Picnic’s artsy own-label range forgoes a sense of corporate identity and prioritises delighting shoppers

Think of own-label packaging, and a functional, borderline dull design probably comes to mind. At European retailer Picnic, that couldn’t be further from the truth. When freshening up its own-label range in 2021, it went back to the drawing board.

“There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank sheet of paper,” says Perry Haydn Taylor, founder of UK design consultancy Big Fish, which worked with Picnic to develop packaging for its 2,000-strong range. “At the beginning we thought: is this going to be chaos? Are we going to end up with an absolute car crash?”

But Picnic is different from your normal retailer in many ways – allowing for more flexibility in own-label designs. Crucially, it doesn’t have any physical stores and doesn’t plan to. Its goods are instead bought on an app and delivered at a set time to each street each day, much like a traditional milk round.

It means there is no need to grab attention on shelves or splash ‘peanut butter’ across a jar to make clear what’s inside. For Picnic, the goal was simply to make the food look great in customers’ homes. “And how do you do that? Well, you turn to art,” says Haydn Taylor.


Source: Picnic

’We turned all the rules upside down and challenged everything that’s been done before’

Picnic and Big Fish – which counts Tyrrells, Dorset Cereals and Waitrose among its clients – developed the overarching brief together. The aim was to turn “all the rules upside down and challenge everything that’s been done in grocery before” Haydn Taylor says.

Each product in the range was approached afresh. “Whether someone’s buying eggs, milk, cheese or a tin of dogfood, the packaging should be appropriate to the category and really, really special,” he says. “So we decided to have no corporate identity whatsoever, and abandon all rules of consistency.

“Let’s not talk about Picnic as a brand excited about its egotistical brand exposure, but about those individual products and those delights.”

Such delights include juice cartons featuring botanical paintings, beer cans covered in playing card graphics, and cans of veg boasting bold stylised graphics of the contents.


Source: Picnic

Even cat litter gets the arty treatment, with a hand-drawn illustration of a feline reading a newspaper

Even cat litter gets the arty treatment, with a hand-drawn illustration of a feline reading a newspaper. “Pets are all about fun,” Haydn Taylor explains. “So it’s about elevating those mundane things like cat litter into something really whimsical and fun and actually quite enviable. That way every time you have to deal with the shit – literally – it puts a smile on your face.”

Not only are the designs out of the ordinary, but the way of working was also very different. Haydn Taylor describes it as: “Quite fascinating. Pretty bonkers.”

After meeting with Picnic for an initial couple of hours, Big Fish began rapidly prototyping ideas. “Nobody was frightened of rejection,” he says. “If something was wrong, no one sat around thinking how to fix it, we’d just go back and do it all again.”


Source: Picnic

’People often go into work mode when it comes to consumer-facing products, which is a real shame’

Unusually, designs were presented to Picnic mocked up in the context of a cupboard shelf or fridge, rather than on a blank white background. It enabled everyone involved to “get a bit clipboardy and mark things out of 10”.

Without that context, “your mind takes you to a different place,” Haydn Taylor continues. “You imagine it’s already done and you’re no longer evaluating it in an analytical way. It’s more of an instinctive evaluation. People often go into work mode when it comes to consumer-facing products ,which is a real shame.”

Finally, a “sheriff” appointed by Picnic made the ultimate call on designs. “The most important thing was giving Big Fish the freedom to come up with the most creative designs possible,” says Jenneke Evers, Picnic’s lead private label sheriff. “We want to develop a brand that makes people happy, brings a smile to their faces.”


Source: Picnic

’You could say we had a very tight brief. It was: This doesn’t have to work in a supermarket’

That goal seems to have been achieved, if sales are anything to go by. Picnic’s own-label range continues to expand and, in many categories, sales outstrip their equivalent branded products.

For Haydn Taylor, while Big Fish was boosted by the freedom of Picnic’s goal to simply design something beautiful, their brief wasn’t necessarily as open as it seems. “You could say we had a very tight brief,” he muses. “It was: ‘This doesn’t have to work in a supermarket’. Or rather: ‘do not design for a supermarket’. And that’s actually a really good thing.”


Source: Picnic