“Gluten-free” not guaranteed

By Karen Toscano
With 10% of food sold as ‘gluten-free’ in Melbourne’s cafes and restaurants not genuinely gluten-free, how do you design a gluten-free brand that people can trust?

If you don’t think about it too much, you may assume that any meal claiming to be ‘gluten-free’ has to go through vigorous testing to display this status, and if it’s not an issue that deeply affects you, you might have never considered any other possibility. 

However, Coeliac consumers might not share the same level of trust. A recent undercover study in Melbourne discovered as much as 10% of food sold as ‘gluten-free’ in Melbourne’s cafes and restaurants was not genuinely gluten-free. This news obviously hasn’t engendered trust within this community and it is not the only group undergoing radical fluctuations in trust. In 2018, trust in Australia was seen declining across all four key institutions: media, business, government and NGOs. With many identifying their loss of faith, particularly in traditional authoritative organisations. In this, tumultuous context, how can you build a gluten-free brand that people can trust?

When Well & Good, a gluten, nut and dairy-free brand approached Fluid, it lacked any discernible difference to more well known, mainstream brands. Its message was hidden behind generic category codes, making the brand indistinguishable on shelf from its gluten-full competitors. It needed to connect, with distinctive brand codes and build trust in its own brand, communicating its quality and value.

Fluid looked at the brand’s values, explored category movements and with consumer research built insights and a clear design direction to translate into final brand and packaging outcomes. As with all things, there is never a one size fits all approach. But there are things every brand can do to ensure they actively build trust with their consumers. 

Owning a singular colour code was the first step to earning consumer’s attention, ensuring they could easily identify the range in-store. A dusty light blue, not only communicated ‘trust’ though traditional colour-theory but also helped distinguish the product from the bevy of cake mix competitors with a contemporary, approachable personality.

Fundamental to a brand being trustworthy is its ability to deliver on its promises. In the case of Well & Good, its product actually lived up to the brand values, often surpassing consumer expectations. These values were expressed everywhere – except on the brand’s packaging. Well & Good’s statement of ‘always gluten, nut and dairy free’ is now a core part of the brand promise and is shown clearly at the front and top of the pack.

Finally, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the cake. Research identified, the need to demonstrate the height, and texture of the featured product cameos, bucking the Instagram-ready trends of top down food photography. These elements combined to communicate successfully to the audience, a message that not only reassures but inspires them that they too, can have their cake and eat it too.