Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

National Flies New Colours

Published in Jul-Aug 2022

Why National Foods redesigned their recipe mix boxes after 13 years.

In this fast-forward digital age people are constantly on the lookout for cooking hacks. No wonder then, myriad food brands constantly reinvent themselves to stay in – and ahead – of the game. Perhaps it was with this intent that National Foods redesigned the packaging for their recipe mixes in May 2022 (their last redesign was in 2009), in time for them to be in the market before Eid-ul-Azha, a seasonal ‘peak time’ for them. Although National products range from masalas to condiments, sauces, jams and pickles, the redesigning was limited to the recipe mix boxes for now; other products will follow eventually.

Wajahat Eijaz, GM Marketing, National Foods, says, “Good brands become great because they continuously innovate and stay relevant to their consumers.” 

The key design elements in the repackaging are inspired by Pakistan’s heritage. “As ‘Pakistan’s number one recipe mix brand’ [their tagline], we paid tribute to our roots,” explains Eijaz. The focal point of the design is a crescent-shaped placemat (made with traditional motifs and patterns such as ajrak and Multani kashi tiles) on which the relevant food ingredient is placed. Each item is accompanied by a star-shaped garnish, be it mint or coriander and the crescent and star duo is a nod towards National Foods’ Pakistani roots.

Despite the emphasis on tradition, Eijaz describes the new look as “fusion”, as it uses contemporary bold colours and design elements, which apart from the aesthetics, help classify the product line (rice-related mixes use mustard yellow boxes, curry-related items are purple and barbeque dishes are red). “This is the first time we have colour-coded our recipe mix boxes, and although colours were always there, they were not as prominent,” adds Aejaz Abbas Basrai, Director, Culinary, National Foods. 

A Bristol-based brand design agency, Taxi Studio, was commissioned for the repackaging project. According to Eijaz, it is preferable to use people who specialise in a certain task. Further explaining why National opted to use a foreign-based design agency, he says, “we don’t have a lot of product design studios in Pakistan.” Gokhan, a Turkish photographer, along with his team, is responsible for the food styling.

Other than aesthetics, the new consumer-centric features on the packaging include a spice-o-metre (indicating the intensity of the spices in the recipe mix), cooking instructions (available in English and Urdu) and a QR code that directs users to National Foods’ Made Easy Store: an e-commerce portal where consumers can purchase National products, browse through a selection of recipes and take advantage of discounts.

To publicise this redesign, National launched a two-pronged campaign which primarily includes two TVCs (described as functional and thematic) produced by IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, their creative agency.  The functional TVC centres on the orientation of the new design, its patterns, the crescent and star. The thematic one is more celebratory in nature and incorporates the bold colours of the boxes throughout, and features a specially commissioned adaptation of the qawwali by the Sufi poet Amir Khusrau, Aj Rung Hai, rendered by Meesha Shafi and composed by Mughal-e-Funk, a Pakistani contemporary, instrumental fusion/funk band. 

“‘Aaj Rung Hai’ is a celebration of colours and is tied to the idea of celebrating the launch of a new colourful look for National Foods recipe mix boxes,” says Batool-e-Azra, Chief Client Officer, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. The brief for the thematic ad was to showcase family and friends bonding over food. “We wanted to create excitement around the new packaging, given that a considerable amount of thought has gone into the redesign,” Eijaz adds. “When you are on a dastarkhwan with your family, you bond and match each other’s vibes. If you are feeling happy, that feeling is enhanced by good food. At the end of the day, National Foods are about spreading moments of joy.” 

The campaign is rolling out on all mainstream digital media platforms and the ‘Aaj Rung Hai’ soundtrack has been released on Spotify. According to Batool-e-Azra, “the fusion of a classic song with modern instruments made the soundtrack catchy enough for people to want to listen to the full version. Spotify will help promote the song and create brand recall.” The campaign will also run on traditional platforms such as print, radio, television and OOH nationwide.

The campaign’s target audience is diverse in terms of age and according to Eijaz, the approach is demographically driven. “There can be 25-year-olds who have rigid mindsets and 40-year-olds who are open to experimentation”. Ultimately, the target audience entails all kinds of people, including those who don’t necessarily cook regularly.

The newly designed boxes are available nationwide in large-scale supermarkets as well as minimarts and kiryana stores, although they may not yet be available in the smaller stores until the old packaging is sold out. National are working on the visibility of the products at supermarkets such as Carrefour, Imtiaz and Springs; retailers have been asked to place them strategically and in some cases, in-store promotions have taken place as well.

Although the repackaging is relatively new, National says they are satisfied with the response so far. As Eijaz puts it: “We believe in the new design.”