“When we took over, the number of labels offered was staggering” at 1,500, said the company’s new co-owner and creative director Amanda Henke. “Getting rid of most of them was my first order of business.”
She explained that the label offerings for the company’s buttery caramels, which were made with natural, locally-sourced ingredients, had “snowballed” out of control because many of the then 35-year-old company’s small-business clients had ordered custom labels that covered a broad spectrum of holidays, promotions, seasons, consumer demographics – “you name it.”
The extreme selection filled binders, which hampered the sales’ team’s efforts and made choosing an option difficult for customers, she explained, adding, “it was very unorganized and messy.”
So, the new owners slashed the selection to a mere 20 labels that covered basic holidays, milestones and common sentiments, such as thank you and congratulations. This simplified the selling-process by paring down the choices to two sell-sheets that staff could more easily memorize and discuss, Henke said. It also allowed them to focus more on providing quality customer service, she noted.
The reduction also eased the selection-process for consumers, Henke said.
“As a customer, I feel it’s nice to have variety and choices, but not too much. That can be overwhelming!” she explained. And, if customers feel overwhelmed, they are just as likely to walk away from a deal as make it.
“I think the internal benefits have radiated outward and impacted sales in a positive, but unmeasurable way,” she reflected.
Neutral packaging can be just as eye-catching as bright colors
Annie B’s also streamlined the product packaging, which combined with the smaller selection helped the company expand its distribution into new retail channels.
“When we took over the Annie B’s brand, the appearance of the logo, website, sales materials and packaging was outdated. The logo was red and rather harsh,” she said. While the old logo performed well in family-owned hardware stores, which was the company’s original niche retailer, it didn’t fit in on the shelves of gift and specialty stores, Henke said.
She balanced the nostalgic feel of the old logo with a brighter but more simplified and downplayed yellow logo that, while more neutral, appealed not only to hardware store customers, but also was “modern enough for gift shops and specialty food stores to take notice of our products as well.”
This allowed the firm to expand its reach to new demographics through new channels.
In addition to catching the attention of new retailers, the new logo caught that of Oprah’s Creative Director, Adam Glassman, at a trade show in 2014. After trying the caramels, Glassman told Henke’s husband Justin that “it was so delicious that he’d see if Oprah would put it in the running for one of her Favorite Things.”
Five months later, Annie B’s joined that “coveted list” and was pushed in front of vastly more consumers who then bought the sweets from the company’s online store and generated demand for more stores to carry the products.
Reflecting on the process of rebranding Annie B’s, Henke advised others who are considering a similar undertaking to take their time and allow for revisions until they get it right – which can be difficult when the prospect of a new look is so exciting.
More to come
While Henke and her husband accomplished a lot in the short time they’ve owned Annie B’s, they aren’t done yet.
The company is in the process of updating its website so that it is “brighter, clearer and user-friendly,” Henke said. She expects the refresh, which “has definitely been a labor of love” to be up and running in the next month.
The company also is expanding its portfolio of products – acquiring in October the local chocolate company B.T. McElrath, which sells gourmet truffles, bars, bites and toffee.
“Annie B’s makes caramels and popcorn, which have a natural affinity for chocolate,” Henke said of the investment. With an eye to the future, she added, “we are dreaming up new products, which you can look forward to seeing in the coming months.”