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Riffels Flavored Coffee


Sam Riffels, a veteran coffee purveyor who added a flavored coffee business to his other enterprises several years ago, originally wanted Tracy Holdeman to design only a corrugated counter display to help him increase both his sales and the number of outlets that distributed his line. Despite its youth and small size, his new business, the Riffels Coffee Company, had built a substantial retail outlet base in every state except Hawaii. In view of this success, Tracy suggested –and Riffels agreed–that a name change to Riffels Gourmet Flavored Coffee and a creatively exciting overhaul of its primary packaging would serve his marketing needs better that the proposed display alone.

Tracy created a series of packages aimed at the client's target customer, the first-time buyer in specialty and gift shops. This, of course, called for strong shelf projection, a quality look, uniqueness, and character. In addition, Tracy's solutions go beyond appearance to meet the practical requirements the product would encounter shops. The packages–two prepackaged poly bags, one kraft, and one white paper bag–feature a bold, colorful die-cut label, reminiscent of the 1930s and '40s.

The geometric label confines the most important information to the area of highest contrast, placing the brand name in white on a red circle at the top. Essentially, the label is a circle with three colored panels running down from it–a black panel in the center and other ones on each side. Wavy bands of gold on the other represent steam rising from cups of coffee. On the black panel, the flavor–vanilla nut, swiss chocolate, raspberry, etc–and a small illustration of the flavor agent are printed in metallic gold, while other information and a drawing of mountain peaks are dropped in the ocher.

"We achieved a high-quality look," suggests designer Tracy Holdeman, "by hand illustrating the entire label, by the way we used color, and by referencing the style of the '30s and '40s. My large collection of match books from that period was our only historical source. They are filled with multiple typefaces, hand-drawn type and imperfect illustrations, strong graphic clichés like the steam we used, and powerful color breaks. Nothing of this was reproduced: nothing was exact. Only the general style and feel was absorbed and recreated intuitively."

"We thought the red and white triggered memories of tried-and-true coffee brands from years ago, while the gold and black gave style to the traditional colors," adds Holdeman. A small figure rushing to deliver a cup of steaming coffee brings gold to the center of the circle and enhances the period feel.

The hand-drawn label was designed for printing by inexpensive flexography. "The process is like having a rubber stamp for each color," explains Holdeman. "The jagged black lines that separate most of the color breaks hide the misregistration because the black overprints each butting color by more than 1/32". Since the metallic gold of the rising steam has no black line separating it from the other, it was overprinted to avoid problems." Final colors were red PMS 200, ocher PMS 131, black, and metallic gold.

Only the die-cut and substrate change when the labels are affixed to bags. The stand-up, reclosable bags in either black or gold get the full die-cut. The black bag is sold in specialty and gift shops; the gold bag in a few serious coffee stores and eateries that serve interesting coffees. White bags get a die-cut of the product trademark and flavor designation with a coffee cup and steam panel for closure. The kraft bag for plain coffee uses only the circle trademark, and the cup and gold steam are printed on kraft matte-finish substrate. All of these packages, although designed for different stores, are displayed at specialty gift shops and gourmet food stores.

The primary alternative among a number of presented color comprehensives had a 1950's look with a script brand name and a prominent coffee cup with steam. Like the other rejects, it was deemed to lack strong shelf projection.

The brisk timetable–with a budget of $2500–allowed three days from start to finish mock-ups and another four days for finished camera-ready art. Introduction of the packages was completed in 1993, followed by increases in sales and distribution outlets. The client, however, believed it was still too early at the time to know whether the upward trend could be attributed to the new packaging or market growth.



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