Navigating the Natural Channel

Posted by | October 30, 2015 |

Written by Kelly Criswell

What many people believed was a fad, is here to stay. The natural channel is quickly growing, as consumers (especially millennials!) care more and more about what goes into their body. As people convert to “organic” or “all natural” diets, Big Food companies are looking to get into the organic/all natural game. But where to start?

So Many Claims!


Organic, Local, Gluten-Free, rBST Free, No Pesticides, Nothing Artificial, and on and on! In a sea of health claims it is hard to decide which ones deserve center stage on your package. While there may be many things a healthy product can claim, we feel it’s best to focus on 4 or less on the primary display panel so the consumer doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Leave the rest for the back panel. Which claims have the most traction amongst consumers? In this 2014 study, Nielsen found that the claims that US consumers were most willing to pay a premium for were Organic and Non-GMO, followed closely by All Natural.

Packaging Trends in the Natural Category

Less is More!


One trend we see in natural packaging is simplicity and minimalism. This graphic style helps to convey a clean product, lends itself to clear communication of product info and strong pure branding. The old “brown paper bag” organic look is falling by the wayside as more and more products take on white, clean graphics. Sans serif typography, simplicity of shape, and hard lines often punctuate this look.

Nothing to Hide

Leave the tricky wording to the “big” brands- the natural channel is all about transparency. All the ingredients are present and accounted for- in fact we know which farm they came from! Sustainability, humane practices- these themes are front and center in the form of a visual (or written) story. Utilizing farm scenes, natural shapes, descriptive branding, and illustration can help visually craft the brand’s origin story and give the consumer a sense of brand honesty.

A Sense of Whimsy

What are those little touches that create an emotional appeal between brands and consumers? It’s the small, quirky details that give a package authenticity and personality. A fun trend we are seeing now is a humanness to the packaging- no big corporate branding but small, honest branding with a human touch. We’re talking hand drawn elements, vintage inspiration, and all the little quirky details that let you know that this product is something special.

Hand-labeled Simplicity

For a really authentic small-batch feel, a lot of companies are opting for a simplistic hand-labeled look. This style is typically created for one or two color printing, sometimes with hand written or silkscreened elements. This personal approach to packaging feels authentically homespun and reinforces the idea that the resources go toward creating an outstanding product, not towards printing flashy 4-color packaging graphics.

Founding Fathers (& Mothers!)

With Ben & Jerry’s as the classic example, many natural/organic food companies refer to a person (or people) as the founders and driving force behind the company. Sometimes this refers to a real person, but often not. Either way, this type of branding gives the consumer a feeling of grounding, trust, and authenticity you won’t get with a more corporate brand name. In an environment where consumers are losing trust in Big Food companies, this is a useful tactic.


These are just some of our observations in the natural channel- we’d love to hear yours! Let’s get the conversation started.


Kelly Criswell is Vice President of Creative and Client Services at Gammon Ragonesi Associates.