Counter Culture Coffee Branding Gets A Jolt Of Caffeinated Color

Now say that headline 10 times fast.

Caffè Verona, Country Roast, Toscano: When it comes to branding coffee companies tend to play it safe, with muted package designs and ho-hum names.


Not Counter Culture Coffee. Yesterday the North Carolina-based company unveiled new packaging and names for its year-round and single-origin products, with a color palette that would do Sol LeWitt proud.

“We wanted things to pop,” president Brett Smith, who founded the company in 1995, tells Co.Design. “I really wish that I had a list of scientific data that led us to select these colors, but we just really liked them. They’re beautiful, and we wanted to bring a little art to our packaging.”

And in an increasingly crowded coffee market–rife with new entrants gung-ho to take on the Starbucks establishment, as Fast Company recently reported–that pop of color stands out the rest of the neutral-colored bags on store shelves. “The market is very competitive, and we have to continue to push ourselves,” Smith says. “There’s a lot of great coffee out there.”

With rainbow-bright hues, and clean typefaces by Hoefler & Co, the new packages are a dramatic departure from the flinty black bags that distinguished earlier designs. But Smith says the revamped look, developed in-house, still reflects Counter Culture’s original brand identity. “Pushing for quality, keeping in mind sustainability and education: Those are ideals that have not changed, and those were the anchors for the decisions that we made about the packaging,” he says.

Previous design

Those ideals have taken the form of increased use of recycled materials and a more prominent roast date, as well as more detailed information about what region the beans come from and who farms them.

Counter Culture has also shed its old product names, dropping labels like Rustico in favor of labels like Hologram, Big Trouble, and Fast Forward. Before, Smith says, “There was no consistency, and a lot were based in northern Italy traditions. That’s wonderful, but we’re really focusing more on a kind of contemporary feel.”


No feedback from coffee drinkers as yet–the new packages started shipping only last week. “It’s the same wonderful coffee, and we just hope that the package communicates that,” Smith says.

[h/t Under Consideration]


About the author

Staff writer Ainsley (O'Connell) Harris covers the business of technology with a focus on financial services and education. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.