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Their basil love started over 20 years ago with an indoor gardening project. It next evolved into a hydroponics operation in an in-town warehouse. Then some magic struck, when Charlie and Lindsay Curtis inherited a piece of paradise in the Kootenays. They were starting a family and also started a basil farm business on this Winlaw, BC sunny side hill. They and the basil farm were making a good go of it for almost 12 years.
And then COVID hit.
Their livelihood of supplying over a dozen retailers and almost 30 restaurants with fresh, greenhouse-grown basil came to a halt. But, Charlie and Lindsay saw an opportunity to create a unique pesto that could lead them into the retail arena.
Through a funding project with Columbia Basin Trust, the Curtises selected Farm Food Drink from a list of recommended marketing agencies. Because they had not sold direct to retail grocery before, Charlie recognized that they would need to create a brand for their farm and their new pesto in order to prepare for retail and future growth.
Along with some name considerations, a logo, packaging and labelling were also required to get product on the deli shelf.
The farm was initially and casually named for Charlie because branding was not really a need for the sale of their basil. The client’s initial draft concept for the product name was Besto Pesto, fun and bright but it didn’t reflect the “feel” of the farm that was important to Charlie and Lindsay and how the product would differentiate itself in its category.
Farm Food Drink suggested that there be a focus on the place e.g., ‘place branding’ for the farm, that would also allow for future growth of the brand and product lines. The decision was collaboratively made to name the property Harmony Hills Basil Farm, a name and brand that is both authentic to the founders and one that positions itself distinctly in its food product category.
It was important to show that the Curtises grow their own basil and that by growing fresh basil, and not using imported, they create a better tasting product. That goes along with the desire to localize the pesto product by using locally-grown hemp hearts instead of imported pine nuts. And, the intention is to team up with a local cheese producer, and a local sunflower source to keep it all Canadian, and have no reliance on importing olive oil from Greece.
Although focused on being a local, Canadian product, pesto is also historically associated to its Italian roots. So, we tied in the property’s hills and brought in a modernized Italian colour palette with an illustration of a happy basil plant surrounded by the business name.
To get started, we recommended the 227 gram ‘dip’ tub. Because this tub is a standard size and shape, it makes it easier to get a new brand into a retail deli display. It’s also fairly low cost for start up.
For a standard tub, a lid label and a package wrap were extensively discussed with the client. There was considerable brainstorming and dialogue on the creative direction.
The Farm Food Drink creative team’s initial concept was a super modern approach, likening to a traditional family-style restaurant, with a blackboard background and chalk-like copy. It was fun and playful and unique.
After much agency/client discussion we landed more on the traditional side. The outcome used a simple, clean design with bright colours and more white space to stand out in a crowd of overly-busy pesto labels that lean towards dark colours. This also allowed more legibility of the selling points of unique ingredients and place.
“This was an enjoyable and highly productive collaboration,” says Greg McLaren, Farm Food Drink Managing Director. “Charlie and Lindsay were great at long-term thinking from the consumer’s perspective, not just what they liked, but what would work in the market place.”
Moving to a direct-to-consumer product will be more profitable for Charlie and Lindsay, and they’re excited for their opportunity to move into retail. This new brand and packaging will enable them to do that quicker.
Farmers Markets will be a big part of their testing and brand awareness over the summer, but early indications show that people are ready to devour it. They’re also renting space in a commercial kitchen starting in July which will enable them to ramp up to find homes for their Basil Pesto in smaller, local retailers. From there, it will grow into larger markets like Kelowna and beyond.
With branding wrapped up, a new website is in the forecast to further establish this ever-growing enterprise.
The Curtises have extensive business background but had not worked with an agency before. They were very responsive and open to all our contributions, guidance, and direction.
Charlie explains, “We appreciated the collaboration and how we were involved in decision making. There was a lot of fun brainstorming, and we never felt pressure to go in any particular direction.”
The client particularly enjoyed our Creative Director’s approach and inventive design elements.
Are you going through a business change and need some creative marketing support? Contact us to discover how you can improve your brand with the Farm Food Drink team.