CASE STUDY

Elevating popcorn with a modern brand identity and premium packaging

Client Background

PepsiCo

The client was PepsiCo, one of the largest snacks and beverage companies in the world.

Challenge/Opportunity

Brand and packaging redesign

PepsiCo wanted a new packaging and brand redesign for Smartfood, the company’s brand of pre-popped, flavored popcorn.

  • This included a new brand logo that captured the attention of shoppers from a distance and was easily readable. At the same time, the client didn’t want the new logo to be so different that existing customers would have trouble finding it on shelves.

  • The branding needed to be bold, modern, but with a human touch that could be used on its own for brand application touchpoints and marketing materials.

  • The packaging needed to be more modern and simple than the existing packaging, while also creating a youthful energy. In addition, it needed to convey a more premium positioning than the existing packaging.
Expert

Garrett Owen

PepsiCo’s global design team worked with Garrett Owen for Smartfood’s brand revamp. 

Garrett is an experienced Creative Director and Designer with a proven track record of developing powerful brand identities, designing packaging for consumer products, and creating branded environments that positively impact the bottom line.

Garrett has over 18 years of experience in this space, with strong skills in branding, design, marketing, and visual strategy. He has worked with clients such as IHOP, Pie Five, Shiner, Central Market (HEB), Borden, Lakeside Foods, Frito-Lay, Motel 6, AT&T, Cooper Aerobics, and Scottish Rite for Children. His unconventional approach to design and branding has helped him earn a reputation as a leader in the industry, with a keen ability to disrupt the status quo.

Garrett is also Co-Founder and Co-Creative Director of Grand Effect, a boutique branding agency focused on helping businesses create memorable and impactful brands. Prior to this, he worked as the Head of Design at The Richards Group (now TRG) as well as a Design Director at BrandCory, mastering his expertise in the food & beverage industry and the design of restaurants and packaging. He also served as a Senior Designer at RANGE, a brand identity studio. Garett has solidified his reputation as a highly sought-after design and creative professional, maintaining a constant drive to create impactful and unforgettable solutions for his clients.

Solution

A bold, youthful & inviting design

The solution was three-pronged:

  • Creating a new brand logo that captured attention from a distance and was easily readable 
    1. Garrett’s solution was to create a bold yellow banner shape that allowed the custom designed script logo to demand attention. The script retained elements of the old script logo to help with recognizability. 
    2. The new logo created a “banner effect” on shelf when multiple bags were placed next to each other, making the repeating yellow banner impossible to miss. 

  • Creating a new corn element that integrated on the packaging as well as with the new logo
    1. The corn image needed to be maintained as part of the recognizability request from the client.
    2. The solution here was to create a friendly corn illustration that felt welcoming and youthful, but also added popcorn authenticity. 
    3. The corn husk was intentionally designed to be a subtle wave prominently placed above the primary logo that is noticed upon further inspection. This was intended to be inviting to the customer.

The packaging before and after redesign

  • Creating a packaging design system that elevated the premium flavor offering
    1. Smartfood’s advantage in the category at the time was that its flavor was seen as richer, tastier, and more indulgent than other popcorn brands. This brand distinction needed to be communicated, while also promoting a cool, youthful, and energetic image.
    2. Garrett and his team surrounded the branding with an energetic pattern of popcorn on modern, solid background colors that allowed the branding and flavor cues to stand out.
    3. Flavor extensions were communicated through a change in background colors.
    4. The Smart50 logo and packaging system used a white background to communicate the low-cal, better-for-you offering.

Challenges

The refinement of the corn character and its waving handsome text

  • Several variations were explored and tested through multiple rounds of focus groups. Customers liked this element when they discovered that the corn “might” be waving at them, but felt that it could come across as too child-like and cartoon-ish if it was too obvious. So this needed to be a memorable tertiary discovery for the customer. 

Beating existing packaging in focus groups some text

  • It’s hard to beat an already successful product with a new packaging design because of how important recognizability is. If recognizability reduces by even a few percentage points, it could result in millions of dollars in losses. 
  • The solution here was to maintain the script logo style, the corn image, and the black bag for the flagship flavor. Focus groups that contained existing customers preferred the new bag by over 15%. Focus groups with non-users overwhelmingly chose the new bag as well. 
RESULT

Millions of dollars in Increased sales

The new design outperformed the previous packaging in sales and mass appeal to its new target audience of Gen Z women. It inspired a younger generation to organically post on social media about their love for Smartfood popcorn, and also join events and festivals centered around their new iconic branding. 

In fact, the brand grew so large in the two years after the packaging redesign that Smartfood needed greater attention from a larger internal team and was moved to a new marketing team. Smartfood went from being categorized as a boutique brand in PepsiCo’s portfolio to a medium-sized brand like Stacy’s and Sun Chips. In terms of sales, the brand also made several million dollars more annually after the new packaging design was implemented.

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