Gone are the days when manufacturers simply slapped on white labels plainly dressed with a product’s name and ingredients, and called it a day. Now, with such a heavy emphasis placed on branding and design in the marketplace (particularly, branding for food and beverage), companies spend lots of time and money to have professional, eye-pleasing packages and bottles that line our grocery shelves. From dairy and granola to drinks and chocolate, product packaging today has been inevitably touched by the hand of a designer. But what about packaging for locally produced products (and not just mass-market goods)? Do they have more leeway and play, design-wise? Maybe, yes. (Local products are largely immune to chain-of-command design approvals that plague larger, more conventional brands; they also aren’t obligated to integrate a parent company’s logo on their pack!)
Take Mast Brothers Chocolate, for example. Made in Williamsburg, this handmade chocolate maker boasts a simply designed label with logo, name and flavor printed on gorgeous Italian paper. The dairy company Siggi’s, on the other hand, showcases a basic descriptor on the front of their yogurt container, complemented by a highly detailed illustration. Ronnybrook shouts “FARM!” with clean type and cow silouettes, while Kombucha Brooklyn plays not only with graphics (big kombucha drops?) but with naming systems (“Urban Passion”). I think some of these brands really push the envelope, considering they might not have the financial resources of larger corporations.
As a member of a neighborhood co-op that supports organic, ecologically and environmentally friendly and minimally carbon foot-printed foods whenever possible, I get to see what local really looks like. Produce aisles, here, tell shoppers exactly which state or country fruits and vegetables are coming from, and even stickers these signs with the co-op seal “LOCAL.” (What is literally “local” is not something that has been established by the USDA, but my co-op says that if a product is grown within 500 miles, it is “local”.)
I’ve continued to stick by this rule and try to shop for New York-based products that come from within 500 miles of my home in Brooklyn.
Since becoming an official co-op member within the past year, I continue to see (and believe) that local is sitting pretty on the shelves these days. Not only are they nicely designed pieces but locally made. Doesn’t it feel good to support the home team?
***All photos taken by the writer (except for Bread Alone granola) on a recent trip to the busy Coop with fellow shoppers/members looking on in curiosty as a girl with an iPhone arranged and rearranged shelves to get the best shot.