Designer's Corner - Bananas About Fruit

Posted: May 2, 2014 by
Will Burke

Every banana aspires to be a Chiquita, but what if Chiquita wanted to be known for more than great bananas? As brand designers, we relish the opportunity to help a well-known company launch a product that extends the brand into new market territory.
With their new Fruit Crushie, Chiquita took a bold step into the competitive fruit snack market with a drinkable, 100% crushed fresh fruit snack in a single-serving bottle. The concept tested well and proved capable of creating a whole new niche between fruit snacks and fruit beverages.
With product development complete, Chiquita sought the expertise of Brand Engine, a brand strategy and packaging design firm based in Sausalito, CA, to help conceptualize the Fruit Crushie’s position in the marketplace, develop the brand story, and complete the packaging design. The only requirements were to work with their proprietary, 100% recycled plastic bottle and to draw upon the Chiquita heritage of delivering freshness and taste.
Before design exploration can begin, Brand Engine completes a discovery and strategy phase to understand the market, identify the target customer and establish the product’s core essence. Three questions are answered: Who am I? What am I? and Why am I right for you? The sooner in the process you answer these three questions, the clearer the product offering and the more successful the results. With the Who, What and Why answered, the package designer’s work has clear direction.

WHO I Am: I am part of the Chiquita heritage of bringing fresh produce to your table.
With the Fruit Crushie, Brand Engine first had to understand its potential and what made it unique. Like the banana, the Fruit Crushie is a perfect snack—tasty, refreshing and easy to consume. It’s not just a beverage, but a way for people to eat fruit differently in a transportable, drinkable form.
The Chiquita brand was already well established, and the main strategy concern was how to differentiate this product from other fruit snacks while bringing something new back to the Chiquita brand. Through the exploration of a range of design concepts, the clear winner was the one that embraced the brand’s banana yellow and iconic blue Chiquita sticker. Even though there was a lot of creative leeway, it made sense to tap into Chiquita’s strong brand equity, especially when done in a new and refreshing way. Although this was on the right track, it turned out that the product formulas did not all contain banana. While leading with the brand’s heritage, it seemed disingenuous to sell consumers on a product that did not contain Chiquita’s most famous fruit. “The company had a great product and the idea was innovative, but brand recognition was predicated on making a connection to the banana. Without that connection, the design falls apart. The design firm firmly believed that it was not wise to use the banana motif and blue sticker if there wasn’t banana in the product.
Asking a client to reformulate its product at this point in the process is not approached lightly. Brand Engine worked collaboratively with Chiquita to explore this option, eventually convincing them that adding banana to each of its flavors would solidify the product’s positioning and bring it instant credibility. With the new formulations, product and package worked together to deliver on the Chiquita promise.

WHAT I Am: I am a 100% crushed fresh fruit snack.
The key design challenge was to tell a visual story that positioned Chiquita as more than a banana company while creating a clear sense of flavor, freshness and delight. The visual metaphor of bottle-as-banana, peeling back to reveal whole fresh fruits, clearly illustrates what’s inside while bringing a dose of fun to the “what am I” story. The whole fruit illustrations and graphic elements such as the “100% Crushed Fruit” message further reinforce the idea of drinkable snack rather than just drink.
Chiquita had given the product a working title of “Fruit Freshie,” but the team kept coming back to the crushed aspect of the product. Unlike other fruit drinks, Chiquita’s formula took whole fruit and crushed it, creating a mixture of juice and tasty fruit bits. It was this unique attribute that set the product apart. The final design carries the proposed name “Fruit Crushie,” instantly conveying the product’s distinct advantage over other fruit beverages and snacks.

WHY I’m Right For You: I’m a convenient and healthy way to satisfy your hunger for fresh fruit.
In order to create packaging that connects with the target customer, it is necessary to understand what matters to her. In the case of the Fruit Crushie, that customer is the active, health-conscious mom who wants to be sure her kids get enough fresh fruit.
Package graphics and communications would need to illustrate how Chiquita’s product would meet her expectations: offering all the health benefits of fresh fruit while eliminating its short shelf life, promising a refreshing taste that ensures kids will finish it, and packaged in a convenient serving size that makes it a natural for school lunches and on-the-go snacking.
The size and shape of the bottle, its price point and its placement in the produce aisle were already working for us in communicating “right size at the right price.” The graphics and messaging clearly communicate delicious taste and health benefits while letting the brand personality come through. Chiquita’s blue, glossy emblem inspires trust in quality. Its placement at different angles across the product line gives it a handplaced look, further reinforcing the idea that farmers had a role in getting the product to the table.
The Fruit Crushie project demonstrates the potential for heritage brands to successfully leverage their DNA in new categories. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of collaboration. Working together, Brand Engine and Chiquita were able to strengthen the product’s positioning, establish its brand personality and create its authentic expression on package. In test markets, the Fruit Crushie is crushing its projected success at a ratio of 3 to 1—exactly the kind of success that Chiquita and Brand Engine envisioned.

Will Burke is the founder and CEO of Brand Engine, a strategic branding and design firm in Sausalito, CA. Will has been focusing on consumer brands in the food and beverage category for over 20 years. His passion is changing the conversation with the consumer to drive sustainable business results. Will can be reached via info@brandengine.com.