The Project

It is rather rare to find a brand with a true and clear vision that goes beyond sheer marketability and profit margins. Gourmet Experts is such a brand. When we took on this account, the company was at a pivotal point in its expansion. While it had succeeded in securing some of the most exclusive and premium brands for the Scandinavian market, and had managed to create an impressive sales network, it was in dire need of restructuring. It needed to optimize its workflow so as to keep up with its growing expansion rate, and it needed to focus on its overall branding so as to establish itself as a true expert in the gourmet industry.

The Work

Brand Development
Brand Identity

Stage 01

Creative Direction
Art Direction

Stage 02

Graphic Design
Web Development
UX / UI Design

Stage 03

Brand Management
Business Development

Stage 04

Evaluating the Brand

We started by conducting an in-depth brand evaluation in order to locate which areas were struggling the most and why. We used tools developed in-house to investigate the company’s assets, products, processes, sales model, and overall infrastructure. Much to our surprise, we stumbled onto an enormous wealth of USPs that the brand had never communicated in its branding. One example of this was its selection process, which Gourmet Experts had spent three years perfecting. Dedicating over 600 hours each year in the evaluation of new products, the company employed a panel of judges, chemists, product specialists, marketing and sales professionals who all contributed to the discussion and assessment of each product and brand submitted. This was certainly a key differential point of the brand, yet it was never really outlined or communicated. Since they implemented such an intricate selection process, the increased submission entries of new products was quickly becoming overwhelming. Not wanting to compromise their selection method, the company was looking for ways to optimize this process, especially since part of their policy was to give a detailed evaluation report to every producer submitting products to them, regardless of the selection outcome.

Assessing the company’s promotional material, we observed that their product catalog mostly relied on assets the brands it represented had provided, instead of using original content of their own. Even though their portfolio only contained products that met the highest standards demanded by their selection process, they were being displayed passively. Our evaluation also revealed that the company had a very elementary online presence, which worked more for display purposes and less as a tool to streamline their operations. With these findings in mind, we began our work.

Developing the Protocol

The first step was to develop the Gourmet Experts protocol of operation. This meant structuring all their processes in a way that would clearly define and standardize their procedures and policies. Addressing the excess volume of new product entries, we limited the submission period to three seasonal intervals – two for EU products and one for Non-EU products. We developed a digital submission form so as to assist the company in gathering all the appropriate information of each product, and developed a very detailed guideline meant to be reviewed by producers interested in being considered. In order to limit the amount of unsolicited products reaching the Gourmet Experts doorstep, and encourage only serious candidates, we drafted concise terms of agreement and added a nominal fee to each submission.

Wanting to fully outline the standards by which Gourmet Experts evaluates products, we spent much time explaining the selection process itself, which we structured into a five-tier evaluation procedure. All products submitted would need to pass each round of testing before moving on to the next, and all would have to provide the appropriate documentation for inspection during the initial steps of the process. This way, products that did not meet the standards would be eliminated fairly early in the process, allowing the Gourmet Experts specialists to focus only on the ones that did.

In an effort to add an increased level of consistency, and in order to avoid discrepancies, a guideline of acceptable sample types was produced. Participants could now be informed what specifications their sample should meet before shipping it out, and thus guarantee a proper physical inspection from the Gourmet Experts team. This shielded the company from time lost and its participants from undue submission costs. Since part of the five-tier evaluation process included aspects of marketability, we developed a marketing guideline that provided participants with a detailed “Do’s and Don’ts” list. This newly-established protocol created the brand’s foundation of expansion.

Designing the Assets

Since the protocols and operations were clearly defined, we now had to design the assets meant to communicate them. We created a digital presentation of the selection process describing each of its five tiers, and thus provided an easy and intuitive way for interested parties to receive all necessary information. This also acted as a valid promo tool, as it clearly reflected the dedication and expertise Gourmet Experts exhausted on the products it chose to represent. We also designed a new company profile that accentuated the many untold USPs of the brand. We drafted a new mission statement, and introduced the vision of the company through a personal letter from the founder of the company.

By the time we reached the design stage of the Product Catalog, we had a very firm creative and artistic direction in mind. Wanting to establish the expert angle of the brand, we created original copy for each product featured. We developed an internal rating system (1-5 olives) that outlined the sensory profile of each product, and placed this rating in a designated sensory box throughout the catalog’s layout. We also designed a distinct “Try it With…” section where the Gourmet Experts team gave their advice on interesting food pairings for each of their products. This was an enormous improvement for the company, as its product portfolio now had design and content unique to its brand. It now had an identity.

Building the Website

The dual scope of the company’s digital needs – its corporate representation and its mercantile nature – dictated a solution that served both aspects while unifying its branding strategy. While developing this intricate infrastructure however, an interim solution was needed and as such, we opted to develop a microsite.

Wanting to introduce a strong visual element to the branding scheme of the company, as well as its founder, we were inspired by high-end gourmet packaging. Examining accents such as ribbons, interlocking clasps, seals, and labels, we created a design that incorporated the world of gourmet. Each accent was intentionally used in order to add a particular functionality to the site, thus providing an interesting layout as well as clean navigation. The two primary sections, the company profile and the gallery, were embedded in a manner that presented them with equal weight and followed the stylistic guidelines of the brand. Using visual cues of interlocking clasps, we invited a visitor to explore the content instead of simply observing it. Anchoring the site, a download section was designed that featured the company’s assets; the company profile, the selection process, and the product portfolio. Each was clearly defined by a button modeled after bottle-cap seals, tying them to the brand’s style while also providing distinct links to each asset.

Evaluating the Outcome

The brand structure and optimization phase Gourmet Experts underwent was essential for its expansion. The new protocols set in place allowed the company to source through the high volume of new entries submitted and locate the best products available. This expanded the Gourmet Experts portfolio and allowed for an increase in its B2B sales, as it offered a wider range of products, but also presented the brand with new opportunities. One such opportunity was the development of its own series of private label products. Currently we are rigorously working with the Gourmet Experts team to launch this new product line along with their e-shop platform, which will thrust the company into the B2C realm of sales.