Far Beyond Farming

Posted: April 8, 2012 by
Ben P. Rosenfield

How do you brand a philosophy? How do you communicate its message in product form? How do you introduce it on a package? These are some of the questions Fair Oaks Farms Brands (Chicago, IL) asks when developing concepts into consumer goods. These big questions guide the company in its mission to wrap a consumer-facing identity around a really big idea.

Fair Oaks Farms (Fair Oaks, IN) is a large-scale dairy operation that uses closed-loop functionality and sustainability to enhance product efficacy, quality and safety while emphasizing fairness to the planet, the cows, the crops, the land and people—in essence, working for the betterment of everything and everyone.

So how does this grand plan translate into products and their packaging? The answer is much simpler than you might imagine. The products themselves are the Fair Oaks Farms philosophy distilled into an accessible form, and their packaging is evolving to become one of the movement’s most important messengers.

Not just a farm
Fair Oaks Farms is high tech. It features a recovery plant that converts cattle waste into methane via anaerobic digestion to power the farm’s generators. The methane also is a source for compressed natural gas to fuel the milk trucks.

The farm’s founder, Dr. Mike McCloskey, is a veterinarian, farmer, scientist and inventor. Among his creations is a patented membrane filtration system that, simply put, is designed to separate the five parts of milk—fat, water, protein, lactose and minerals—keep them in solution and recombine them in different quantities or proportions. This technology is key to the creation of the products Fair Oaks Farms Brands brings to market, the first of which was a sports-recovery drink.

Athletes HoneyMilk
In 2009, Fair Oaks Farms debuted Athletes HoneyMilk, a beverage formulated to return lost protein to muscles.

“Your muscles give up protein when you go out for a run or use an elliptical crosstrainer or play soccer,” says Steve Jones, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms Brands. “The faster you have your protein, the faster your muscles will recover. In that regard, it’s part of your workout.”

Athletes HoneyMilk was intended to attract a wide variety of active people, from those who maintain exercise routines to elite athletes. McCloskey created a great product with a sensible name, according to Jones—after all, it was for athletes, it was sweetened with natural honey and it came from milk. However, its packaging and branding required some adjustments in order to draw interest from such a broad market.

McCloskey spent a year selling Athletes HoneyMilk packaged in Tetra Pak boxes, handing out samples of it at running events and encouraging people to go online and buy it. When Jones came on board, he and McCloskey discussed the product’s presentation and looked at ways to improve its appeal.
“We talked about how the box itself stands for a certain type or class or product,” Jones recalls. “A PET bottle is higher quality, so I suggested we shift to PET. This was early 2010. And then, through the course of two years of talking to customers who were at our booths or e-mailing us, some mentioned: ‘I don’t get your name. I don’t feel that I’m an athlete. I’m active and I’m working out, but it’s just for athletes.’”

Other customers described honey as a thick, syrupy ingredient and wondered whether they’d want to drink something like that after exercising or competing. And milk came with its own baggage, as Jones puts it, because consumers who enjoyed milk as kids no longer drank it as adults and wouldn’t even think about drinking it after a workout.

Core Power
Fair Oaks Farms Brands had already tested a variety of names extensively and selected Core Power to replace Athletes HoneyMilk by the time Jones began collaborating with Kaleidoscope (Chicago, IL), the agency that worked with Fair Oaks Farms Brands on the package redesign.

“Core Power was relevant to a broader audience of people, so we were shifting the position from elite athletes to people who work out, care for their body, want to be healthy and understand that having protein is a part of their workout,” Jones says. “Your audience goes from 2% or 3% of the population up to 30% of the population, so you have to give them a name that’s relevant to them as opposed to being relevant just to the product. Core Power is somewhere between a functional and emotional-benefit-oriented name.”

Fair Oaks Farms Brands had three consumer-centered objectives for Kaleidoscope to meet when reworking Core Power’s package design: tell them the name really clearly, tell them the level of protein in it and communicate great taste.

The packaging redesign involved removing the graphical depiction of athletes to eliminate the confusion about the intended market; placing a large product name on the front of the shrink-sleeve label to yield a prominent identifier on shelf; adding a strong visual cue about protein content to help inform consumers about the purpose of the beverage; and including bold, colorful, flavor-related graphics to tell a compelling story about taste.

Gary Chiappetta, president and CEO of Kaleidoscope, says the design transition from Athletes HoneyMilk to Core Power involved visits from Jones and Fair Oaks Farms Brands almost every other day. The interactions, he explains, allowed Kaleidoscope to draw Jones and his team into the process, exchange ideas and feedback, and challenge the redesign’s direction.

“Co-creation, iterative thinking and iterative prototyping are so important to how we work,” Chiappetta says. “We looked at the market and built an entire wall of images together to identify who this target market is and isn’t—and who else we want to draw in. It then went from the essence of the brand—movement, strength and confidence—to taste appeal, flavor and protein. When you look at the whole lineup, you can see it’s really driven by flavor.”

The brand’s next moves
“We’re almost designing from the shelf out to the consumer, and 50% to 60% of the marketing is going to happen on the shelf,” Jones says. “On the back of the bottle, for the very first time, we have added this idea of Fair Oaks Farms, and Mike McKloskey’s brand is down at the bottom. We’re making a declaration about Fair Oaks Farms, and I think we’ll migrate that to a larger font and a more prominent location on the bottle over time.”

And speaking of the bottle, the PET structure Core Power inherited from its Athletes HoneyMilk predecessor is set to change. Jones wants a signature shape, and he says Kaleidoscope is working on that very actively right now. He describes the current bottle shape as an industry standard and one that the co-packer Fair Oaks Farms Brands uses can process effectively.

Chiappetta explains that a newly designed structure won’t be used just for Core Power. Instead, he envisions it as something that will clearly define all products as originating from Fair Oaks Farms. He envisions the next step as the creation of a consumer-facing brand that will have multiple products with the same identity as the philosophical movement: fairness.

“I don’t think anybody is doing that anywhere,” he says. “It’s a huge leap.”

For more information, visit Kaleidoscope,