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BelliWelli’s New Package Design Proves the Wisdom of Crowds

BelliWelli’s New Package Design Proves the Wisdom of Crowds
Image courtesy of BelliWelli

The BelliWelli wellness brand of wholesome snack bars was founded within a community of people who suffer from digestive issues, a group cultivated by the brand’s Co-founder, CEO and IBS sufferer Katie Wilson. As the digitally native company expanded to the national retail stage with its new partner Sprouts in October 2022, the brand also transformed its packaging by looking for design inspiration from its experts — the BelliWelli community.  

“For our new packaging iteration, we put it up on Instagram, email and Facebook, and collected opinions,” said Wilson in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We had pretty incredible data points after each iteration. The community decided what our packaging ultimately looked like. There was a point where I disagreed; I thought the community instinct was wrong, but we leaned into what the community said because ultimately that is who we are making this product for.

Outsourcing Creative Decision-Making to the Consumer

While BelliWelli hired a creative agency to assist with designing its new packaging, Wilson knew that the best bet for the company’s success was to get feedback from the brand’s community. Wilson pitched a few messaging ideas that failed when they were presented to BelliWelli’s customers, leading the founder through a humbling experience during which she realized the value of her customers’ instincts.  

“I thought putting ‘Hot girls with gut issues’ on the box was a great idea,” said Wilson. “As soon as I sent that photo to our community they hated it. ‘That’s not what belongs on the product,’ and ‘That doesn’t tell me anything about the product,’ they said. I have a long list of these moments, so if you can talk to your customer, or who you want your customer to be, it can be a humbling and enlightening experience.”

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Because consumers can feel overwhelmed when exploring the variety of nutritional products on store shelves, goods must stand out through striking packaging. Wilson devoted time to speaking with shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores to discover how consumers feel about the array of nutritional products in stores. With her hands-on research approach, Wilson learned:

  • BelliWelli stood out as a nutritional bar focused on digestive nutrition amid a heavy concentration of protein-centric bars;
  • Fancy language and big logos are not as important as initially thought — simplicity is key;
  • Products within the natural category no longer need to rely on neutral hues such as brown and white — it’s time to bring playfulness into the business; and
  • Designing packaging with a neon pink color that has not been used by a competitor brand was key to setting BelliWelli apart.

“A lot of people probably have been hesitant to use [hot pink packaging] because they think it’s a gendered color,” said Wilson. “We don’t think that way; we think the natural channel could use some fun and brightness. For a long time, we all leaned into browns, whites, greens and blues, and that signaled ‘natural.’ We’re now at a point where the natural channel is established. There is more freedom in the channel to play with color.”

Leveraging a Packaging Pivot for Retail Expansion

Founded in 2020, BelliWelli expanded from its direct-to-consumer model into regional retail early in 2022 through partnerships with brick-and-mortar retailers such as Harmons Neighborhood Grocer, Earth Fare, Gelson’s, Central Market and Mother’s Market & Kitchen, and an online presence on Amazon and Thrive Market.

BelliWelli chose the partner for its expansion into national retail carefully. Sprouts customers are enthusiastic about wellness and understand supplements, and the retailer provides opportunities to emerging nutritional brands through its innovative display areas in the middle of the store where it highlights fresh products. The retailer offers an extensive assortment of nutritional bar products that feature more traditional packaging, so with its position on Sprouts shelves BelliWelli can shine with its fun new boxes and wrappers.

“The Sprouts customer is willing to dedicate a little more spend to health and wellness, and it’s a consumer who likes to try new products,” said Wilson. “We had a feeling we might really have the opportunity to stand out at Sprouts.”

Preparing for its recent expansion into national retail through its new Sprouts partnership, Wilson wanted to do more than feature fresh packaging — she also knew the product’s messaging needed to be simplified. Wilson needed to balance her excitement about highlighting every benefit the products offer with a strategy of reaching customers through direct, simplified messaging containing only the information they want to see. 

“Our consumers love the fact that the bars have probiotics; they wanted that front and center,” said Wilson. “That is the thing I forget to talk about the most because for me as a consumer the really significant win was that it has fiber, is gluten free and dairy free, tastes good and has no seed oils — but our consumers care about probiotics.”

One component of the brand’s messaging Wilson felt was non-negotiable was the need to “signal gut health, [but] without saying ‘gut health,” she said. “You’ll see the words ‘probiotic’ and ‘zero bloat,’ which we think accomplished that without saying ‘gut health’ or ‘gut friendly.’ The term ‘gut friendly’ is an empty promise to us.”

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