The background to Outstanding By Design, 10th May 2014

When I started to write Biabeag in November 2010 I quickly started to focus on a topic where my passion for great, real food and design converged – the brands and packaging which I saw every time I shopped.

So for about a year and a half I wrote regular blog posts, commissioned guest posts, reviewed books and gave talks on the topic of great artisan food packaging design.

This was and is important to me because so often I saw the obvious passion and talent of real food producers disappear when it came to their products on a shelf – lousy designs, obscure logos and confused messaging which gave no clues to the great food contained within.

I know at least part of why that happens because of my work in digital with clients – helping them through the process of website design. The lack of clarity around requirements, inability to pick relevant and good designers and no capability to manage the ongoing process all make the likely end result a source of disappointment.

Hence this day. Through 7 case studies combining food producers and designers we will find out what went right for each of them and get a sense of having a great brand/packaging in place helped increase sales and distribution.

Screenshot 2014-04-22 10.24.04

I’m looking forward to it :-). And having Giles Calver,  the author of the book (What is Packaging Design) which  I reviewed in 2011 there will be an added bonus.

Click here for more information on the day and lineup.


Paddy O’Connell and his @paddyosgranola brand

This is the latest post featuring the brand and packaging designs which will be discussed on 10th May at Outstanding By Design.

I first met Paddy at the Waterford Harvest Festival in 2010 – you can see him and the first packaging below!

Waterford Harvest Festival - Ireland

Since then the business has grown in leaps and bounds and he commissioned Brand Union to do a full piece of work on the overall visual identity and his packaging. This is what Sarah Maguire had to say about the work they did:

We were excited to meet Paddy for the first time. We had of course heard his story; college graduate starts making his own granola in a room above his parent’s pub and selling it at local farmers markets. In a short space of time, he found himself with a thriving small business, and Paddy O’s Granola was born. When Paddy came in to chat with us, it became very clear how this guy had achieved so much in just a few years. His enthusiasm, energy and passion filled our meeting room. As we got to know Paddy we could see that these traits were not limited to his business approach. It’s his way of life, and it’s infectious! Yet his brand didn’t reflect these qualities.
With the brand positioning reworked to truly reflect Paddy’s approach, ‘Get the most out of life’ gave us our starting point for the creative thinking. I worked closely with the design team to think about how we could realise this on pack in a true and compelling way. We knew the product was all natural, tasty, and good for you. What we really needed to dial up was the end benefit. So we focused on three of Paddy’s favourite sports, drawing from his real life experiences and memories. His hill running story is inspired by his own Grandmother who used to go up the same hill every day, all of her life. Obviously high energy levels run in the family! This was brought to life in an illustration style featuring Paddy himself, with a new pack format for better shelf standout. The approach was to be simple, graphic, and striking, with a characteristic ‘O’ window to reveal the great product within, and to serve as the basis for each different activity reflected on the different flavour packs. The strong and simple colour palette really helps it stand out in a busy category.
The rebrand has been hugely successful for Paddy. By sharing his new brand look and feel as part of his entry into a media competition, he won €150,000 worth of outdoor advertising space, has had a 100% lift in sales since June 2012, and increased nationwide listings of the brand. Now Paddy is getting the most out of his brand, as well as life! 
Paddy O"Granola

Paddy O”Granola

You can hear Sarah and Paddy talk more about the process they went through on 10th May – information and tickets here.



Meet the Cheese Makers – thank you

Last night was great, it went really well. Thanks as always to Julie and Rod our hosts in Highbank Orchard for the work they put in getting the room ready for the event. You can see it here, thats a lot of effort and works so well. IMG_6574   Our 3 makers shared so much about their stories and the making of their cheeses. And samples were passed around constantly! Accompanied by baguettes from the Spelt Baker. The 3 again were:

This is the raw video of the entire Biabeag Meet The Cheese Makers event on 5th April at Highbank Organic Orchard. With us were:Thanks to for shooting for us. All post production failings are mine!

Some timing notes:

5:22 Siobhan

38:55 Helen

1:08 Tom

1:40 General Q&A including a couple of opportunities for people considering entering the artisan cheese market

1:42:30 Specific discussion around scaling an artisan food business through to end. This one was initiated by me and I found it really informative.

I am waiting on a full set of photos of the evening so here are a couple shot by me.


There was a audience of 60 in the room and on a show of hands between a third and a half had travelled from outside Kilkenny. That is so good to see – thank you for making the effort to join us and celebrate these makers and real cheese :-)

Next up is Outstanding By Design on 10th May – a brand and packaging day mostly for food producers

Meet the Craft Brewers is on 7th June (8 Degrees, White Gypsy and Metalman)

Meet the Roasters is on 20th Sept (Ponaire, 3FE and Badger & Dodo)


Katu Honey, Laura Macaulay and Value Added in Africa

My original goal for Outstanding By Design on 10th May was to feature case studies of great Irish food visual design and packaging. It made sense given the strength of the work done here in Ireland.  For that reason I omitted a number of really strong food brands whose work was done by UK based agencies.

And then Laura emailed me with details of the work done by Value-Added in Africa, a not-for-profit based in Dublin and which works with charities in Uganda. I’d recently met with Michael Carey and the memory of his sharing of the work of a couple of charities he is associated with (Soul of Haiti and Traidlinks) was still vivid.

So here is a case study combining the work of an Irish Designer and a Ugandan product. In the words of Laura herself.

What was the goal of the piece of work?

In October 2013 Value-Added in Africa (VAA) contacted me to ask if I would be interested in helping them to rebrand a honey product for an African charity called Ka tutandike, based in Uganda. They had existing packaging, which they had been using for the past year in local markets, but had received feedback that it wasn’t visually appealing or engaging enough for consumers. They wanted to bring the product to the EU market and recognized the need for new packaging.



The design brief was to create an eye-catching and contemporary design. It needed to effectively capture the imagination of the consumer and convey the brand values of this unique social enterprise.

Ka tutandike do amazing work in Kampala, Uganda, helping to empower women and youths with disabilities by teaching them the skills to produce their own honey. This allows them to earn a much needed income in a safe and secure environment. The proceeds from the honey is then fed back into Ka tutandike’s community projects.

Most Ugandans have forest space around their homes and the Ugandan women involved in the programme have their traditional beehives in trees behind their homes. One woman hangs her hive on her coffee tree in her back garden! We loved this intimacy and wanted to draw on this concept for the design.


It was also important that the product would work both regionally and in the EU market so the design needed to strike a balance across the cultures.

As part of the process VAA conducted a packaging design feedback survey with targeted questions to help find out what’s important to today’s consumer. This generated 270 survey responses and helped to inform the final design choice.


There were two flavour variants of honey – dark and light Amber which are sold in 300g and 500g jars. We helped to differentiate the two flavours through colour coding on the tamper proof seal. With the help of copywriters we were able to bring the brand story to life. The labels and jars are printed and sourced in Africa.

What is the element of your work in the project which you are most proud of?

This was a great meeting of minds and experiences from the client, packaging design co-coordinator, copywriters and designer. Everyone really put their heart into this project. By improving Katu’s packaging design I am very proud to have helped this great product get the recognition it deserves.


What was the most difficult compromise?

Budgets and sourcing considerations meant that the original jar was made from plastic with the standard bright yellow lid. In the short term we have suggested changing the colour of the lid to custom green lid so it will feel more natural and organic. Ka tutandike are working towards hopefully changing to a better quality glass jar in the future, which will be better for the environment too! There were also some cultural differences when it came to the copy. Certain text that would resonate well here would not resonate well there and vice versa; therefore, creating copy that would be attractive in both locales was a difficult task.

Thanks to Laura for the above and really looking forward to hearing from her on the day. More information on Outstanding By Design including full line up and a link to booking here.


Steve Simpson on the role of the client brief and starting off as an illustrator

We will have a separate blog post between now and 10th May (Outstanding By Design) on Steve’s work with Mics Chilli, his food producer partner on the day.

In the meantime found this really nicely shot and post produced short interview with him. I have included some snippets from the interview underneath.



Illustrator and designer

Steves uncle was a cartoonist with Beano and Dandy and that is where it all kicked off for him.

He ended up doing technical Illustration in college and then TV animation in Manchester (Danger Mouse)

After 8 or 9 years he ended up back in Ireland and illustration. He hit the ground running with digital and is appreciative of the opportunities. But he does create everything with a pencil – drawn and redrawn. Then scanned into Photoshop.

Behind each piece of work is the client brief and the message they want to convey. It always has to be grounded in a brief – the client identifies the problem which they need solved. That problem solving is difficult. Recently Fade St menu cover very successful. The brief was a busy menu cover and he was given a lot of freedom in the execution.

For recent graduates

Starting off in illustration? Find your hook to stand out. First couple of years are a learning curve when you develop your drawing skills, your observation skills, your getting the message over skills.

With briefs they need to be inspiring yet practical.

He reckons that the balance of illustration and design is really important. Approach someone in a farmers market, understand their requirements and design for them.

More information and the full line up for Outstanding By Design here.



Gubbeen, Fingal Ferguson, Lorenzo Tonti and an enduring brand

Once upon a time a graphic designer based in Waterford/Kilkenny decided to help found the South-East’s first Slow Food Convivium and, because he was good that way, he also helped out the national Slow Food group with their website and design.

During that time Lorenzo met with the founder of Gubbeen, Giana Ferguson and that is how his long association with the brand and their packaging kicked off.

On 10th May Lorenzo and Fingal Ferguson (Giana’s son) will be kicking off the day and they will start with that initial piece of work by Lorenzo:

Q – What was the initial scope of the work?

A – Brief (if I remember correctly, we’ve been collaborating since around 2001/2) was to redesign the brand, make it ore lively and fresh – that included the ‘logo’ and packaging. The project evolved into what we have today, more and diverse products and applications. It was my intention from the start to create a long-standing brand which could grow with the business.

Q – What are you most proud of within the work?

A – The flexibility, longevity and overall feel of the brand. It hasn’t grown tired. Plus, the relationship between client and designer: one of the most fulfilling I’ve ever had.

Q – any particular compromises that stick out for you?

A – I don’t think any of us compromised. Not in the products, not in the design. We found a balanced way of working which suited the creative minds of makers and designer, and that’s what makes the partnership successful.

Sounds like a great one to start with – there is a lot to be learned from that relationship and the enduring strength of the brand.

More information on Outstanding By Design including full line up and a link to booking here.



Kilkenny – Health board approved commercial kitchen to let on a daily basis.

This will be a godsend for any small early stage food businesses in Kilkenny and surrounds – a daily let on a commercial HSE approved kitchen just outside the ring road in Kilkenny.

So crucial in the early stages to have somewhere to experiment with recipes and formulations and even use this facility to cook up and package batches to sell. Further details:

  • 6 ring industrial gas hob / oven
  • Industrial fridge
  • industrial glass washer
  • Upright stainless steel deepfreeze
  • Double drainer sink and separate hand washing sink
  • PVC clad walls throughout
  • Industrial wall sockets and tiled floor with stainless steel gullies
  • Electricity and gas supply metered

For more information contact Kevin Mahon on +353 (86) 828 6863


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Raw Milk – why is it so important?

Within the Slow Food movement Raw Milk is seen as a great example of real food the way it should be without unnecessary processing.

Over on the newly relaunched Slow Food website (a big callout to Eilis Boyle who led this redesign and reimagining)  Darina Allen shares her own thoughts on raw milk and acknowledges the possible risks and what can constructively be done about them. From that piece:

“In countries both in Europe and the US, there is a growing demand for raw milk. In Germany, there are 50 registered raw milk producers. In Italy, farmers sell directly to the public through refrigerated dispensers in supermarkets, town squares, hospitals, schools. The sale of raw milk gained momentum so fast that at present almost 10% of the nation’s raw milk is now sold through dispensers).

In the US, 39 states have legalised the sale of raw milk and the demand for cream top milk in glass bottles continues to grow apace.”

On 5th April we will be speaking to three great Cheese Makers of whom 2 - Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith – St Tola: Irish Organic Goat Cheese, Co Clare and Tom Burgess – Coolattin Cheddar: Mature Raw Milk Cheddar, Co Wicklow – use raw milk in their products.


This will be one of the topics we will get a chance to debate and explore on the evening. Find out more here.