Increasing Value-Added Product Sales through Improved Labeling – Packaging
“Increasing Value-Added Product Sales through Improved Labeling & Packaging” researches and compiles a variety of low or no cost options that farmers like myself can readily access and use to increase the overall visual marketing appeal of their value-added canned items, with a particular focus on farms processing under cottage food laws.
These different options will be tested in farmer and consumer focus groups during our on-farm events, MOSES events and with our B&B guests. While my research will focus on my pickles and sauerkraut value-added items, the results of this research can be used in a variety of products and contexts such as baked goods.
Topics I’m researching and testing include:
- Label design (free/low cost template options, font choice, color, etc.) **
- Label production (format recommendations, adhesive options, labelers) **
- Jar sourcing & recycling (ways to increase customers return and reuse of glass canning jars)
- Jar Packaging (accessories to increase marketing appeal such as fabric toppers and ribbon) **
- Consumer education (ways to increase sales through educating customers through recipes, serving tips, etc.)
- Co-packaging multiple products for gift baskets
- Market display ideas
- Marketing ideas specific to holiday sales
- Ways that value-added sales can boost other farm product sales (i.e., including contact info, coupon, etc.)
- Creating efficient methods of production (i.e. labeling/packaging most efficiently)
- Methods to transport to market
** Note: Priority will be placed on materials and sources that use post-consumer content and other forms of sustainable materials and recycled items.
Final packaging ideas will be photographed, including step-by-step demonstrations.
This information will then be compiled into an online Toolkit with photos and hyperlinks to resources, which would be available as a free online resource. The focus of this Toolkit will be on canned products (i.e., items in Mason-style glass jars); however, much of this information can also be used by farmers doing other forms of products, from soaps to baked goods.
Topic outline for the Toolkit is as follows:
- How to design and produce labels efficiently, including ways to attractively adhere to your state’s requirements and branding your farm
- Ways to add simple, cost-effective visual appeal to jars
- Increasing sales through gift baskets, holiday targeting
- Managing your time: Label & package efficiently
- Manage your inventory: Safe transport to market
This project is on track with the proposed timeline as objectives in 2015 focused on research and learning in package and label design. I’m now at the point where I can start creating samples for feedback and further refinement.
Research in this area included both online research and perusing various art and craft sites and stores for material ideas. Additionally, an area not mentioned in the original proposal but that has proved very helpful is visiting farmers’ markets and interviewing cottage food operators and photographing their products. There was much learning to be harvested and everyone was very helpful and open in sharing their resources and ideas.
Farmers Markets in states outside of Wisconsin that currently operate under more expansive and opportunistic cottage food laws proved to be extremely insightful. While traveling to Florida and California, visits to the farmers’ markets turned into “treasure troves” of ideas and resources as those two states have particularly strong cottage food laws with multiple cottage food operators at any market I went to.
This research process proved to be an interesting and “out-of-the-farm-box” experience as most farmers like myself have backgrounds in growing produce, but the actual art of design and strategic display is out of my experience box. This process reinforced the importance of this Toolkit; if label font and color choice are challenging to me, they undoubtedly will be to other farmers as well which results in my current more “homespun” look.
• To help simplify the design process for farmers and create a more efficient Toolkit, I will focus on five categories, each offering a distinct look to choose from:
1) Modern: Clean, simple
2) Rustic: “Farmstead” country; shabby chic
3) Feminine: Pretty, female-appealing design & colors
4) Whimsical: Zentangle-inspired fun look
5) Holiday: Focus on Christmas sales
For the focus groups, I will have a few different “looks” within each category to gather responses to.
• These categories will offer recommended fonts, colors, jar design, etc.
• Will create the Toolkit as a fully online resource as this will be much more efficient for farmers to use as it will include many hyperlinks (i.e., direct to free fonts to download to create the above five categories). Additionally, I’m planning on having many more photographs than originally planned to illustrate these options as I myself am learning that when it comes to design, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” These designs will therefore be much easier and cost efficient to communicate via online visuals and graphics.
• I was pleased to find that Avery brand labels offers a wide range of sizes fairly cost-efficient. Originally I was planning to research/purchase a labeler, but am leaning toward just using these easy-to-use sticky labels in various sizes and shapes that are readily available at office supply stores. The result will be much more cost efficient option and more readily adaptable if a producer decides to change a name or description.
• The focus groups I originally outlined in the proposal primarily focused on surveying and gathering feedback from farmers, which I will still do, but I realized that more importantly, we need to gather responses from the end consumer. What packaging is more appealing and which one would they buy? I will do this at several larger consumer-focused events where we will have a farm booth at this spring, potentially including the Women’s Resource Fair (Lake Geneva, WI), FairShare Annual CSA Open House (Madison, WI) and the Good Food Festival (Chicago, IL). I am targeting women as they would make the majority of these value-added purchase decisions.
• My original timeline outlined taking photos of sample products for the focus groups; however, I’m finding it easier and more effective to visually show folks the actual jar rather than a photo. This photography savings will enable us to focus more resources on photography for the final Toolkit. I’m also considering adding some video elements to the toolkit.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
While full impact will come about in this next phase, response to this project has been very strong and inspiring. At various workshops I’ve done on cottage food business start-ups, including two workshops at the MOSES 2015 Conference which were among the event’s highest rated sessions, I’ve been collecting names of people interested in this toolkit which now run over 500 names.