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Every Coconut Product Looks the Same—Except for This One

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"No more coconuts that look like coconuts." That was Maggie Prendergast's philosophy as she thought through the package redesign for Anita's Yogurt. Three years after Anita Shepherd launched her line of dairy-free, coconut milk yogurts (the official, government-approved term is "yogurt alternative"), she enlisted Maggie, a designer who's work is behind the branding of Foragers Market in New York and BjornQorn, to help her rethink the look of her brand (take a look at the evolution below).

"Every single coconut product looks the same," said Maggie. (You know this. You're already picturing a can of coconut milk or a bottle of coconut water in your head: white, brown, and green, with a Clip Art-style coconut sketch.)

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The original Anita's packaging, as designed by Anita herself.
The original Anita's packaging, as designed by Anita herself.

But rethinking the look of Anita's Yogurt wasn't truly spurred by the coconuts on the front of the package. Instead, the decision to redesign—a big choice for a small business, both financially and, when the owner is interacting with a close-to-heart product twenty-four hours a day, emotionally—was a strategic move. Anita found herself in the rock-and-a-hard-place position that so many swelling businesses do: She was looking to expand her production in order to grow her business, but her business would have to grow in order to expand production.

The solution was to increase the efficiency of production, so that a greater number of products could be made without a wild amount of added cost. For Anita, this meant no more containers with stickers that had to be hand-applied and no more individual-sized glass jars that were susceptible to breaking—and it also presented an opportunity to revamp the look.

The newest packaging on Anita's large containers: the blue accents remain; the coconut is abstracted; the container is clear.
The newest packaging on Anita's large containers: the blue accents remain; the coconut is abstracted; the container is clear.
The design of the large container is now at one with the single-serve packages and all are made of the same material (previously, the small guys were glass).
The design of the large container is now at one with the single-serve packages and all are made of the same material (previously, the small guys were glass).

Back when her coconut yogurt first launched in 2013, Anita wanted the design, which herself she drew up, to be as dramatically different from other yogurts as the actual product, made from just coconut milk, coconut water, and live probiotic cultures. And thus, dark packaging and the accents in blue, a color that's rarely paired with tropical fruit.

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This time around, she approached Maggie with similar goals: a design that was simultaneously pretty and ornamental and, in order to convey the simplicity of the ingredients inside, graphic and bold; that was modern and retro; and that was different enough from the other yogurts on the market to stand out in the aisle on looks alone.

Keeping these somewhat competing desires in mind—in addition to legibility and all sorts of legal regulations and printing restrictions—Maggie got started. She asked Anita to list the words she uses to talk about her yogurt (creamy, dairy-free, full-fat, vegan, versatile, chef-made) and narrow the group down to the most evocative essentials. In the end, it was "luxurious" that made the cut, though early versions of designs played with "pure," "creamy," and "tangy," as well.

The ingredients, too, had to have a starring role in the new design. Anita and Maggie considered putting them on the front of the container but opted, in the end, to leave them on the back, though prominently positioned and in a bold, all-caps typeface.

But the newly pared-down aesthetic, which trades information for impact, is more subtle than the packaging's most dramatic change: It's gone from dark to clear. Now that the yogurt aisle is a different arena than it was when Anita's first launched, with dairy-free options and dark labels abounding, it's a translucent package that stands out. And it's especially true in the world of "yogurt alternatives," where it might be desirable to hide gray-tinged products behind opaque packaging (Anita's yogurt, on the other hand, is as white as coconut cream itself, an appearance she wants to show off).

An early coconut (left) versus the final coconut (right): Can you spot the subtle typeface changes?

But amidst all the change, Anita and Maggie aimed to keep the essence of the branding, as well as the shape and feel of the physical containers, the same, so that customers will be able to recognize the product as familiar, and so she'll be able to continue to work with the same supplier.

Three versions of Anita's logo, from earliest to final (top to bottom).
Three versions of Anita's logo, from earliest to final (top to bottom).

Thus, the blue accents on the plain yogurt containers stayed, as did a coconut—but now, in an abstracted form. The lettering of the word "Anita's" is also similar to the original, and the leaves (which went through many, many versions, just a couple of which are below) are reminiscent of the loops and swirls on the original packaging.

The leaves went through many versions. The back of the container is a dark oval, meant to suggest a sticker.
The leaves went through many versions. The back of the container is a dark oval, meant to suggest a sticker.

Even once they'd nailed down a general direction, there were countless additional considerations: the minimum font sizes for nutritional information, for company address, for weight, for the barcode. Maggie describes an "endless changing" of designs for both legal and printing reasons. The word "yogurt," for example, had to change to "yogurt alternative," as the products do not include any dairy; and while Anita originally planned to advertise 8 billion active cultures (the number halfway through the yogurt's shelf life), she decided to generalize the number to "billions" to ensure against any counter claims.

An early top versus a blinged out top with less text.

But the issue that ultimately held them up the most was complying to the new nutrition labels, which require the amount of added sugar to be listed. (The company has another three years to comply to the recent law, but Anita chose to update her containers now in order to avoid another design change later down the line.)

Now, after more than six months of tweaks and iterations, Anita's updated containers are almost ready to hit shelves. The freshly designed cups will hit stores on December 1.

Anita at the printing factory, holding one of her new containers.
Anita at the printing factory, holding one of her new containers.

The Package Evolution

Last but not least, for design buffs and yogurt lovers, here's an abridged look back at some of the early iterations and how they shifted over time.

Like the original design, this early version has a dark label and a mix of serif (see the little "feet" on every letter of the word "original") and sans serif typefaces for a more old-school look. Ultimately, Maggie and Anita went sans serif all the way and left any lowercase letters behind for the more direct, more confident all-caps:

In these designs, Maggie plays with lots of adjectives—creamy, tangy, and pure—and a different color treatment. On the right is an example of a container top that lists the number of active cultures, a statistic Anita ultimately decided to nix in favor of the more general "billions":

While Anita doesn't currently sell the raspberry or strawberry flavors, she wanted a design that could accommodate new products down the line (you'll also notice that these packages have showier, almost netted leaves):

The final version is bright, spacious, bold (with subtler leaves), and in stores December 1:

Package photos by Christina Nuzzo, LifeMosaic Photography LLC. Designs provided by Maggie Prendergast.