Earth’s Own calls for plant-based revolution

To go beyond the category's typical functional messaging, the non-dairy brand is rebranding with a focus on sustainability.

For the last two decades, Vancouver-based Earth’s Own has catered to Canada’s vegetarian and vegan consumers (of which there are 1.3 million and 466,000, respectively, according to a joint Dalhousie University and University of Guelph study) by offering a range of vegan-friendly, non-dairy, non-GMO and organic beverages.

Today, plant-based eating has expanded beyond those who avoid animal products altogether, to include “flexitarians” who simply want to limit their intake with non-meat and non-dairy alternatives. With this shift in mind, Earth’s Own has revamped its packaging to emphasize its plant-based ingredients that much more, adding its new tag – “We dig plants” – to cartons across its entire product line.

But even more than speaking to a growing consumer base, the company’s new packaging also better highlights and articulates its sustainability bent.

Now, cartons include messaging that speaks to how its production process requires seven times less water than that to produce milk, as well as the fact that it is grown by Canadian farmers, using a prominent green leaf near the spout. The new packaging comes with the phrase, “Even this carton is made from plants.” Earth’s Own repeats similar “better-for-the-planet” messages on its redesigned website in the form of a “plantifesto.” Through this, it explains what the company is doing to protect the planet (and communities) through initiatives like working with Growing Chefs to teach kids how to grow plants.

Brittany Hull, director of marketing at Earth’s Own tells strategy that traditionally plant-based beverages have been focused on functional messaging – taste, nutrition, protein, calories – and that brand distinctions have blurred because of the sameness in messaging. But Earth’s Own is focusing on differentiating itself by highlighting its mission, which is to “change the world through a plant-based movement,” Hull says. “Part of how we communicate this is in our packaging – our biggest billboard.”

In addition, the company is also adding its masterbrand to two of its three sub-brands – So Nice (for its organic and soy-based products), So Fresh (for oat, almond and cashew) and So Good (original soy) – to avoid confusion at shelf, Hull says. So Nice and So Fresh will more prominently feature the Earth’s Own branding, while So Good will continue to exist in its original packaging. The brands are now organized according to a “Plant-based Fam Jam” that includes Oats, Organic, Soy, Almond, Cashew and Barista. While the Oat line of products has been redesigned under the So Fresh banner, the company says it plans to roll out the new look to all of its SKUs within the next four to five months.

Hull believes that the dairy alternative category lacks innovative retail displays. Part of the challenge, she says, is that about 65% of its business is in the chilled space, making for limited space for displays in the temperature-controlled areas. However, for its newly designed Oat line, which launched in February, Hull says a few of its retail partners are building big “pyramid-style” displays (stacking cartons to create an inverted pyramid) to catch shoppers’ attention in aisles.

When it comes to messaging, Hull says Earth’s Own wants to better communicate that “everything we do is about getting people to eat more plants.” The organization had always been a philosophically-led brand, she says, but it hasn’t effectively communicated that in the past. “We want to educate the next generation about why this is important.”