soon Crash

For the last few years, the high protein movement has reigned as one of the most prominent trends in the food and beverage industry. Whether paleo, keto or vegan, consumers with all dietary needs are chasing protein. While protein powders sales remain stable as ever, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in drinks and snacks featuring high protein as a selling point on package. Conventional staple foods like yogurt and jerky are calling out protein content on front panels more often, and in some cases position their entire branding around it. However, as the topic of supplementing protein comes into question, it’s likely that the protein bubble is about to pop.     In an age where transparency between food producers and consumer is everything, companies are held to a high level of scrutiny. Some plant-based protein products are proving to be not all that meets the eye. The USDA mandated PDCAAS (which stands for Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score) determines the completeness and quality of different types of protein. This system tells a different story about protein content than some product messaging might imply. The highest score on the spectrum is a 1, which is fulfilled by whey and soy proteins. In contrast, pea protein concentrate comes in at a 0.893 and other peas/legumes at a 0.70 – a decidedly lower amount. While it is acceptable for callouts on front of package to claim the actual amount of protein, the nutritional facts panel must use the PDCAAS method to calculate the correct percentage of daily value – which can be considered misleading to the consumer.  (Source)     Falsely...