Jan 082016

Have you heard? Hughes will be at the Package Design Matters Conference in sunny Bonita Springs, Florida! Join us Friday, January 22nd, as we speak alongside our good friend Jamie Mattikow, CCO of Ferrara Candy Co. to discuss the Secret to Success and Longevity with Iconic Brands. Can’t wait to see you there!

Nov 162015

You find yourself knee-deep in a packaging redesign, ready to elevate your brand and boost sales. You’ve taken all the necessary steps. Your package design agency was carefully chosen, you’ve gone through plenty of creative design rounds, and have finally reached agreement on a couple strong contenders. Ship dates are in place and your biggest retailers have put your product(s) in their planograms. With time ticking away until your new packaging is available to the public, you find yourself at a crossroads.

Which design do you choose?

You become burdened by questions like what will our consumers say? Should we choose the evolutionary design – close in to our current packaging or choose the revolutionary design – far out, with little tie back to current?

It’s time to weigh the pros and cons of consumer research.


  • Verify if the new design and brand strategy deliver on objectives and expectations
  • Validate that the new design and branding stands out against competitors and effectively engages consumers
  • Gauge possible success at shelf in the form of purchase intent and expected purchase frequency
  • If purchase intent is statistically significant among respondents, your results could help convince retailers and investors of the power of your brand and its future success
  • Receive unbiased input from target consumers in a controlled environment before on-shelf release
    • Measure consumer interest/disinterest
    • Avoid risk of negatively affecting your core consumer loyalty
    • Avoid additional printing and plate costs if changes must be made
  • Gain strategic decision making based on data


  • Cost
  • Added time to get to shelf
    • Creation of the research (screeners, questionnaire, design concepts)
    • Depending on methodology, research itself can be timely
    • Additional changes to final selected design
  • Skewed results based on unclear or non-specific questions
  • Results are not statistically significant for use in analysis of new packaging
  • Not reaching or knowing your true target market through poorly devised screener
  • Consumers may not select your personal preference

Research success story:
Wholesome!™ the leading U.S. brand of Organic, Fair Trade and Non-GMO sugars and sweeteners were debuting a new name, new positioning, and new packaging across their 50+ skus in early 2015. The re-branding was a revolutionary departure from current. In order to validate the new brand strategy as well as minimize risk and maximize potential, the marketing team at Wholesome! took the new designs into consumer testing. The screening included brand loyal consumers, natural consumers and non-natural consumers (the new target audience). The results were statistically significant in confirming the success of the rebranding to increase impact, increase brand recognition and increase purchase intention across all consumer segments compared to the previous packaging. “Nine out of ten consumers believe the brand makeover fits our positioning. We couldn’t be happier with the results,” said Bobby Patton, vice president of marketing at Wholesome!


Sep 252015

Hughes Design Group is proud to announce it has won THREE American Graphic Design Awards from GDUSA Magazine for its work on Wholesome!, Caribou Ready-to-Drink Iced Coffee, and Watusee Foods’ Chickpeatos.

For more than 50 years, Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) has been a business-to-business information source for graphic design professionals covering news, people, projects, trends, technology, products and services. Every year, GDUSA hosts the American Graphic Design Awards, recognizing excellence in graphic design across all creative platforms including, but not limited to, Advertising, Branding and Identity Programs, Internet Design (web), Books, Television and Video Design, and Packaging.

A Sweet Surprise in the Baking Aisle

Wholesome!, the North American leader in organic and fair trade sugars and sweeteners, were looking for a brand redesign that offered an ownable brand positioning, identity and packaging to build the strength of the brand. Hughes proposed the brand consider changing its name from “Wholesome Sweeteners” to “Wholesome!” to more clearly communicate the clean, organic products to consumers. A playful deep purple script was chosen for the identity to reflect the new joyful, happy and heartfelt positioning. Hughes enhanced the Wholesome! color palette with fresh, contemporary colors to bring energy and life into the packaging. A patterned background of icons across the entire product line built consistency at shelf and added a discovery aspect for the consumer. The new brand architecture allows the brand to line-extend in several new categories.


On-the-Go Indulgence

Caribou Coffee, the second largest specialty coffee and espresso retailer in the United States, were looking to create a Ready-to-Drink coffee for food, drug and mass merchandisers. In a strategic partnership with America’s Dairy Leader, Dean Foods, Caribou Coffee made a licensing agreement, combining the Caribou equity and coffee expertise with the high quality dairy expertise of Dean. Utilizing the Caribou Coffee brandmark and playful brand personality, Hughes created engaging, taste driven packaging that attracts the on-the-go consumer. Professional photography worked to establish delicious flavor profiles, brand block on shelf and quickly and clearly telegraph the product inside.


Better-For-You Snacking Meets Great Tasting 

After two fitness enthusiasts – one a physician, the other a sustainable engineer, became frustrated with the lack of tasty and healthy snack foods, they discovered the power of the chickpea and founded 2Armadillos. Ready to expand with a national rollout strategy, 2Armadillos turned to Hughes for a strategic rebranding. Finding the 2Armadillos branding wasn’t telegraphing health or aligning with the flavor profile of the products, Hughes recommended a new name – Watusee Foods, a play on the phrase “What You See.” The new name embodied the health and taste focused brand positioning and the limited ingredient products. To build a memorable product line that clearly communicated the snack-ability of the crispy chickpeas, Hughes developed a catchy new trademarked moniker, ChickPeaTos. Each package utilizes bold product photography and colors to heighten taste appeal. Bursting chickpeas add life and energy to the design. Applying the new brand architecture, Watusee Foods are releasing a line of Chickpea Crumbs for those wanting a crispy, healthy alternative to breadcrumbs.

Design is a collaborative effort and we must give a huge CONGRATULATIONS to our client partners at Wholesome!, Dean Foods and Caribou Coffee, and Watusee Foods. We are honored to be a part of your teams and are thrilled to share these awards with you!

Apr 012015

For those of us in the Northeast waking up to fresh blankets of white snow every other morning, it can be heart wrenching to look at an April calendar on the wall. Worse than the snow can be the looming deadline of taxes, but there is a happy reprieve only days away, sure to brighten even the most sullen mood: Easter.

If you’ve recently visited your local pharmacy, grocery, or big box store, it probably will come as no surprise that Easter ranks fourth among holidays that generate the biggest spending. (The winter holiday season, Back to School and Valentine’s Day remain the frontrunners). By the end of February, store aisles are dedicated to fluffy stuffed rabbits, egg-dyeing kits, and the pastel packaging of sugared confections that makes you feel as though you are walking through a pointillism painting rather than an FDM retailer.

Retailers know the value in the kid-friendly holiday, offering optimal display space for brands embracing Spring with seasonal holiday packaging. According to consumer spending trends by the National Retail Federation, total spending for Easter this year is expected to reach $16.4 billion. [1]

More than $2 billion of which will be spent on candy, making Easter the second top-selling confectionary holiday behind Halloween. Brach’s, America’s Candy Maker since 1904, has cornered the market on Easter basket essentials. With their pastel candy corn, malted milk balls, gummies, and Jelly Bird Eggs – a clever take on the classic jelly beans, Brach’s knows how to satisfy every sweet and sour tooth. More than 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter each year in the United States. Brach’s alone has over 9 varieties of jelly beans including Spiced, Sour, Orchard Fruit, Speckled and Black among many others.

As popular as jelly beans may be, the number one Easter basket item remains the Chocolate Easter Bunny. Two thirds of Americans prefer the solid chocolate bunny over the hollow bunnies. Luckily, Brach’s has a melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Rabbit for your loved ones basket.

Constantly striving for innovation, Brach’s has also released premium Pectin Jelly Beans and Milk & Dark Chocolate Superfruit Eggs for those craving healthier snacking indulgences. 

Confection companies aren’t the only ones boosting sales during the spring season. Easter food spending for 2015 is expected to top $5.3 million, opening the door for CPG’s to expand their portfolio, increase brand value, and boost sales.[1] YoCrunch Yogurt has become a leader in leveraging seasonal packaging for their most popular flavor varieties. This year, YoCrunch Yogurt released multipacks and a club pack featuring pastel colored M&Ms and Oreo Cookie Pieces. The red M&M character is enhanced by a playful bunny suit and a blue sky, warm green grass and daisy background..   

With so much to be gained from Easter seasonal packaging, including increased retail opportunity and boosted sales, it is a wonder why more brands don’t embrace the happy spring holiday.

[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]

Feb 132015

It is no secret that Valentine’s Day is upon us. The candy hearts and chocolates have been eyeing us from shelves across the country since New Year’s. With each passing year, the holiday has blossomed into bigger declarations of love encompassing significant others, family members, and even the pet dog. The average person celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2015 will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, apparel and more according to the Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey by Prosper Insights and Analytics. This is up from $133.91 last year. Total spending for 2015 Valentine’s Day holiday shopping is estimated to reach $18.9 billion, a record high. [1]

Not wanting to waste an opportunity to reach consumers, CPG brands have been pushing the growth of Valentine’s Day for years with expanded product lines and special edition packaging.

When it comes to declaring love for a significant other, candy remains the go-to gift before flowers and jewelry. 53.2% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day will satiate their sweetheart’s cravings by spending a total of $1.7 billion on candy this year.[1]

Brach’s, America’s Candy Maker, is a Valentine’s Day mainstay with its Conversation Hearts. However, not wanting to grow complacent in the category, Brach’s has challenged itself over the last few years. After introducing a new brand identity and architecture in 2014, Brach’s has been on a whirlwind of innovation and continues its upward growth in 2015 with new product releases that are breaking the boundaries of the candy industry. For this year’s special edition Valentine’s line, Brach’s introduced Gummi Conversation Hearts, Gummi Roses, and Strawberry Shortcake Candy Corn, among many others. With all the new product offerings there is sure to be a flavor that will please even the most difficult sweetheart.

Like every other holiday, Valentine’s Day has quickly become a family affair. Children share Valentine’s cards at school and parents shower them with gifts at home. YoCrunch yogurt has been inspiring families since 1991 with their fun toppings and limited edition flavor packs. This year, YoCrunch released a 12 count case pack featuring its Vanilla yogurt cups with Oreo and M&M toppings. The eye-catching themed package works to stand out on shelf against competitors and YoCrunch’s regular product line. It also promotes Valentine’s Day as an inclusive family holiday.

An estimated one in five Americans will include their pets in their Valentine’s Day gifting this year. On average, pet owners look to spend $5.28, which equates to $703 million nationally.[1] To celebrate the love of man’s best friend, Old Mother Hubbard—makers of bakery-inspired all natural dog treats, have introduced a limited time version of their P-Nuttier classic biscuit for Valentine’s Day. With a special edition package design and size, Bits of Love are adorable heart shaped P-Nuttier biscuits that will make any dog feel loved.

[1]  https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/cupid-shower-americans-jewelry-candy-this-valentines-day

[Disclaimer: Hughes designed the brand identity and architecture for Brach's, including the guidelines for the execution of seasonal product designs. Hughes designed the entire YoCrunch and Old Mother Hubbard packages]

Jan 232015

In today’s competitive retail environment, brands must consistently remain relevant and engage their consumers. Not an easy task when your target consumer is savvy, easily influenced by trends, and under the age of 14.

Today’s kids (those no longer a toddler and not yet a tween) have become masters in the art of filtering messages, due in large part to the influence of technology. The surplus of readily available global information has made them impulsive decision-makers. They’ve never waited for a dial tone to log on to the Internet or dare I say, remember a time when leather bound encyclopedias and dictionaries dominated.

Raised as equals and encouraged to express their opinions, these influential consumers have a stronger hold on the purchasing power of the household than ever before. In 2013, children accounted for $21.4 billion worth of their own purchasing power. [1] Considering that Global Industry Analysts, Inc. is estimating the Global Kids’ Food and Beverages Market will reach $89.3 billion this year,[2] the market for kid’s products is only going to expand and brands need to be prepared for the increased competition.

There are a few key strategies consumer packaged goods can employ to garner the increasingly fleeting attention of the youth market while appeasing the interests of the primary purchaser—the parent.


To feed the imaginative world of children, brands can develop characters that are used as part of the brand identity or used independently. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that children prefer cereals that have a cartoon character on their packs. They also prefer the tastes of those cereals—a significant finding for brands looking to introduce healthier products into a kid’s diet. [3]

YoCrunch Yogurt—a pioneer in separating toppings from yogurt by use of a clear domed cup lid—has created strategic partnerships through the years with brands like Kellogg’s, Oreo, and M&M’s. When YoCrunch wanted to introduce cereal bowls as an extension to their successful product line, they worked closely with Kellogg’s to use the Fruit Loops product, logo, and recognizable icon Toucan Sam as part of the packaging. For kids who had never heard of YoCrunch before, seeing the familiar face of Sam gave them the comfort to try something new.

For ascending brands that are unable to leverage an established brand’s mascot, forging an emotional connection to the child through a new brand mascot will create the long-term positive association with the brand they desire.

Skeeter Nut Free Snacks is founded on the basis of providing great tasting, nut-free snacks that can be enjoyed by all. The public face of the brand is a loveable, wide-eyed squirrel named Skeeter, who also happens to be nut allergic like many of his consumers. Skeeter features prominently on the vibrant blue packaging holding a nut-free placard, further strengthening the brand positioning of safe, no nuts snacks. The back panel is dedicated to his fully developed backstory and a web link directs kids to the Skeeter Snacks website, for kids wanting to learn more about Skeeter and his friends. These comprehensive touch points work to increase the emotional bond between the child and the brand.


Most parents would agree, kids struggle with keeping their hands to themselves. To engage this instinctual need to touch and understand, new kid-friendly products are being developed every day that make eating a sensory experience beyond taste and smell. However, a new product also introduces the challenge of attracting potential consumers. To differentiate against long established products, a distinct packaging structure can create a memorable brand experience and pop at shelf.

FunBites is a colorful line of durable curved blade food cutters that cut kid’s food into bite-sized fun shapes. The physical experience of the product, which engages the logic and creativity in the child, had to be translated into the packaging. Carefully placed windows showcase the cutter and allow for tactile interaction at retail. Colorful characters developed around each food cutter turn the cutters themselves into mouths and ears. The unique and distinctive structure adds variety on shelf. 


Most kid’s products need to satisfy the primary purchaser to grow sales, but still attract the consumers. A balance must be struck between the parent’s inherent desire for healthier options for their children, and designs that appeal to the child’s restless attention. The best avenue to accomplish this feat is through clear communication of benefits and a boosted, more vibrant color palette.

Black Forest recently relaunched their popular line of gummy products with new packaging. The newly established architecture works to strengthen their healthier brand positioning and brand promises. “Made with Real Fruit Juice,” is distinctly arched across the center of each package, while the other nutritional benefits (“Colors from Natural Sources” and “Gluten and Fat Free”) are called out at the top of each package, further reassuring the parent of the quality ingredients inside. To capture the child’s curiosity and build brand awareness, the Black Forest green equity color was leveraged and a bright engaging new color palette employed. The playful characters on the gummy varieties were refreshed to add energy and double as brand mascots, further engaging the child’s imagination.

[1] http://www.packagedfacts.com/about/release.asp?id=688

[2] http://www.prweb.com/releases/kids_food_beverage/childrens_food_beverage/prweb4253214.htm

[3] http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/R-D/Cartoon-characters-may-influence-kids-taste-preferences

[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]

Jan 142015

Announcing the strategic partnership between R&D/Leverage and Hughes Design Group

Package Design Magazine November/December 2014


R&D Leverage is a structural design and development company that offers a full suite of capabilities for domestic and international clients in the Food and Beverage, Home and Personal Care, and Healthcare industries.

Hughes Design Group is a marketing strategy and design firm specializing in consumer goods packaging design, brand identity, and strategic planning, as well as name generation, and research.

By integrating this array of both creative and technical offerings, our world-class organizations seamlessly blend together to help clients identify and conceive design, construct, and product innovations. Through our unique strategic partnership we are able to drive fully leveraged brand solutions while increasing your product’s speed to market and decreasing time, energy, and cost. Our holistic approach—from idea through implementation—ensures each project is successful to you, your customer, and your company.

When you work with R&D/Leverage and Hughes Design Group, you work with professionals in package design, brand identity, marketing solutions, qualitative/quantitative research, industrial design, engineering, mold procurement, and manufacturing implementation – all committed to bringing your branding initiative to life—and to the shelf! We look forward to growing your business.

Dec 092014

Our stomachs are a little bigger and the bruises from Black Friday shopping are still fresh which can mean only one thing: the holidays have arrived. Everywhere you turn, products are donning new looks with special holiday themed designs. Nowhere is this more evident than the grocery store. From dairy to liquor, and even pet food, consumer-packaged goods are different.

But, why should brands embrace the holiday season?

In short, holiday-themed packaging can help a brand:

  • Remain relevant
  • Catch consumer’s attention
  • Increase brand value
  • Capitalize on impulse shopping
  • Connect to consumer emotions

Seasonal Packaging

The best bet for brands wanting to remain relevant during the holiday season without accumulating added costs and risks, is a seasonal package. Quite simply, the brand retains its same year round products but with fancy new exteriors. A new package design may be all it takes to catch a consumer’s attention and remind them of your great product.

Consumers who regularly purchase Garelick Farms milk are more likely to purchase Garelick Farms milk through the holiday season, even without holiday packaging. However, there is always the very real possibility an impulse shopping consumer may be attracted to another brands’ holiday package and switch brands as a result. In order to combat this possibility, Garelick Farms utilizes family-friendly holiday designs on all their milks. The brand not only keeps its legion of fans during the holidays, but it increases the consumer’s emotional connection by associating the brand with good times.

Earlier this year Wellness CORE Pet Food introduced a new line of treats, CORE Superfood Protein Bars. Instead of releasing a limited edition product, which would be both costly and risky given the infancy of the line, CORE chose to dress up one of its established products with a holiday themed design. The package maintains the brand identity while giving it a festive holiday touch. Opting to do a seasonal package will help draw consumer’s attention, allowing the brand to compete during the busiest time of year, as well as create loyalty. If the consumer enjoys the Chicken and Turkey with Sweet Potatoes recipe flavor, they have the ability to purchase it year round.

Seasonal Products

For only a few months out of the year, customers are able to purchase these special seasonal products. Limited timing forces a higher percentage of impulse buys at shelf and thus, increases sales. Having a shelf-ready seasonal product is one of the more advantageous decisions a brand can make. From time, planning, and production to design, marketing, and advertising, the costs are substantial. However, if successful, a seasonal product can increase brand value and maintain relevancy in the mind of the consumer.

New Flavors

Seemingly overnight, the Garelick Farms Egg Nog appears on shelves across the Northeastern US just in time for Thanksgiving tables. Introducing a new, limited-time flavor to its normal line of dairy products adds excitement and anticipation for consumers waiting year round for the novelty drink.

Another brand expanding their flavor portfolio during the holidays is TruMoo. Known for its flavored milk, Trumoo adds a twist to its Chocolate milk with the Chocolate Peppermint edition. The eye-catching designs of the package and playful flavor help grab the attention of the impulse shopper looking for a fun, limited edition product for their family.

Old Mother Hubbard Baking Co. started over 80 years ago and remains a top choice for pet owners wanting to provide wholesome, all-natural snacks to their pets. Knowing pet owners want to spread holiday cheer to every member of their family, Old Mother Hubbard introduced Jingle Jangle P-Nuttier. These crunchy dog snacks come in holiday shapes with a taste of peanut butter & molasses.

Value Sizes

Known for crammed houses filled with kids, friends, and relatives, the holidays are the time to stock up on consumer product goods.  Companies wanting to differentiate themselves beyond new flavors may introduce larger quantity packaging, such as value packs. YoCrunch offers a special 12-cup Holiday case pack, with seasonal designs on the cups and red and green M&M toppings alongside Oreo toppings.

Giftable/Collector’s Edition Package

As one of the most giftable items and a decorative addition to most dinner parties, alcohol and liquor brands must differentiate themselves against their competitors and their own year-round packaging to snag invites to all the best parties. One of the more unique, time consuming, and costly executions with arguably the most long-lasting effects is the giftable/collector’s edition package.

Many years ago Smirnoff, the largest vodka brand in the world, introduced the Smirnoff Nutcracker as a special collector’s edition bottle. With a new structure of a nutcracker, utilizing the hat as a decanter, Smirnoff was able to reintroduce its classic vodka in a convenient, gift ready package. Having a collectible package creates an emotional experience and ongoing relationship with the consumer. To this day, the Smirnoff Nutcracker package can be found in online auctions, ready to delight its next brand loyal consumer and their home.

With the National Retail Federation projecting this years’ holiday spending to total $619.9 billion and households spending an average of $1300 on gifts, food, decorations, and more*, the question isn’t, should you do holiday themed packaging, but really, why aren’t you?

[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]


Nov 212014

From technology to consumer product goods, millennials are changing the landscape of the world we live in. Also known as Generation Y, millennials were born between 1980 – 1995 with technology at their fingertips and an inherent need to multitask.* Marketers look at millennials and see the nightmares that keep them up at night. Unlike the well-studied and understood Baby Boomers—the largest impactful generation previously, millennials appear to be eccentric and unloyal shoppers.

  • Rarely use a shopping list, decisions are made at shelf
  • Only one in five set a budget before shopping
  • View purchasing private label brands as socially acceptable
  • Task-oriented shoppers, purchasing products only when they run out
  • Don’t research products online
  • Main resource for product information are peers or customer reviews
  • Most shop alone at grocery stores
  • Prefer specialty stores to large box stores
  • Want tangible discounts such as 15 percent more product or BOGOs (Buy One Get One) instead of digital coupons**

So, what is it millennials are searching for when they browse the shelf?

Millennials have been the strongest advocates for health in CPGs. They don’t just want healthy options; they expect them. Their tech-savvy has given them unlimited access to information and now they expect the brands they buy to share the same transparency. They want to know every process of their product’s life cycle from where it was grown/made, who made it, to the quality of the ingredients and how many are in the product. It doesn’t stop there; they also want to know whether the company producing the product has corporate social responsibility and if the packaging is sustainable. Did I mention they expect the product to be affordable? With 80 million millennials, the sooner brands embrace the millennials’ expectations, the quicker their products will disappear from shelves.


Late July is a brand known for its always Organic and Non-GMO products. When they launched a line of mini sandwich cookies and bite size crackers—appealing to the growing segment of millennial mom’s choosing healthy options for their children—Late July included quality descriptors on the package. (Produced Without Synthetic Pesticides, No Trans Fat or Corn Syrup, No Artificial Flavors, Colors, or Preservatives). A USDA Organic seal and Quality Assurance International seal prove the organic product claims. Quickly and clearly communicating the quality of the ingredients is one way to win millennials purchase decision.


Elemental Essentialz, a Texas based eco-friendly household cleaning products company uses repurposed wine bottles to hold their safe, zero-waste household cleaners. This mindfulness to both product and packaging is exactly the type of sustainability and corporate responsibility millennials search for on shelves.


White Rock Beverages, an American brand since 1871, know consumers—especially millennials are looking for health benefits when grocery shopping. In order to convey the brand’s premium position regarding purity, integrity, flavor, and value, White Rock uses callouts to draw the consumer’s attention and differentiate from competitors. The callouts on the package include triple filtered water, use of cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup (mixers), zero sodium (club sodas), and zero calories (except ginger ale and tonic water). The health benefits of White Rock beverages versus other carbonated drinks is clearly represented and help consumers searching for a healthier option make an easy decision.


Apps like Instagram have allowed millenials to become powerful voices for products and packaging. Where once, a person may recommend a product to a few friends, now they can share their recommendations with the world. Hashtags like #foodstagram on cell phone images have created an obsession with the visual appeal of food. Companies like Udi’s Gluten Free have embraced this obsession. Udi’s products utilize windows and high quality photography to give the customer a clear sense of what they are purchasing.


YoCrunch embraces the fast health conscious lifestyle most Millennials lead. Their low fat yogurt, combined with the variety of toppings (from whole grain granola to M&M’s) in their separated domed top cups, is a perfect convenient option for the multitasking millennial.

With an enthusiastic push toward health, millennials are changing the way products are made and packaged, and it seems, brands are letting them.

[Disclosure: All product packaging in this article was designed by Hughes Design Group]


* http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-millennials-are-coming/

** http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/238211/getting-millennials-to-buy-cpgs-bring-on-the-bogo.html