What Happened When Kind Had to Throw Out the Wrapping That Made Its Snack Bars Famous

Brand solves a very sticky packaging problem

Pressed by Kind, a new line of bars, uses the colors of fruit juices to differentiate its varieties.
All photos courtesy of Kind

If you’ve been to a deli, stood on a grocery checkout line, bought a coffee at Starbucks or visited the snack bar on an Amtrak train, chances are you’ve seen a Kind bar for sale—and we mean really seen one. The ubiquitous, all-natural fruit and nut bar is known for its crystal-clear wrapper that puts all the almonds, pecans, raspberries and apricots in full view. The brand defines itself as using “ingredients you can see.” In a literal sense, Kind bars sell themselves.

But pledging itself to that sort of transparency proved to be an unexpected challenge when Kind decided to introduce a new line of bars called Pressed by Kind. The trouble wasn’t that the ingredients weren’t natural (they were); it was that those ingredients were not terribly attractive to look at.

And that’s the sort of the problem that only packaging can solve.

“The Kind core line is beautiful—you can see whole nuts and fruit and all of those things,” said Clark Goolsby, vp and creative director of Chase Design Group, which developed the new packaging. “But because Pressed by Kind is a bunch of fruit mashed together, it didn’t have the same visual appeal.” (This is a tactful way of saying that mashed-up fruit looks a bit too sticky to be appetizing.)

There were other challenges, too. Since Kind doesn’t use chemical preservatives or other stabilizing agents, the new bars were especially susceptible to sunlight. Direct exposure would shorten the product’s shelf life. The only solution to that was using a metalized film wrapper.

The unenviable task of maintaining the identity of a brand known for clear packaging that suddenly had to use an opaque, aluminum-lined wrapper fell to Chase.

“We gave them a tough challenge,” said Kind’s senior marketing director Jon Lesser. “The packaging had to celebrate the quality and simplicity of the ingredients without people having the ability to see what’s inside the wrapper.”

Goolsby’s team did “a lot of exploration,” as he puts it. Most products in the packaged-foods category tend to fall back on product photography, but Kind’s aim is to both be and appear different from its competitors on the shelf, so that idea was out. Another option, using textures on the wrapper to convey the ingredients inside, didn’t feel like a good thematic fit, either.

Then Chase struck on the idea of using the colors of fruit juices (fruit was, after all, a principal component of the bars) to differentiate the varieties of the bars and to suggest freshness and natural ingredients.

“We landed in a type-driven direction inspired by the world of cold-pressed juices,” Goolsby said. “We wanted the packaging to reflect the colors of the ingredients, so the mango picks up on the yellows, and with kale, it’s greens. It was a bold choice, but it feels very much like the Kind brand. It’s true, pure and simple.”

To keep a natural feel to the boxes, Chase opted for a matte finish (glossy coatings are very mass-market, apparently), and Kind also gave the design firm permission to mess with the brand logo a little, which is usually hands-off territory in the branding realm. Chase retained Kind’s signature color-bar logo, and the brand name is still spelled in block capitals, but the firm chose a new font that makes it appear as though the brand name were written by hand—with a slight squiggle, as though it’s part of a farm-stand sign. Goolsby refers to this as a “softening” of the logo. Consumers are unlikely to notice it, but the touch is there. And it’s an instrumental part of the overall feel.

Lesser says Pressed by Kind’s packaging successfully walks a narrow line: It looks like a new product line that can stand on its own but also has an aesthetic that’s clearly a part of the Kind brand. “We wanted Pressed by Kind to be differentiated from our whole Fruit & Nut bars,” he said, “but we stayed true to our brand promise of using real food and whole ingredients.”

For three consecutive years, Kind bars have ranked among the top 10 fastest-growing consumer-packaged-goods brands in the $100-million-to-$1-billion category, according to the Boston Consulting Group. Founded in 2004 by entrepreneur Daniel Lubetzky, Kind has grown from eight varieties of snack bar to 22. The brand made national news in 2015 when the FDA fired off a warning letter advising Kind that it could not use the term “healthy” in connection with its products. The company removed the term then publicly shamed the FDA for using dietary criteria that dated to the 1980s, a time when prevailing wisdom preached that nuts were bad for you. In May of 2016, the FDA reversed itself, allowing Kind to again use “healthy.”

Interestingly, Pressed by Kind, whose colorful boxes and wrappers appeared on store shelves last summer, doesn’t feature the word “healthy” at all. It’s probable that Kind’s management believes the other terms on the package—“2 servings of fruit,” “no preservatives,” “good source of fiber,” “no genetically engineered ingredients,” “low sodium” and “gluten free”—make the healthy case well enough.