Creating a unified identity for Co-op’s own-brand alcohol

Studio Robot Food has given the Co-op range of beers, cider and spirits a new look with a consistent style and colour palette, that aims to change perceptions of supermarket-branded alcohol as being “inferior” and a last resort.

When you think of own-brand alcohol, connotations of student binge drinking, cheapness and the faint taste of paint-stripper come to mind. But how many of these presumptions are down to packaging and branding?

The Co-op is known for its focus on brand design, having previously commissioned studio North to rebrand the supermarket chain in 2016, giving it a more minimal logo and a purely blue-and-white aesthetic.

Now, the brand has commissioned Robot Food to redesign its own-brand alcohol range, which includes beers, ciders and spirits, retaining the blue-and-white palette associated with the brand but adding a silver shade and monochrome.

While all the labels and packaging are black-and-white, with hints of Co-op blue and silver, different forms of alcohol take on different illustrative styles – beer and cider packs aim to be “straight-forward and easy to understand”, says Ben Brears, senior designer at Robot Food, through a simple design featuring a block letter indicating whether it is a “lager” or “bitter”, for instance.

The spirits feature different style, from a Russian constructivist-inspired striped design for vodka, to a blue-and-white illustration of the sea accompanied by a more sombre sans-serif typeface for the navy rum.

“Spirits tend to be a more considered purchase decision but are often viewed from two metres away over a counter, so they needed to have their own identifiable design traits,” says Brears.

The Co-op’s alcohol ranges were previously a mish-mash of different colours, bottle shapes, typefaces and illustrations. While the new identity looks to give each type of alcohol its own unique style, a limited colour palette, as well as consistent bottle and can shape and style aim to give the range a Co-op feel, adds Brears, while retaining the “personalities” of the different sub-brands and an “eclectic” feel.

The unified look aims to change perceptions of own-brand alcohol ranges as being sub-standard and not being a brand within their own right – having a consistent identity helps to establish a range as more legitimate.

“Perceptions of own-label alcohol haven’t been great,” says Brears. “This hasn’t been helped by design that made it feel like a cut-price, inferior alternative to the ‘real’ branded product. We wanted to create something that was distinct and recognisable in its own right.”

The new branding and packaging is currently rolling out across all on-shelf, Co-op alcohol products.

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Comments
  • R.Peirce June 8, 2018 at 9:35 am

    With the clever new logo back in 2016 and this new simple, bold rebrand, Coop have come on leaps and bounds. Well done to Robot Food and North.

  • Neil Littman June 8, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Too generic for me. Look at other own brand labelling such as M&S and Sainsburys. Also Blue is a very difficult colour to use when selling food or beverage. Only the sales figures will show how true this is but blue is not percieved as a ‘quality’ colour. Also I would not buy alcohol from a new range like this without seeing a tasting review first. Needs to be a proven quality first.

  • Henry Walker June 8, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Good job Robot Food. I really like that 60s retro look. Quite unique. Looks like from a czech childrens book. Seems Ben Brears and the team hat fun and high spirits 😉
    I also think that its now quick and easy recognized as low price alcohol.
    But I don‘t know much about the low priced alcohol buyers.

  • Steve Hobbs June 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Not sure that I have a more succinct opinion of this than piss-ed poor. It delivers a massive disrespect to Co-op customers. Equally not sure that, as a designer, I have been so insulted and angry. Are their customers so lacking in nous that the offer has to be spelled out to them in such a brutal and condescending fashion? Co-op products are overall good quality, sold at a realistic price point. Does this reflect that? Does it achieve the stated aim of changing perceptions of supermarket-branded alcohol as being “inferior”?? I don’t think so… A third rate (at best) design solution to what actually was a complex brief. Stinks of a closeted, disconnected design industry.

  • Des Trainor June 12, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Reminds me of a set of retro cleaning products unfortunately, nice try, think it is more effective on the tinned products in my opinion. Feels a little disjointed otherwise.

  • Joshua Read June 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    The use of the large capitalised first letter of the product should’ve been carried on throughout the whole range. The spirits’ label design look disconnected from the beer, cider etc, which alone look insanely good.

    Overall a great ‘rebrand’ but I feel like it could’ve been excecuted better over the whole range.

  • Justine Jackson-Hickling June 18, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    For these display shots they look really slick and on trend, all artfully placed together on their sharp blue background. They may even work in a craft beer/specialist retailer environment, if they were a challenger brand (given the right marketing).
    But the reality of their ability to fight their corner will be putting them in a very mundane, day to day Coop store environment (with presumably little or no marketing support) where I for one would be particularly dubious of the OPP looking nature of the spirits in particular – for example the Irish Cream which is generally the Christmas tipple of my ageing mother-in-law…
    I’m all for edgy design and pushing boundaries on the right brands – but I wonder how much the person writing the brief has truly understood their customer, their own positioning as a middle of the road, largely garage forecourt or small store retailer brand and the environment in which these will need to fight for survival.
    Stand out against the brands they certainly will. Tick. Create a unique identity for Coop BWS offer. Tick. Appeal to Coop customers and drive sales – I’m not so sure. I’d love to be proved wrong.

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