The Future Visual Codes of Health and Wellbeing in Private Brand

This guest post comes from frequent contributor Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner branding and design agency Pearlfisher. Jonathan gives My Private Brand readers an exclusive preview of his upcoming presentation at The Private Brand Movement conference in Chicago with Maggie Hodgetts of Waitrose on the principles of retail branding. “‘Design for Life’ – Creating a New Design Language for Health and Wellbeing in the Retail Sector

The future visual codes of health and wellbeing in private label 

Health and wellbeing is a huge global industry and, when it comes to food, the growth of the sector has been exponential with its move from the dedicated health food stores and independents to becoming one of the mainstays and key sellers for supermarkets and private label. In line with this, the communication of health and its values has also undergone something of an evolution. But – up until now – we have seen something of a fractured and fragmented marketplace with health slotting into fairly typical – and maybe expected – visual codes. And, in general, split between a residual and protective approach and a more forthright dominant and directive one.

Originally, and in line with its health food store roots, private label retailers did health branding in a way that was really about credibility and trust and used elements of the existing and residual aesthetic – Food Lion’s ‘Nature’s Place’ and GIANT’S ‘Nature’s Promise’ are two notable examples. The design was somewhat worthy and as a result the look and feel was often quite dry as credibility came at the expense of emotion. But there is no doubt that this initial approach worked whilst brands and retailers tried to establish this type of food in a new environment. This approach – along with other categories such as beauty – then morphed into a reliance on facts and almost a medicinal look and feel as the dictatorial and more expert type of medicinal brands came to the fore – brands such as Benecol and Yakult.

However, when more and more health brands did become credible and the market became a lot more saturated, branding started to change and be more about the actual brand identity. Retailers started upping the branding because credibility was saturated and all health brands were proving the credibility. And design started to try to communicate the brand values more and more. But this meant that in the healthy private label landscape, it became more like a battle of the brands and design was led by logo and brands shouting health through dominant and directive visual and written cues – such as Whole Foods Market ‘Health Starts Here’, Fresh & Easy’s ‘eatwell’ range and Safeway’s ‘Eating Right’…

Both of these approaches have undoubtedly fulfilled a need and been indicative of the required response to the consumer mindset of the time as we embrace the health & wellbeing journey. But we are now entering a world where healthy brands need to allow us to make health our own. What people really want – and need – is a better and more personal connection to health and people are becoming more attracted to individual and personality led brands. As a result, brands and retailers in this sector are obviously conscious of being left behind and so we are starting to see a new breed of brands and ranges emerging that are more about individual expression and emotionally led branding.

Waitrose’s new LOVE life range is leading the way for a new direction. Not just for private label – but across the whole retail sector. The new range has created an innovative, vibrant and exciting design language for health and wellbeing that excites and gives freedom to the consumer. Yes, it is capturing and tying into the existing Waitrose philosophy but, more than that, it is celebrating health and wellbeing as a positive part of consumers’ individual lives and lifestyles – and not the lifestyle dictated by the parent brand. Health needs to be liberating and health brands should make us feel liberated and like they are fitting around – and for – us. LOVE life is not about not about proving credibility through un-emotional facts and dictatorial branding. But neither is it about a brand or a big branded logo. The naming and the design expression brings taste and vitality together to create an experience based on freedom, choice and pleasure. Above all, it is expressive and provides the new experiential and emotional connection that consumers are looking for not just with health but on an holistic level with their chosen retailer and its label.

I will be presenting the Waitrose LOVE Life design case study with Maggie Hodgetts, Head of Design, at the Private Brand Movement conference in Chicago, September 21. For more information on the event please click here. For more information on the Waitrose LOVE Life case study, you can also email me on

Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner, Pearlfisher!/pearlfisherlive!/jforddesigns

My Private Brand readers can register with the code MYPBRAND and receive 20% off the standard rates.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.