Why ambient needs to come alive, not fade into the background
Ambient. The word itself can be confusing. And the term ‘Ambient food’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up a picture of a delicious, fresh or irresistible offer. But, many of these foods are our daily staples. The reality is that we need these products – and always will. And ambient needs to come alive, not fade into the background.
We have witnessed a huge global shift in food, a movement from fake to alive – a reconnection with food in its purest and most natural state. Branding has reflected this, creating aesthetics that promote this fresh, straight-from the-earth feel. Arguably this jars with the ambient and frozen categories, which provide long-life products. But brand design within the ambient category doesn’t need to reinforce a perception of preservative ridden products lost in the back of a cupboard or bottom of the freezer. There is a fantastic opportunity for ambient and freezer brands to use the power of design to inject a feeling of aliveness into their products.
Birds Eye, as a category leader in the frozen sector, has always done a great job of communicating ‘freshness’. The brand has recently redesigned and evolved its positioning to inject warmth and personality and make the brand more relevant for a digital age. And this sector doesn’t need to keep playing to a perception of being rigid and sedentary particularly with digital allowing brands to become animate. Ambient is a food category ripe for adding innovation and interest by seizing the opportunity to design for an integrated (digital and physical) world.
Traditionally, brand design in the ambient category has disconnected us from real food, with an aesthetic that has become over-produced, stylised and synthetic. But ambient brands can do better. They don’t necessarily need to shy away from their long-life benefits but rather use design and product innovation to find new ways to celebrate the benefits of their product and the role it plays. Spain’s Fruita Blanch jams and juices hero the beauty of the food with transparent packaging and clean design while Italian olive oil and sauce brand, Mastro, uses bold and contemporary infographics to bring back of pack information to the front in a celebration of origin, provenance and preparation.
Our expectations have been raised and we need to take a stand with ambient brand design – turning brands into more than just products – to celebrate the image, visual aesthetic and vibrancy of food. Anticipating huge shifts in how we interpret and design our future food offer could potentially have a very far-reaching impact that is anything but ambient.