Once the realm of hardly palatable veggie burgers, plant-based proteins have ridden a wave of innovation and experimentation, and in the past 18 months solidified their place in the national diet. Hormel, an established food company with a deep history in meat products including Spam, was keen to launch a ground-meat alternative under its new Cultivated Foods umbrella.
But in a rapidly evolving category like plant-based protein, speed to market is exceptionally important. Starting with a single ingredient, water, CBX was tasked with helping Hormel build a brand — from concept to store shelves — in just three months, a previously unthinkable time frame.
Our method needed to be as quick and agile as the category itself, while still ensuring a superior-tasting product. We embarked on a series of sprints, encompassing every stage of product development, including research, strategy, flavor and product innovation, brand positioning, identity, naming, packaging design, and activation.
Research & insights
Purpose & Meaning
Experience & Activation
As Hormel’s innovation agency of record, we were tasked with a nearly impossible ask in bringing a product from ideation to shelf in 90 days. Trained in agile methods of working, we developed a game‑changing innovation process that can cut up to 18 months out of typical product launch timelines.
While the Hormel Foods team was developing innovative flavor profiles, we needed to understand how to differentiate the offer. Most of the new plant-based companies are positioning meat in negative language, and we saw an opportunity to position the brand as the owner of positivity — more pro-plant, less anti-meat. We quickly defined customer segments, and built a brand to serve those needs, including creating a fitting name — Happy Little Plants — that will enable the brand to flex into new territories when consumers’ plant-based tastes inevitably shift. We even named Cultivated Foods, the Hormel subsidiary and incubator for plant-forward food initiatives at Hormel.
For the brand, we designed visual elements that celebrate the upbeat and approachable personality of Happy Little Plants with a smiling brandmark, optimistic color palette, and inviting heroic food photography on-pack. In a study comparing the brand with competitors, Happy Little Plants communicated friendly, optimistic, honest, and trustworthy better than everyone else. For the final stages of launch, we designed experiential and digital activations to show Hormel how they could introduce Happy Little Plants to the world in a meaningful and, of course, positive way.
I’m so grateful for the partnership with CBX. The project is truly, truly innovative, and even with the compressed deadlines and huge expectations, we knocked it out of the park.Brian Kreske, General Manager, Hormel Business Incubator