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Using Colour In Branding

This week we will be looking at the use of colour in branding. Below we discuss 4 topics from reproduction to finishes. First up, owning a brand colour..

1. Owning a brand colour

Using colour as a visual shortcut to brand recognition is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. If I was to say name me a ‘red’ or ‘purple’ brand, the chances are you could answer pretty quickly.

If you have a large amount of SKUs or a broad portfolio, a consistent brand colour is a great way to own the shelf.

Whilst it’s difficult to own a colour outright, it’s a lot easier to own a colour within a particular sector. Take for example Colgate and Coca-Cola.

Both use a similar hue of red but because they operate in different sectors that clash becomes less apparent.

If you want to stand out however it’s difficult to be associated with a particular colour that is intrinsically linked to another brand. In these instances it’s useful to look at linking colour combinations that are distinct when used together.

A great example here is IKEA. These brand assets are managed so that the proportions of one colour versus the other are always used consistently so re-enforcing brand recognition.

These colours could either harmonise or as in the case of IKEA, create a stark contrast for increased standout. 

There are many different hues of each base colour. Darker hues of blue for example are used to convey trust where brighter and more vivid shades convey optimism and refreshment.

There are no fixed and fast rules however. It may be that the choice brand colour is used to flex a different aspect of your brand values. All banks for example, want to convey trust but clearly they can’t all borrow from a dark blue pallete as that would create confusion.

2. Colour reproduction at print

It’s always rewarding seeing your pack printed in beautiful vivid colours.

Sometimes however it’s not always possible to replicate the design as it was intended because of how it is going to be printed. 

I’ve noticed recently that some clients are preferring to move from traditional six station print jobs (using Pantones) to cheaper CMYK runs. Especially on pack outers or secondary packs. The benefit of price is obvious (especially in the current climate) but there is also invariably a sacrifice of quality.

Some Pantone colours are easy to replicate in CMYK where others are more difficult. Greens and oranges can be tricky as their equivalents tend to go quite muted and dirty.

Not ideal if this is your brand colour!

The reason that this print method is cheaper is not just because there are fewer printing stations but also, printers can double up or piggyback runs with other jobs on similar substrates.

This piggybacking can create other headaches. If colours need to be tweaked to benefit one part of the job, they will invariably affect other parts.

3. Finishes and effects

So, we have looked at owning a brand colour and how we ensure this is replicated consistently at print.

The other aspect to cover is what this is being printed on and the effect that can have overall. 

Printing onto a matte white substrate will create a completely different feel then printing the same colour on a shiny metallic surface.

You can see in the image below. A print test we did using a flavour colour at different tints with different backings of white on metallic substrate.

Similarly, printing onto a plastic pouch is going to have a different look and feel to printing on cartonboard.

This can cause issues of consistency on brands and products with large portfolios that span different packaging formats.

This is especially true when printing in CMYK as discussed earlier..

Getting the printer to supply a proof or creating a target proof for the printer to match to, is hugely important in these instances so that runs can be tweaked before the big green button is pressed!

That said, always expect a little variation based on the end canvas you are printing on.

4. Help! I’ve run out of colours!

Often, and this is especially true of large portfolios of products. You simply run out of available colours on which to differentiate the flavours!

Whilst there are hundreds of different hues of each colour, our ability to differentiate between these is not as broad and expensive as the wealth of options we have available in a Pantone book!

Say you have one flavour that strawberry and one raspberry, clearly both of these require the use of red. It is important to make sure these colours hues are clearly differentiated and far enough apart so as to not cause confusion. 

Keeping these hues distinct means none of the colours between these two hues can be utilised elsewhere in the portfolio. Without some further differentiation on pack or through the product.

There may be instances where the entire portfolio uses a white out logo. Furthermore white out copy from a darker colour background. This is great because you get lots of punch at fixture.

When those deeper colours run out and you only have lighter colours left it can be difficult to maintain the same consistency . Furthermore the legibility by using white out logos on top of these lighter colours, without changing or challenging this consistency slightly.

If you are looking for some advice on your brand colour system, or think that you could benefit from a quick brand health check, then get in touch for an informal chat.

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Everything you need to know about the upcoming Plastic Packaging Tax

From April 1st 2022, a new Plastic Packaging Tax will take effect in the UK. In the article below we are summarising everything you need to know about this new tax. Furthermore, who is affected, what is involved and what steps you should take. 

With the crackdown on plastic use and consumers actively searching for eco friendly alternatives, the Government have decided to take this one step further. Similarly to the Sugar Tax introduced in 2018, they are applying an upcoming charge for plastic packaging. This isn’t the first time the Government have tried to tackle plastic use in the UK though. You may remember October 2015 where retailers were required to charge 5p for single use carrier bags. This charge, which has increased to 10p as of May 2021 was just the start of the new plastic initiative. 

The Government state that the aim of this new plastic tax is to: Provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic packaging. In turn this will stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste. Therefore diverting it away from landfill or incineration.

What will be affected?

Any plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic will be affected. However any plastic packaging that contains at least 30% of recycled plastic or is not predominantly plastic by weight will be exempt from the new tax. Even if your packaging contains multiple materials, if the majority of the weight is made up by plastic, you will be liable for the new Plastic Packaging Tax. 

Imports of packaging which already contains goods, such as plastic bottles filled with drinks, will also potentially be subject to the tax. Furthermore, products that are designed as single use packaging products such as plastic bags, bin liners or nappy sacks may be affected by the tax. 

Who will be affected?

The new tax will affect UK manufacturers of plastic packaging, importers of plastic packaging, business customers of manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging. As well as consumers who buy plastic packaging or goods in plastic packaging in the UK. 

If your business is in the UK, you will be liable if you perform the ‘last substantial modification’ before the packing or filling process. Operations who import or manufacture less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging in 12 months will be exempt. 

This tax may untimely effect everyone from large scale manufactures to consumers buying end products as the cost may be passed down to them. Customers will now be actively searching for brands who are avoiding plastic use or use at least 30% recycled plastic. 

In regards to who will need to pay the tax itself. If the packaging or component is produced in the UK, the producer will pay the tax. However if the plastic is imported to the UK, the person whose packaging it is that will need to pay. 

How much will the tax be?

£200 per metric tonne of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% of recycled plastic. 

How to prepare?

Manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging must to register for the tax with HM Revenue & Customs if any of the following apply. At any time after 1 April 2022, the business expects to manufacture or import at least 10 metric tonnes of plastic packaging within the next 30 days. Or if threshold of 10 tonnes was exceeded in the past 12 months. The HMRC has indicated that it will provide further updates before the tax comes into effect in April. 

What records to keep?

Businesses will need to maintain a variety of records for the new tax. This includes the total amount in weight and a breakdown by weight of the materials used to manufacture the plastic packaging. You will also need to keep record of the calculations used to determine if a packaging is plastic and how much recycled plastic it contains. On top of this, the weight of exempted plastic packaging. Additionally the reason for the exemption as well as the amount in weight of plastic packaging exported.


This new tax is a great opportunity for companies and brands to re-evaluate their current packaging, structure, materials and recyclability. Consumers will search for brands who are actively trying to reduce their plastic use. Furthermore they will favour brands who are not willing to pass the tax cost onto them. There are some fantastic alternatives for plastic packaging such as bamboo, wood, natural fibre cloth and palm leaves. As well as alternatives to plastic, this new tax’s objective is to encourage companies to use more recycled plastic. Hopefully this new tax will see brands exploring innovative ways to improve their carbon footprint.

We have collated the top eco friendly alternatives to plastic for packaging in our article which you can read here. The possibilities are endless! 

We hope that helped summarise the new Plastic Packaging Tax of 2022. All information in this article was courtesy of Gov UK and Packaging Europe. For more information on the tax, please visit the Government website as data may change closer to the time.

If you’d like to speak to us about plastic alternatives for your packaging, contact us here.  

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Plant based fibres in packaging

Following our recent blog post on eco friendly packaging solutions, today we are focusing on plant based fibre technology in packaging. With plant fibres being renewable and biodegradable, companies are developing exciting and innovate packaging solutions that are rapidly increasing in popularity. 

Today we are looking at some of the new material developments across the clothing, food and drink industry. Furthermore we will be analysing how plant fibres can help lower the carbon footprint. 


Brands are now actively looking for ways to contribute to the circular economy. They are doing so by introducing products into their range that mean nothing is treated as waste. Whether that be through up-cycling or biodegradable materials, all input to the process should keep circling. Below we have discovered the latest technologies in plant based fibres within the clothing industry. Whilst the materials below are currently used in clothing, this is fantastic opportunities for brands to use these new materials as eco friendly solutions for gift boxes, bags and packaging materials. 


Clothing company Pangaia has developed fabrics that repurpose food waste to look and feel like cotton. First is FRUTFIBER™ which uses responsibility sourced banana leaf fibre, pineapple leaf fibre and bamboo. Secondly we have PLNTFIBER™ which has been created using renewable, underused plants including bamboo, eucalyptus and seaweed. Both have been developed in order to help address issues with the worlds reliance on cotton. These revolutionary new biobased fibres are an innovative alternative. Furthermore they are a way to tackle production and agricultural waste from the fruit industry. 


Many clothing brands are now introducing a Hemp range to their collection. Hemp is one of the most sustainable and economically viable all-natural threads. Some benefits include it growing faster, using less water, clearing the air and regenerating the earth’s soil. Hemp requires 80% less water than conventional fibres and takes only 90 days to cultivate. If we compare materials, cotton requires 10,000 litres of water to produce 1kg, whereas hemp requires only 300 litres. Hemp fibres are 100% biodegradable and can be reprocessed making it a fantastic solution to cotton for clothing. The Hemp Shop and Toad and Co offer a great range of Hemp clothing as an alternative material.


Lenzing’s award winning TENCEL™ fibres are produced by an environmentally responsible process. Also included in Lenzing’s portfolio is REFIBRA™ technology. This involves up-cycling cotton scraps and transforming them into cotton pulp. Lastly we have VEOCEL™ which are the latest generation of fibres with botanic origin. Lenzing are “Committed to establishing the circular economy as a suitable, future oriented concept in the industry to project the earth” and are taking a huge step with their range of diverse fibres. 

Piñatex ®

Ananas Anam have developed an innovative new natural textile made from pineapple waste. Piñatex ® is a natural leather alternative and suitably sourced material which has a low environment impact. In making Piñatex ®, 825 tons of waste leaves were saved from burning which would have released the equivalent of 264 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere!

Food Packaging

With the clothing industry looking for alternatives for cotton, food brands are also actively searching for alternatives to plastic and are turning to the natural world for inspiration. Below we take a look at some of the brands and technologies that utilise plant based fibres as solutions. 


Congra Brands have been using plant-baed fibre packaging bowls for the past 3 years and have recently added more products to their portfolio using their RESPONSIBOWL. Since introducing the packaging, Congra has avoided the use of 2.5 million pounds of plastic packaging. Furthermore, they have accounted they are aiming to make 100% of their plastic packaging, renewable, recycle or compassable by 2025. The plant based fibre bowl is designed by Footprint® who design alternative solutions to single use plastic. The bowl is microwave safe and non stick making it a fantastic option for brands looking to make a change. 


Ocean-based plant fibres to create biodegradable containers and wrappers are increasing in popularity as brands are turning away from plastic. DS Smith have recently announced they will be exploring the use of seaweed across their packaging network as an industry first. The firm will be focusing on its potential use for food produce as a replacement for single use plastic. Evoware won an award for their seaweed based packaging across their Bruxel vegan waffle range.


Sugarcane fibre packaging is another eco friendly alternative to more traditional packaging sources. It uses the fibrous part of the stalk that is often discarded after the juice is extracted. The packaging alternative is renewable, biodegrade, compostable and can used used for food packaging, drinks packaging, domestics packaging, paper and textiles by replacing materials used to make cardboard boxes and plywood. Idealpak have a range of sugarcane tubes that are made from bio-plastic derived from 100% renewable resources. They are the same structure and function as traditional tubes. One brand is who already utilising sugarcane packaging is Bulldog. The personal care brand is the first male skincare brand in the world to use sugarcane as a raw material in their packaging.


Flax fibre material is one of the strongest natural fibres in the world. It’s resistance to heat as well as the ability to bio-degrade makes it a fantastic material for food packaging solutions. The material is stronger than cotton fibres and is resistant to bending. With the multitude of benefits, companies are developing Flax fibre packaging solutions for brands looking for alternatives. SWM offers a range of fibre products that are processed from unused straw and a blend of oilseed flex fibre. 

Drinks Packaging

Similarly to the food industry, drinks packaging manufactures and brands are opting for materials that omit the use for single use plastics. Below are four examples of recent developments and technologies in plant fibres drinks packaging. 


With coffee brands looking to move away from single use pods, technology such as NatureFlex offers sustainable coffee and tea packaging. The compostable packaging films provides superior oxygen and moisture protection. This is extremely important for coffee packaging which is sensitive to oxygen and moisture. Moreover, the film also has an aroma barrier that prevents tea or coffee airing out. Natureflex™ produces opaque options to stop UV damage which is key for tea and coffee packaging.

Wood Pulp

Stora Enso and Pulpex have recently teamed up to create eco-friendly paper bottles and containers made from wood fibre pulp. These products are an alternative to PET plastics as well as glass. The bottles are produced with sustainably sourced formed fibre pump. Furthermore they have a significantly lower carbon footprint then traditional drinks packaging materials. Whisky brand Johnnie Walker have introduced a paper-based bottle made from wood pulp which is sure to inspire other brands. 


Bamboo is a natural ligno-cellulosic fiber obtained from bamboo culm and offers a solution for bottles, cups and straws. Panda Packaging combine tech and nature for a greener future. Furthermore they have developed bamboo cups, flasks that cater for consumers and brands searching for sustainable and reusable solutions. 


This eco friendly and 100% recyclable material offers brands bespoke packaging options. Colourform™ can be tailored to colour and texture of your choosing. The innovation is a thermoformed, plastic-free and moulded fibre packaging alternative. James Cropper created the unique material for a circular economy with a luxurious look and feel. 

Cosmetics Packaging

Lastly, we are taking a look at packaging innovations cosmetics and personal care industry that utilise plant fibres. With the legislation to ban the use of non-recyclable plastics in sachets, alternatives are going to need to be developed and adopted more quickly than ever as consumers seek greener packaging. 

Caster Oil Plant

Geka have launched new sustainable fibre filaments for their mascara brush. The range of exclusive fibres are made of 100% renewable raw material from the castor oil plant. Combined with the properties of Geka’s EOS fibres, the innovative solution is also effective in terms of volume and lengthening. As well as the brushes, Geka offer eco-friendly caps moulded of 100 % PCR-PP material and bottles moulded of 100 % PCR-PET material.


A plastic free solution for creams has been developed by Papacks that consists of plant fibres. Papacks are a pioneer in using plant fibres such as wood pulp, hemp, jute and flax fibres in moulded packaging. The cream pots are moulded into shape through fibre casting before being coated with a specially developed organic coating. The solution is 100% plastic free and the packaging can be alternatively used as a jar. Both of which can be disposed of in paper or organic waste after use. In addition, they remain 100 per cent compostable and biodegradable by microorganisms. Furthermore, Papacks product portfolio covers a wide span of industries including food, pharma and consumer goods.


Ideal for cosmetics, Sulapac is a packaging solution that doesn’t compromise on functionality or aesthetics. As well as dry, wax and oil based substates, Sulapac have now introduced a barrier for water based cosmetics. The premium packaging solution is universal with most lines and moods and uses think walled structures for all impact strength. 


Stora Enso have recently introduced a new paperboard tube for cosmetics that is an alternative to plastic packaging. The advantage of paperboard products is that they are created from renewable resources. Furthermore these will eventually grow back if sustainably managed. In addition to this, renewable materials such as paperboard typically have a much lower carbon footprint than plastics.

With the rise in plant based fibres packaging alternatives and increasing demand for green products, brands will need to consider eco friendly packaging solutions as part of their sustainable marketing strategy. In conclusion, we predict these innovation new materials to drive more sustainable packaging solutions in the future. 

If you would like to talk to us about packaging design drop us a line here

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Eco friendly packaging alternatives to plastic

We are all very familiar with images of swirling plastic islands floating in the middle of the oceans. In many instances, plastic is actually the best option. But what are the Eco friendly packaging alternatives to plastic?

Each year it is estimated that 80 billion plastic bottles are produced, 80% of which end up in landfill sites globally. It takes on average 800 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.

The word plastic has become intrinsically linked with disposable. You could argue that the main challenge is changing consumer habits rather than eradicating plastic packaging completely. 

Firstly, let’s put one point straight, plastic is widely recyclable and often best and safest option for food packaging design. Therefore the issue is often not the plastic itself but how people dispose of it. 

Additionally, millennials are pushing brands to be much more responsible with their approach towards environmental concerns. New market places are being created that push social responsibility and zero waste in an attempt to change shoppers habits.

So what are the alternatives and what is the best strategy to adopt moving forwards?

Sustainability – what is it?

There is currently a lot of buzz around the term sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging refers to the use of packaging materials that have a minimal environmental impact and carbon footprint.  

This reduction can happen in a number of ways. Firstly, by using 100% recycled or raw materials in manufacture and minimising the production process. Also by extending its life cycle and usability.

In order to be considered sustainable, packaging needs to meet eight specific criteria. As detailed by the sustainable packaging coalition. These are:

  • Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle.
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost.
  • Sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy.
  • Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
  • Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
  • Made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle.
  • Physically designed to optimize materials and energy.
  • Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles.

Below are a list of strategies and packaging design innovations you can adopt to become more eco-friendly with your packaging.

1. Reduce the amount of packaging.

The first and most obvious strategy is to reduce the overall amount packaging that you use on a product. This could mean moving from six sided cartons to pillow packs. Using smaller boxes or bags not only helps reduce the amount packaging materials. This can also can help reduce your distribution costs and ensure that you’re not shipping ‘dead space’ and filling shelves space more efficiently. Consumers always respond negatively to packs that are substantially bigger than the product inside. Reducing the amount of packaging can positively effect the perception of your brand.

2. Plant based packaging.

Simply put, these are are made out of organic materials. From fungi and seaweed to corn and even food waste.

Choosing the correct material will ultimately depend on what you’re planning to pack. Bio plastics such as those from companies like Good Natured, are often better for items such as food that need protecting from contamination and increasing shelflife. More robust examples could utilise packaging made from much more durable plant materials such as mushrooms.

Polylactic acid (PLA), also known as Bioplastic is a biodegradable polyester derived from renewable plant materials such as corn starch. Bioplastics big advantage is that has a carbon footprint up to 75% less than traditional packaging materials and is now commercially composted. The trade off is that it can be prohibitively expensive on smaller runs.

Mushroom Packaging consists of 100 percent biodegradable and renewable plant based material that can be recycled both in and by nature.

Saltwater Brewery in America have developed a material for their six-pack rings which is not only biodegradable and compostable, but also completely edible! The rings are made from barley and wheat remnants which are a by-product of the brewing process which will actually benefit the sea life if they find their way into the ocean.

3. Recycled materials in packaging.

Aluminum cans are one of the most recyclable materials. Turning recycled aluminum cans into brand spanking new cans uses on average 95% less energy than making new ones from scratch. It has been estimated that the energy saved by recycling one single aluminum can is equivalent to what is needed to run a television for 3 hours.

Brands such as Rightwater have gone plastic-free using 100% recyclable aluminum cans. These are also free from BPA to make them suitable for consumers concerned about possible plastic contaminants in their water.

The most widely recycled plastic globally is Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). Recycling PET preserves circa two-thirds of the energy usually required to make new plastic bottle which successfully lowers greenhouse gas emissions. PET plastic is an inert material. This means that it resistant to attack by microorganisms so reducing the risk of ground water contamination. As mentioned previously though, the issue is that much of this plastic ends up in the oceans.

Some brands such as Method, successfully use this ocean reclaimed plastic rather than create plastic bottles from scratch. Sports brands such as Adidas are successfully adopting this process in the soles of their trainers.

4. Compostable and biodegradable alternatives.

Compostable packaging is made out of materials that can be composted at home and commercially. Hence why they are often made from plant-based polymer that can break down in compost.

Depending on what the source material is, a commercial compost facility can break down this type of packaging in around 3 months. Domestic composting such as the type in your garden, achieves the same in a little longer at around 6 months.

Fazer and Sulapac to bring an eco-friendly chocolate that consists of handmade pralines from Fazer that are held within the wood chip derived, biodegradable box.

Snact is a snack brand on a mission, fighting food waste and plastic pollution. The packaging is made in conjunction with startup TIPA from surplus fruit and veg that would otherwise be thrown away.

It is just as durable and impermeable as ordinary plastic but it decomposes within just 180 days. This innovative packaging is available in 100% home compostable packaging which is the first of its kind in the UK.

5. Organic coatings.

Most paper or card packaged food products needs a plastic coating to separate the contents from the less durable outer. So whilst it may look compostable and eco friendly, the fact is, it often isn’t.

The UK-based ice cream brand, Northern Bloc, has launched tubs for its products that are recyclable and biodegradable. The tubs are treated with an organic coating instead of plastic to ensure the product stays contained. Additionally this allows the sealant to break down when the packaging is being recycled.

Normally separating the paper and coating is difficult at the recycling stage due to the by-product of the two ends up being too contaminated to reuse. However, the tub protected instead by a fully natural organic compound made from sugarcane which is fully reusable and therefore breaks down naturally.

The Sherwood Group’s Puracoat® has created a product for use in food barrier packaging. Hence, offering food manufacturers an eco friendly solution to conventional plastic, PE and other forms of barrier control. The growing problem is plastic waste as attributed to the development of this. The coating is:

  • Suitable for direct food contact
  • An eco friendly, water-based barrier control
  • Grease resistant to highest ‘Kit 12’ rating
  • Verified independently by Smithers Pira
  • Fully recyclable and biodegradable in line with BS EN 13432
  • Suitable for frozen conditions
  • Microwaveable and ovenable up to 220 C
  • Flexible application levels to meet end use requirements
  • Reduced turnaround time, improving speed to market
  • Used in conjunction with biodegradable window films for an optimum eco friendly solution

6. Refillable parent packaging.

The use of refillable containers operates on a simple principle. The store provides products in bulk, and customers bring their empty refillable containers and fill them with product. The cleaning and personal care sector widely adopts this practice.

Refillable containers reduces both transportation and manufacturing costs. The biggest challenge is acceptance by the public and having the availability of the source containers to fill in the first place.

7. Paper pulp bottles.

There has been lots of innovation in the area of paper pulp bottles. The huge cost of collection and recycling both plastic glass and in some cases aluminium has led to the need for a more compostable solution.

Carlsberg Group has been busy working on 2 new research prototypes. These are 100 per cent bio-based and fully recyclable and made from sustainably sourced wood fibres.

One of these bottles uses a thin, recycled PET polymer film barrier to separate the liquid from the pulp, and the second a 100 per cent bio-based PEF polymer film barrier.

Companies such as Paper Water Bottle for creating bottle structures with an eco-skeleton constructed from a combination of wheat straw, bamboo, husks, sugar cane, and/or bulrush. They are incorporating increasingly less barrier material with more sustainable content. The ultimate goal is 100% biodegradable layer.

8. Bagasse.

Bagasse is a made from dry pulpy fibrous material that remains after crushing sugarcane to extract the juice. It is very similar to polystyrene in that it can be easily moulded into packaging suitable for take-aways. The big advantage though is that, it’s 100% biodegradable and compostable, and as it is a by-product of sugarcane processing, it is much more sustainable to manufacture.

Bagasse takes around 4 months to fully decompose in the ground.

9. Palm leaves.

One of the biggest pet hates for consumers is plastic packaging on fruit and veg on supermarket shelves.

Holy Lama use palm leaves to create stunning packaging for their handmade soap range. The leaves are harvested from the natural waste and leaf fall of the plant and moulded into the delicate clam shapes to contain the soap. The end result is fully biodegradable.

Berlin startup Arekapak is developing packaging for the fresh food industry and beyond using the same palm leaf packaging technology.

They produce their products in cooperation with small producers in rural areas in southern India. This helps support local manufacturers and ensure the employment of workers from the surrounding villages.

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How to create perfect packaging design.

So, how do you go about creating the perfect packaging design? Something that draws the consumer in and allows them to navigate all your products and portfolio with ease. Importantly, packaging that conveys why your product is better than the competition.

Here are our golden rules for creating the best, most successful packaging design for a brand.

1. Be single-minded:

If you are launching a product with an array of consumer benefits it’s always wise to focus on one ‘killer claim’ rather than try to hammer home absolutely everything on the front of pack. This just creates visual clutter and confusion for consumers. Rather than attract attention, the pack ends up looking like a ‘pound shop’ window!

Consumers only spend around 3-4 seconds make up their minds when scanning a pack, so it is important to get the key messaging across in the most efficient way possible.

2. Be different:

Communicating the core unique selling point is paramount for any brand. It’s no good shouting that you are the tastiest food product out there. Wouldn’t every brand want to say that? I mean, try thinking of a brand that shouts “Hi everyone, we’re quite average!”

Focus on what the product does best. It could be an ingredient, the way it is made or a service that only it offers.

3. Don’t be afraid of the blank bits:

Negative space is good. It’s your friend. Create a perfect moment of calm on pack to let the brand colour shine through and shout on shelf. Its not about trying to wedge some claim / comment / benefit /offer into any gaps just because it looks like you have space.

4. Own the shelf:

It is paramount that any new pack design works at fixture. Allocating a large portion of the pack to the brand colour or logo creates impactful signposting and draws the consumers eye.

If you try to shoehorn too much onto the pack, you risk disappearing into the shelf with the mass of messages from the rest of the competition.

This doesn’t mean removing other salient pieces of information, remember a pack is a three-dimensional item, there are multiple faces on which to convey messages and introduce a hierarchy of information.

5. Make sure your logo passes the ‘Mars Bar’ test:

“What” I hear you say? This isn’t some convoluted agency ‘trademark process’ is it?

Grab yourself a Mars Bar. Cover over part of the logo and look at what is remaining. It’s still clearly a Mars bar logo. You know that. The black, the red, the gold and the letter form, all convey the strong brand cues and messaging.

Building in ownable elements creates a fantastic visual shortcut and moves it beyond just a typeface. This creates instant recognition by the consumer and allows you to utilise your key asset successfully on multiple touchpoints.

6. Be consistent:

Wherever a logo or pack element is recreated on other products, size and positioning should be kept consistent. This uniformity creates instant recognition and authority and provides powerful blocking at fixture. If you allocate 30% of the pack to the brand logo, try to keep this relationship across all products in the portfolio.

7. Create a robust pack architecture:

Whilst this may sound like the approach you would take when designing a municipal car park, pack architecture is hugely important in defining which part to the pack holds which piece of information.

Having a robust brand area and variant area helps with the previous point on maintaining consistency. It also aids navigation for the consumer. Pack architecture should also create a perfect line of action to guide the consumer from one piece of information to the next.

Establishing a robust architecture also allows for easily extending the range into other variants and NPD.

8. Follow nature:

There are plenty of examples in nature and also classic architecture where the golden ratio has been maintained. The golden ratio details the perfect proportions and positioning of elements in relation to one another.

Whether it’s the spiral of a seashell, or the curling shoots of a seedling, these powerful principles dictate much of natures beauty and have been adopted throughout the centuries in classical architecture, painting and are even seen in facial symmetry.

9. Catch their eye:

Be different. If all the competition are green then why should you be green? If all the other packs are symmetrical then break symmetry.

IfThe elements of your pack are like actors on a stage. Each has a valuable role to play at different points in the performance. Packs need to work efficiently in 2 fields of view; from a distance as the consumer approaches the shelf and close up when they pick it up. Entice first, Educate second.

10. Have a big idea.

Probably the most important one. Successful packaging design has a big idea behind it. A clever hook. A story on which to convey the key points to the consumer and leave in their minds after they have put the pack down.

When done well, these big ideas can also have a life off pack in a brands communication strategy.

You can see some examples of how we have utilised the above to create the perfect packaging design, here. You can also find Slice’s Best Packaging Design on Design Rush.

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Free pitching.

If you ask a design agency to pitch creative ideas for free, are you approaching the project in the right way and are you going to get the best agency work back?

To free pitch or not, is something each design agency needs to decide based on the return for their initial creative investment.

If the win for the agency is a continued relationship and more paid work with a client over a bigger portfolio of products, then obviously the initial free pitch may be well worth it. The same may not be true, however, for a free pitch on a ‘one-off’ project.

Below are some of the key points that you need to consider before asking your agency to pitch for free…

1. You may not end up with the best agency fit for your project.

Free pitching creative work is part and parcel of the big budget advertising world. However, in this arena budgets are huge and investment of studio time can see rewards in excess of 20 times the initial investment of agency time. There is a huge incentive for agencies to throw their top talent against this free pitch.

Outside this world of ‘super-massive’ budgets, lets take branding and packaging design, agencies are asked to pitch for potential projects with much lower budgets.

The advantage to the client is free creative work, however, if this work is also based around defining a new brand positioning, then a sizeable piece of work needs to be undertaken by the agency well in advance of producing any actual creative or realised ideas.

The fact is, that the best agency to work on your project may ultimately not want to, as they do not want to give ideas away for free.

2. You may not get the best people working on it.

In some design studios, the work on a free pitch often tends to be squeezed in around paying projects and not given as much time as a paid project.

The other factor to look at, is that you may not get the core team on a project, only whoever is available at that point to work on it. Especially if there is a tight deadline and the right people are tied up on paid work.

So realistically, are you getting the full set of deliverables and design breadth of thinking that you would normally get from a paid first creative stage?

3. You will not own the IP of the work.

If you don’t pay for the creative work then put simply, you don’t own what is presented. The IP is retained by the agency that created the work.

We were recently in a situation where we presented work on a paid pitch. We won the pitch and one of the other ideas that we presented was saved for a project further down the line. From the clients point of view that’s a win-win they own everything that was presented including an additional design for a future rollout.

Introducing a pitch fee is one way round this. Therefore, the agency gets paid a reasonable rate for the work that they have produced and the client maintains intellectual property of everything presented at that stage.

So how should you choose an agency?

We always encourage clients to select agencies based on the three C’s: ChemistryCase studies and Credentials.

Let’s start with Chemistry. A quick phone call for a chat or an online meeting is a great way to dig around and find out – Do I want to work with these people? Don’t forget, that question works both ways!

Secondly, Case studies. The reason that you are talking to the agency in the first place is that you have seen their work and concluded that they are able to do a great job based on previous examples.

Ask yourself, do they need to prove to me that they can do an equally good job on my snack brand, or does the wealth of experience shown in their case studies and design thinking give me enough confidence?

Lastly are agency Credentials. Don’t forget, an agency is also a brand. They have to differentiate themselves and explain why they stand out from the competition and why they are right for you.

Here in the UK, we have a fantastically talented design industry. We are lucky to attract the interest of clients from all over the world. So it’s not just about design ability in an industry filled with talented individuals. Ask your agency what makes them special? What makes them stand out from the crowd? What makes them different?

You can see some of our work here.

Free pitching. Read More »

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Design trends: Why follow the herd?

Keeping on-trend.

Making sure that Pack designs are ‘on trend’ seems to be an industry buzz-word. Sure, it’s important that your pack design looks contemporary but should this be at the risk of looking like everything else thats out there?

Sticking to these trends also create situations where design executions are shoehorned into a brand. Form should follow function, not the other way round.

Design trends seem to work against the core principles of branding and differentiation. If you want to stand out from the crowd then why follow the same design trends that all your competitors are also following? It also makes showcasing a unique selling point much more difficult.

Fundamentally, the end design should answer the brief. That’s sacrosanct. It should also force differentiation and explain to consumers (and buyers) why they should use you and not your competition. If Brand X looks the same as Brand Y, you have got a mighty difficult task on your hands!


Agency offers.

This desire to stay ‘on-trend’ with packaging design can also affect agency offers. I have had a few conversations with clients where they have mentioned to me that they were considering changing their design agency because the designs that their current agency had created (for both themselves and other brands) were looking too similar.

Some design agencies have a very distinct core style, and that’s fine if that’s what you feel is right for the brand. However, if you are paying your design agency to come up with a variety of different options, that’s what they should do, not present back variations on a theme.

Design is about problem-solving, not dipping into a library of pre-created assets and force fitting them into the design ideas.

It is important for design team to draw on a wide range of inspirations and references. This makes for a much richer and rewarding solution.

If you’d like to see how we create differentiation for brands, you can see more of our work here.

Design trends: Why follow the herd? Read More »


2021 Pharmaceutical Packaging Trends

Over the years the Pharmaceutical industry has evolved greatly from its traditional form to high-tech equipments and inspiring innovations. With an increasing awareness of sustainability and the ever growing population, advancements in the market are expected to drive further growth and could exceed £84 billion by 2024. 

The Pharmaceutical industry has faced many changes in the past year. The pandemic has causing companies to revalue their strategy and approach. With all eyes on this sector, today we look at 5 emerging Pharmaceutical Packaging trends.

1. Eco-friendly packaging

Consumers have become much more aware of how their everyday activities effect the world. As the increasing trends towards ethical shopping continues there is a rise in green, sustainable packaging. With safety top of mind for the Pharmaceutical industry, it is not as simple as it is other industries to adjust their packaging solutions. However, we do have a solution. PLA Packaging which would help reduce emissions as well as producing more sustainable end product. PLA uses 65% less energy during production and is also combustible.

2. Accessible packaging

When it comes to Pharmaceutical packaging, it’s key that consumers have all information they need to understand the product. They need to be able to find the details required fast and clearly e.g dosage or ingredients without turning the product every angle to source what they are after.  Accessible product packaging should be one of the main considerations of Pharmaceutical packaging design. The increase in self-medication means that clear instructions are vital to ensure medication is taken correctly and safely.

3. Glass Formats

There is a rising demand for glass and container pharmaceutical packaging, mainly from densely populated countries such as India and China. Due to increased opportunities in these markets, Schott AG invested BRL 50 million in its pharmaceutical tubing production in Brazil. The increasing number of people with diabetes is also fluctuating the growth and demand of glass bottles for injectable pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organisation estimated 422 million people have diabetes across the world. Look out for more innovations in glass packaging due to the increased interest. 

5. Blister Packaging 

Blister packages are a popular way of packaging pharmaceutical products and this isn’t slowing down any time soon. They have gained popularity in particular to protect medicine from moisture. Companies such as Buropak and Ecobliss have recently developed blister packaging that is child proof. There are also in increasing number of companies that require visible evidence of tamping. This has driven the need for tamper evident packaging and with blister packs being deterrent to tampering, they are the ‘go to’ packaging solution. Other benefits include improved shelf life, light weight, clean area for instructions, product visibility and cost effectiveness. 

5. Smart Technology 

With ever increasing stock levels and demands, pharmaceutical companies are exploring how smart technology can be incorporated into packaging. Smart technology such a Bluetooth, NFC and QR codes are set to transform the industry. One example of smart technology for pharmaceutical packaging is temperature tracking that helps eliminate the use of unsafe products. Very smart!

With the market constantly changing to meet consumer health priorities, we expect many more trends in this fast growing sector. Furthermore, Pharmaceutical companies have a chance to meet consumer needs with their packaging that innovates and inspires. All trends are courtesy of Modor and Packaging360

If you would like to contact us about packaging design, drop us a line or meet us in person. We are located in the centre of Hammersmith, London.

2021 Pharmaceutical Packaging Trends Read More »

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Design agency jargon buster.

So much jargon. How often have you sat there in front of 6 people from the agency as they regurgitate ‘word salad’ at you with supreme confidence? They use a smorgasbord of verbal dexterity to explain the simplest of tasks. Then everyone in the room looks at one another, hoping that subtitles will pop up in front of the Strategic Planner to translate the gobbledegook that they’ve just spouted.

Here we try to break down the jargon with our dictionary definitions of agency bull.


Are you a hero, explorer, lover or creator? Whilst this may be relevant if you are writing the next Harry Potter novel, it has little relevance to your brand.


About 10 years ago, design agencies became design consultancies almost overnight. In our opinion consultants belong in hospitals not design studios.

“Equity Analysis”

Stock market planning? Or reminding you of your logo and other important bits, again. 


Research done by nosey ‘ologists’ who look in people’s bins for insights.


The dark art of seeing into the future usually undertaken by visionary (see below) who tell us that in 2026, Harrow On The Hill will all be painted lime and the only people that live there will be called Sebastian. Even some of the dogs.

“International Agency Network”

This is often a small outpost in some far off glamorous location masquerading as a fully functioning design agency.“Yes, of course we have an office in Shanghai. No, we’d rather not share your project with them.”

“Retail Safari”

Paying for a member of the design team to scurry round Tesco’s taking photo’s whilst avoiding security guards. Shouldn’t they know what the competition looks like anyway?


Paying someone to tell you that red = danger and that blue = corporate. Genius.


Some agencies utilise fancy trademark processes in order to qualify why this “process” cost you so much. Ask them to see the trademarking documentation.


For those of us that played Dungeons & Dragons in the early 80s this sounds like something from page 267 in the Monster Manual. In fact, this is someone who can apparently see into the future.

“Visual Planning”

This is usually a combination of a A1 mood board and long words. Very long words.

Feel free to send us any that you’ve encountered that we can add to the list.

Please send all entries on a postcard to:

Slice Jargon Buster, Slice design Ltd, 12 Glenthorne Mews, Hammersmith, W6 0LJ

Design agency jargon buster. Read More »

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How to brief your design agency (to get the best results).

We’ve all heard the stories of agencies and designers being briefed on the back of a fag packet or post-it notes. Briefings take many shapes and forms. Some are very thorough, others are very top line and need a lot of digging around work out the objectives.

You can only do a great piece of work if you get a great brief. By a great brief, what I mean is a very detailed explanation of what your key aims are along with any mandatories.

Now, whether you are designing a flavour extension to a product, or repositioning an entire range of FMCG products, the core principles of briefing remain the same. In order to make sure that you are happy with the deliverables, you need to pull together a ‘bobby-dazzler’ of a brief!

So, how do you go about doing this?

Part 1: Gather the information.

1. Highlight the main business issue and define the objectives.

Design and branding is all about problem-solving. If we understand what the problem is upfront, it’s a lot easier to solve it. It may seem obvious, but highlight the problem rather than what you think should be the solution. The reason being, there may be an easier (and more cost effective) way to crack the problem.

2. Include the wider team.

Most projects require the input of members of the wider team, it could be that the printer needs to advise on number of colours and cutter guides changes. It could be regulatory that need to define distinct claims. It’s good to get these team members involved in the beginning stages so that the brief addresses all of their requirements front on rather than when you have received the first draft back. 

3. What is your degree of change?

This is a great way to define how far you want to change the look and feel of what you have already. If you think of ‘1’ as evolution and ’10’ as revolution. Try to think where along this line would be most comfortable seeing design solutions. That way we can manage expectations when we present back.

4. The budget.

Be realistic. If you have a budget in mind at the beginning of a project, always include this in the brief. That means that the deliverables can be tailored to suit the available budget.
What have you paid for a similar project previously? The agency proposal will detail the methodology and costings for a certain number of studio hours to complete the task. In the last 10 years also, budget and deliverables have tended to move into opposing directions. Yes, there is always somebody willing to do it for cheaper. But is cheaper always necessarily the best option? How many times have you gone for a cheaper option and regretted it?

5. Define the timescales.

Everybody wants the project delivering the week before last. The most important part of any creative process is the initial concept generation and this is where most of the time should be invested. 
A project timeline is there to illustrate how long it will take to successfully complete the project. 

6. Briefing the design team.

It’s never a good idea to send over a lengthy Word document on its own, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Always take the time to talk the agency through the brief. This gives the agency an opportunity to flag up any key questions and iron out any key issues in advance of starting the project.

It also provides a great forum for discussion to explore ideas not in the brief or stop them in their path!

Part 2: The Creative response

7. Creating the proposal.

The proposal is a working document. It’s the agencies understanding of what you want to do and details the costings, timings and methodology involved in getting to the final piece of creative.

All design projects are organic and often deliverables change through the course of working. That may be adding some deliverables or removing some. In some cases it can mean adding entirely new stages such as a consumer testing et cetera. These will obviously effect the cost.

The cost is based on the deliverables. It might be that one of the design routes chosen to take through to artwork involves very complex bespoke photography or it may be that it’s very simplistic and minimalistic. Clearly each of these two very different routes can have very different costing structures as they involve different skill sets and different set of deliverables.

8. Feeding back on the proposal

The proposal is a working document and there to be input on. It takes time to pull together to detail the costing and methodology and skillset at each stage. It is a little late once this has been worked out to then explain to the agency that your budget is only 50% of what they have stated in the proposal if you knew the figure all along! (see budget section)

Most client jump to the back page look at the cost and respond to that. In my experience, projects rarely to follow the same path, with the same deliverables. Looking at an evolution, with 4 flavours that follow a master design is obviously a lot more straightforward than looking at an innovation project that may require a different tiering strategy in a product portfolio even though there are less SKU’s.

It’s healthy to challenge what is presented back. Ultimately it’s the role of the design agency to explain why they have taken a particular route.

You can see what a great brief produces here.

How to brief your design agency (to get the best results). Read More »

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