grocery guests Jonathon Ford

Seeing the power of Private Brand: Pearlfisher’s Top Ten Private Label Retail Design And Packaging


This guest post comes from frequent contributor Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner branding and design agency Pearlfisher. Jonathan gives My Private Brand readers a interesting top 10 Private Brand list.

With an influx in competitive Private Brand across numerous categories, private label is no longer seen as the poor relation to its branded counterparts. In fact, it is largely brand design and packaging that has redressed the balance and the perception of its offer.

And this is what we must not forget. Powerful brand design expresses big ideas, builds meaningful connections and creates rich associations.  It works both on a conscious and subconscious level, resolving our conflicts and fulfilling our desires.  Over time, design (and ultimately brands) become part of our culture, shaping the symbolism, language and aesthetic that we identify with and ultimately seek.

If a brand builds this kind of deep and powerful connection, then its identity and packaging represent a great deal of emotion; they become symbols of our love for the brand. In psychological terms we could say that design becomes the object of our attachment to the brand.  And this has become as true for private label as it is for our leading brands.

It wasn’t hard to find brilliant examples to illustrate our point. Our problem was in sifting through them to select our top ten. We wanted to mix it up a bit with some old, some new; some store, some independent; some US, some European, but ultimately, what they all have in common is that their design has, and is, revolutionizing both the look and feel of private label and the brand landscape as a whole.

  1. \"\"Target’s Up & Up (2009) – Up & Up led the way with its integrated visual and verbal messaging. The Up & Up personal care and beauty range was one of the first to use design to differentiate from national brands. The bold simplicity of its design has endured and evolved to attract a new generation of fans.\"\"
  2. Waitrose Ready Meal Collection (2005) –Waitrose was not only ahead of the competition in launching a range of ready meals that claimed to be restaurant quality but it was the first time that an ‘emotive’ word rather than a picture of food had been used – a shining example of the power of visual language.\"\"
  3. Delhaize Wines of the World (2012) –the simple manipulation of the cork as a motif to refer to each country of origin is genius. And, as an instantly recognizable and everyday object, perfectly mirrors the positioning of this range as an everyday indulgence. Fun but expressive and totally original.\"\"
  4. Duane Reade Bar Code Brand (2010) – With an NY City stronghold, Duane Reade wanted to deepen its relationship with customers and expand its store brand positioning. With a unique product voice and barcode visual equity depicting NY landmarks, the innovative design expertly – and stylishly – brought to life the new positioning statement ‘New York Living Made Easy’.\"\"
  5. ICA (2000) – A really fun and forward thinking Swedish private label brand that heroes ingredients and freshness in a practical but stylish way and is all about the graphic execution.\"\"
  6. Hannaford’s Nature’s Place (since 2006) – Bringing flavor and authenticity to their private label range by dialing up the health cues of the time and bringing them to life with a natural looking design that appealed to its target group of health conscious, provenance aware consumers.\"\"
  7. Trader Joe’s (since 1967): Trader Joe’s first opened in 1967 but is still cited as one of the leaders in private label. One of the first to make private label fun, friendly and welcoming but took the consistency out of the formula by letting each item take on its own personality with an eclectic environment featuring different and vibrant brands. A strategy it still engages today.\"\"
  8. IKEA food packaging (2012) – a recent redesign of its food offer. Pared down and simple packaging relying on a bold and expressive graphic language using big 2D icons to visualize the contents at a glance. Self explanatory but inspiring – and perfectly IKEA.\"\"
  9. Sephora (1994) – Sephora hit the beauty world with a basic but premium looking design that could easily match the branded competition at any design or price point level. From the outset right up to present day, Sephora has continued to create desire with its brand and design evolution of unique items and campaigns to secure a positioning as one of the global beauty leaders.\"\"
  10. American Rag (2003) – with over 610 stores nationwide and sold exclusively at Macy’s, American Rag has design and creativity at its heart. Renowned for its vintage apparel, and particularly its denim, the brand identity – from label to environment – is used in a fluid way and is at once retro and contemporary, but with a premium and stylised edge, to particularly rival the look and feel of any of the denim brand leaders.

Leave a comment to let us know your favorites or find out more about our thoughts on the cultural role of brand design and packaging  – can we link to this week’s presentations?

Jonathan Ford is Creative Partner at Pearlfisher –

Jonathon Ford Pearlfisher The Private Brand Movement 2010 Conference

The New Design Language of Health & Wellbeing – the podcast

\"\"Over the past several weeks leading up to the Private Brand Movement, I have featured a series of guest posts on the key principles of retail branding by Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner at Pearlfisher.
A week after the successful groundbreaking conference, I have the pleasure of sharing a new podcast with Johnathan conducted by Michelle LeBlanc of IIR. The podcast is a phone interview with Jonathan about the Waitrose LOVE Life brand and the new design language for health and wellbeing.


Jonathon Ford Pearlfisher The Private Brand Movement 2010 Conference

The key principles of retail branding: Cohesion

\"\"Today we are posting Jonathan Ford\’s last retail branding principle, principle 6, Cohesion.
Jonathan is Creative Partner at Pearlfisher and will be present on Wednesday \”\’Design for Life\’ – Creating a New Design Language for Health and Wellbeing in the Retail Sector\” alongside Maggie Hodgetts of Waitrose at The Private Brand Movement conference in Chicago.

You still have time to get here, pack your bag and join us: My Private Brand readers can register with the code MYPBRAND and receive 20% off the standard rates.
Principle 6 – COHESION
It’s important to create a distinct family feel with a shared aesthetic and clear architecture, which spells out how the categories, tiers and sub-brands should all sit together. Having a defined structure in place should then pave the way for greater individual expression in other areas of the brand experience. This can be achieved by finding an ownable visual language that is undeniably yours. This must resonate at all touch points – no man is an island just as no piece of packaging is ever viewed in isolation.

At Fortnum & Mason in London, consumer choices are based on preference over value, so brand quality must be carefully communicated and preserved across all tiers. We created a blueprint for a visual language strong enough to cross categories and seduce consumers into buying the whole offer, from jams and teas to their limited edition tercentenary range.


Source: The Next Big Design

2010 FMI Private Brand Summit Jonathon Ford Waitrose

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.

Jonathon Ford Pearlfisher The Private Brand Movement 2010 Conference

Connection: the Crux of Successful Private Brands

\"\"Today marks the fourth guest post from Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner at Pearlfisher on the principles of retail branding. Jonathan will be presenting \”\’Design for Life\’ – Creating a New Design Language for Health and Wellbeing in the Retail Sector\” alongside Maggie Hodgetts of Waitrose this in a few weeks at The Private Brand Movement conference in Chicago. To learn more about the event, click here.

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

The key principles of retail branding

Principle 5 – CONNECTION
Defining and bringing to life an idea which expresses a unique personality is at the crux of the most successful retail brands. If this succeeds in forging an emotional relationship that engages the consumer then you are one step closer to longevity. Our role as designers is to bring together the deepest truths and most powerful desires to give brands their definitive expression.
In-Kind, the natural personal care brand for Safeway uses distinct, organic structures that create modernity and engage consumers. The design provides an own-able look and feel that allows In-Kind to connect through a strong brand aesthetic.


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