How considered brand and packaging design has created an iconic series of products unique to Huddersfield specialty wholesale coffee roasters Dark Woods.
93 and Dark Woods Coffee have worked together for many years. When our story began back in 2016, the Dark Woods Coffee range was a comparatively small scale offering composed of six specialty coffee blends designed for the discerning coffee connoisseur. During those early years, 93 design and developed the Dark Woods website and online shop, as well as refining the original brand identity and coffee bag packaging. Since then, Dark Woods Coffee has gone from strength to strength and in 2018 reached out to 93 again to develop the brand and its product packaging design further.
We created the signature yellow and blue packaging, and worked with one of our network of freelancers, Swiss illustrator Julia Marti, to create the iconic series of creatures of the Dark Woods that feature distinctively on each of the coffee bags. This combination gave incredible shelf appeal to Dark Woods Coffee (now the recipient of over 70 Great Taste Awards), creating identifiable and familiar characters that customers can associate with. It’s common to hear people asking for “the one with the crow on it”, the image having become almost as important as the name itself - a real signal that the branding has done its job, cementing itself into the consciousness and affections of the customer.
The challenge with Dark Woods was to create a strong and coherent brand that works across both consumer and wholesale channels. We needed bags with shelf appeal to entice and enchant customers, as well as wholesale packaging that looked great on display in cafes, bakeries, bars and restaurants; and both needed to be recognisably Dark Woods.
Not only did the packaging have to look great and tell a story, Dark Woods also needed it to fit with their strong ethical values as an environmentally aware B Corp working within the specialty coffee industry. The packaging helps to keep the coffee fresh and protect it from light damage, while also reducing the amount of plastic waste and toxic ink usage.
Dark Woods experimented with using vegetable based inks for the packaging, finding one which had the premium look and feel Dark Woods needed, whilst being less harmful for the environment. Dark Woods also sourced biodegradable/compostable coffee bags, and decided to use paper sacks for the wholesale packaging, which look great on display as well as being recyclable and compostable. The wholesale range is also now shipped in mini 'flight-case' style barrels which can be refilled and reused countless times before being recycled into something new.
As part of Dark Woods more complete coffee product range, they have a range of coffee pods which are fully home compostable, and their new range of canned coffees, aimed at the gifting and hotel sector, has a similar look and feel with beautiful branding in a reusable and recyclable tin.
Pairing strong branding with a robust and considered ethical foundation gives Dark Woods Coffee the means to stand out in a crowded market, to both the conscious and conscientious consumer.
B Corp measures the social and environmental impact, giving certification only to those corporations who demonstrate high social and environmental performance, change their corporate structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and show transparency by allowing information about their performance to be publicly available.
Certified B Corporations are forward thinking, conscious about looking after both the environment and the people in it, and are at the forefront of making business better for everyone.
Dark Woods Coffee has always been concerned with the impact their business has on the communities they come into contact with, focusing on fair pay for coffee farmers as well as Dark Woods employees, the use of sustainable materials, and supporting the local economy both in their Huddersfield home, and in the coffee producing countries they work with. B Corp certification is an extension of some of their beliefs, providing a framework to demonstrate how they live their ideals.
Dark Woods are now in their 2nd year of their B-Corp journey. As of May 2023, 93 are working on the second reporting document and are due to start the third B-Corp annual report this summer.
Part of our role in the branding of Dark Woods is to fully understand what it means to be a B Corporation and to ensure that our way of working compliments those values and principles. As well as branching out into more environmentally friendly packaging options and developing new ideas, we’re also developing a new range of products featuring a “less packaging, less waste” ethos.
As awareness of environmental issues skyrockets, more and more consumers and businesses will be turning to B Corps as a supplier they can trust. Branding has to keep up with and adapt to the changing needs of a socially conscious market who now more than ever take seriously brand who recognise and implement, waste reduction, ethical procurement and society first credentials.
If your business is B Corp certified or working towards that, or if you’re simply wanting to communicate your social and environmental values to your audience, we can help. 93 can create a strong and robust brand that gets your message across to the people who need to hear it.
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