How Robot Food Designed Packaging for Frozen Meals You’ll Actually Want to Eat
By: Theresa Christine
What’s for dinner tonight? Maybe some savory lamb tagine, a side of green peas and potato dauphinoise, along with a rhubarb and strawberry crumble for dessert. It might seem impossible to fit all that cooking into your schedule, but no worries—Gourmade makes it possible with their line of premium frozen food.
Of course, “premium frozen food” sounds a bit like an oxymoron. But Gourmade’s meals, sides, and desserts are giving a new name to the frozen food aisle, replacing those depressingly bland single serving meals with something you might only dream of in one of Julia Child's cookbooks.
“Our brief was to turn Love Food into a brand that not only challenged the category but would challenge perceptions of frozen food and ready meals,” explained Simon Forster, Founder and Executive Creative Director at Robot Food. “To do this, we decided to start from scratch and give the brand a more ownable name and position within the market.”
The team began the way they start all of their projects— by doing a detailed category audit. They predicted shifting people’s perceptions of frozen food would become one of their highest priorities, but Robot Food also discovered two considerations which would play a part in the design. “The first being the physical barrier of the frosted over, poorly lit freezer units themselves,” Simon explained. “The second was the massive opportunity to speak to a broad demographic, including the largely forgotten and underserved Empty Nesters.”
With quite a lot of factors to overcome—including consumers’ preconceived notions, displays, and reaching a wider audience—Gourmade needed a completely different approach. This meant Robot Food had to approach the product and the category as a whole, with fresh eyes to create a design that would cut through the clutter, get noticed and possess plenty of purchasing power.
An agency known to go against the grain, they chose to forgo food photography on the outside of the packs. “Instead, we decided to lead with vibrancy and bold product descriptors in a custom handwritten font that promises a quality we’re confident the product delivers,” Simon mentioned. “If that grabs the consumer’s attention, they can then lift the flap to reveal how amazing the food looks when served. It’s premium in name and execution, but vibrant, fun and accessible to all.”
Gourmade certainly embraces “vibrant” with bold colors specifically chosen to grab the consumer’s attention even through frosted windows. But it wasn’t simply about choosing bright hues for the sake of having them. “We wanted each color to shout about the foodie cues of the meals inside,” Simon said. “The electric pink of the Chicken Tikka Masala—a studio favorite, for example—is inspired by the dish’s warming, vibrant flavor. Having the food on the front of the pack would have just followed the same pattern as everyone else.”
Photography still played an essential part in the packaging, but including it on an inside flap allows Gourmade to look nothing like your typical frozen food. Instead, it’s something you might expect to see packaged up and sold in the freshly prepared food section of a grocery store, floating around somewhere between the bakery and the butcher. The handwritten font adds to this homemade look.
“We wanted something genuine,” Simon said, “so it was really just a case of putting pen to paper and seeing which one of us had the neatest handwriting. After deciding, we developed the font using a felt tip on paper and then formalized it within a font software.”
Gourmade stands out in its high-end approach—not something you’d expect a frozen food brand to pull off so gracefully. And while drool-worthy photography on the inside flap and the “Frozen from Fresh” quality seal add to this experience, it's the brand’s mission which truly sets it apart: Live More, Cook Less. It places a high value on time spent with loved ones and enjoying life, yet the food itself is something you can actually feel good about feeding your family.
“Time is a valuable commodity,” explained Simon. “For those that don’t have it, it’s precious. For those that do have it, like our Empty Nesters, it’s not to be wasted slaving over a stove. We wanted consumers to indulge themselves in good food and good times, and to do this we need to take the compromise out of convenience.”
Theresa entered the world of design through The Dieline. With a background in writing and journalism, she has a passion for discovery and cultivating human connections. Her work for The Dieline is a constant journey to deeply understand all facets of the design process and to investigate what makes designers tick. Theresa's writing has taken her snorkeling in between the tectonic plates in Iceland, horseback riding through a rural Brazilian town, and riding an octopus art car at Burning Man with Susan Sarandon as part of a funeral procession for Timothy Leary (long story). When not writing, she is planning her next trip or taking too many pictures of her cat.