A Question of Taste: Wholesome Goodness comes to Walmart

Posted: February 15, 2011

The line between burgeoning national brands and private label lines is blurring more and more each year. Walmart Canada recently started selling an 80+ SKU natural product brand called Wholesome Goodness. The Wholesome Goodness brand owners partnered with the united* dsn design firm to define the “better-for-you” segment and fully realize its potential in package design.
To consumers, this brand is probably going to be seen as a Walmart private label brand because of the number of SKUs and the consistent, straightforward branding. However, the brand owner has not limited future agreements and is looking for other partners in Canada for distribution. Wholesome Goodness brings to retail an original brand concept that seizes the opportunity the brand owner saw in the better-for-you segment.
Perry Seelert, managing partner at united* dsn, with offices in New York and San Francisco, sat down with Package Design to discuss the project and how this brand developed.

PD: What was the difficulty in previous attempts at “better-for-you” private label?
Seelert: There’s tremendous health awareness happening, but there’s also an irony. Many consumers claim to want healthier food, but few actually follow through on it with purchases. People won’t sacrifice taste; that’s all there is to it. It’s fixed in people’s minds that better-for-you has a horrible taste association, and product and package design have not provided a compelling new story.

PD: How do you break out of that mindset?
Seelert: The challenge is that behavior hasn’t followed desire. But when you step back and look at consumers, the desire is still there. From preliminary research, it was clear to us that everyone still wants better-for-you, so we saw a tremendous opportunity. Our goal was to look at what was done in the past and throw to the wayside what was clearly not working. One way to do that is to leave the puritanical mindset of denial behind and embark on an approach that’s more celebratory.

PD: How much did competitive product exploration inform the design direction?
Seelert: The design approach came from a thorough observation of the better-for-you offerings currently on the market. Wholesome Goodness is about cracking the code for something that’s been tried several times. The food has to taste right first. After that, the package design must reinforce the quality of every product.

PD: Why has the better-for-you message not been communicated well previously?
Seelert: Better-for-you has failed for a number of reasons, but it’s not for a lack of communication. In fact, it’s the opposite—too much information and the resulting consumer confusion. Government agencies, community councils—even retail chains—have their own agendas.

PD: Has package design failed at delivering on the promise as well?
Seelert: There’s a very imitative marketing language—often based on greens and blues. Healthy Choice started the green trend, and several Canadian retailers have chosen blue for their private label better-for-you products. Many brands and private label lines have created a controlled language—both verbally and graphically, that reinforces a perception that is sterile, joyless, and almost pharmaceutical.

PD: So how was Wholesome Goodness created in a different mold?
Seelert: We realized that, functionally, we had to create better products. The debut was going to be 80+ SKUs, and the brand owner was committed to rethinking every product to produce tasteful products that are all-natural. This also led to completely new, customized product variations. The mission that became the tagline was: “Bringing delicious and nutritious together like never before.”

PD: How did you translate that mission to the package design?
Seelert: Everything we’ve done from a branding perspective expresses the product. By offering the initial launch to a retailer exclusively, it allows Wholesome Goodness to really own the brand experience. A strong and well-managed brand approach was always the goal. Branding is about telling cohesive stories. Though we were not the product developer, we guided the story of each product so we could tell each story palpably.

PD: What makes the marketing language different from competitors?
Seelert: Consumers don’t like preachiness or being told what to do, especially if it’s opposite their nature. The common language being used in the segment was literal and polarizing, suggesting right/wrong moral choices such as Eating Right, Eatwell, and Healthy Choice. Wholesome Goodness is more positive and approachable. The design hierarchy breaks out of the language format and reinforces benefits without dominating the package.

PD: What role does product photography play in developing this brand?
Seelert: When photography becomes heroic is a category-by-category consideration. The reason for purchasing reluctance in consumers looking for better-for-you products is the taste factor. The photography makes the case for a great-tasting product. If the product backs up the promise, consumers will trust the brand regardless of the category it’s in. What you see across the line, for the most part, is that the product is the star.

PD: Did the dual-language (English and French) requirement affect how you approached the design hierarchy?
Seelert: In Canada, because Quebec is French speaking, the two languages have to be equal size by law. The centered brand logo and consistent placement of product names and descriptors allowed us to include everything and still allow ample space for food photography. The hierarchy also gave direction to the photography shoots, knowing that the bottom corners would also be occupied by the heart logo and benefit statements.

PD: What purpose does the logo in the bottom left of the package serve?
Seelert: The small circular “bug” distills the brand promise to a heart, a wheat stalk, and the words “Simple; Naturally Delicious.” The heart is a shorthand symbol that reinforces the brand philosophy of nutrition that eliminates bad ingredients and emphasizes the positive.

PD: What brand traits does Wholesome Goodness have that other better-for-you brands might not have?
Seelert: We did not want the brand to be exclusionary or elitist. These products are for everyone, across every category in the store. The brand creates an ownable and distinctive identity that reflects its positioning accurately while being warm and approachable. We believe that this will break down the reluctance of consumers that are hungry for better-for-you products.