Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

How it Started, How its Going:
Must Love, Formerly Hakuna Brands

In the second installment of his series, “How it Started, How its Going,” Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative discusses the Must Love packaging evolution with Co-Founder, Hannah Hong.

Best friends Hannah Hong and Mollie Cha came up with the idea for Must Love (formerly Hakuna Brands) in 2016 when they started experimenting with a non-dairy ice cream alternative recipe. Both women have been lactose intolerant since their early 20s and after trying a banana based recipe they whipped up one evening after work they knew they were onto something special. After perfecting their creamy, indulgent recipe they dove head first into launching their fruit based brand Hakuna Banana. In 2018 they launched Totes Oats, an oat milk based ice cream. Then, in early 2020 they relaunched all products under the brand Must Love.

Andy Kurtts: What prompted you to re-design your packaging and branding?

Hannah Hong: By 2018 we had two seperate lines, fruit based Hakuna Banana and oat milk based Totes Oats. We are a small company and while our banana line had gained significant traction and visibility we saw there was a lot of opportunity for our oat line. We wanted to invest in building out those products but we had a hard time creating traction for them. A year and a half after launching Totes Oats we took a step back to strategize and decided to rename and relaunch an umbrella brand for both lines to live under. In early 2020 we launched everything under Must Love.

AK: What were your goals for the redesign?

HH: First we wanted to combine Hakuna Banana and Totes Oats into one brand to eliminate confusion and to be able to refer to all products by the same brand name. Second, we wanted to capture the same appeal of Hakuna Banana for Must Love. We wanted to make sure our new branding spoke to the emotional side of our brand which required some soul searching and strategy. The foundation of our company and brand comes from my friendship with my co-founder Mollie. It was important to us that our products feel like something you want to share with your best friend.

AK: What inspired the look behind your packaging design?

HH: Our friendship! We talked about the brand’s personality and really, Mollie and I inspired it. When you experience our friendship in person, you experience our brand’s culture. We also made sure that the patterns we used on the packaging were inspired by the ingredients.

AK: How have customers received the new packaging?

HH: We’ve received some DMs from people and they ask in all caps “WHY DID YOU CHANGE?”. We of course explain but that’s the most negative feedback we’ve received so far. Most folks are very positive, and those who didn’t know about Hakuna Banana absolutely love Must Love.

AK: How has your packaging redesign impacted sales? Customer reach? Wholesale accounts?

HH: For our wholesale accounts we already had good buyer relationships with Whole Foods and Sprouts. We waited until we knew what we were going to rename the brand and had it 99% ready to share and then brought these buyers into our rebranding and redesign discussions to gather their feedback. We wanted them to be partners on the journey and they immediately understood and got excited about it. At this time we expanded nationally with Sprouts. We were strategic about this and intentionally timed the packaging relaunch with the expansion so that we could start fresh with a new brand and packaging. We don’t fully know the impact of the redesign on sales yet but we feel a lot more energy behind the new brand. Customers are really excited and we’ve gotten some great feedback so far.

AK: Did you use any marketing research or data to inform the aesthetic?

HH: We sought out feedback from one of our mentors who used to work in the ice cream category. We waited until we were about 60% done. At that point we showed the design to her; she gave us some great real talk and advice. I’d definitely recommend tapping into your network.

AK: How did your messaging on the packaging change with the redesign?

HH: We were very mindful of putting product photography of the product on the packaging. We did this to increase taste appeal. We also sent out a simple survey to help us zero in on which claims to include on the packaging. The survey results helped us chose the ones that best served our brand and resonated most with consumers

AK: What was that biggest lesson you learned from redesigning your branding and packaging?

HH: Our biggest lesson learned was to hire an agency to help instead of creating the design myself. We knew we needed professional help. It’s a major process and a journey when you’re undertaking a whole rebrand. It takes time to build trust and go through the iterative process. It was scary but you have to trust that your agency can handle it. We were scared in the beginning but quickly realized the only way out of it is through!

AK: What was your favorite part of the process?

HH: The end! Once we got through 80% of the design process we started talking about fun stuff like color families and really got to see everything come together. When you finally see all the proofs from the printer, it’s so exciting.

AK: What was the most challenging part of the process?

HH: Because the Hakuna Banana brand had a strong POV with imagery, divorcing from that packaging and thinking about new imagery was hard. We had to completely detach from the old brand in order to create the new packaging and branding. We loved the old packaging which was hard to leave behind.

AK: What advice would you give to other business owners considering a redesign?
HH: What really helped us was we had to be honest with ourselves. When we first decided to consider a rebrand it was very scary to rebrand both brands. But you have to really look at it and be honest with yourself with what is best for the brand long term. You have to do the hard work!

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