Steve’s Ice Cream embraces its craft roots with new flavors and artist-designed packaging
This post is sponsored by Dean Foods.
Dean Foods acquired Steve’s Ice Cream in 2017, and the brand is launching an artistic new look this summer. Steve’s teamed with Seattle-based artist Drew Wicklund to design eye-catching new packaging for the entire line, which includes seven new varieties of ice cream and dairy-free frozen desserts. Wicklund and Mark Schneider, ice cream marketing director at Dean Foods, discuss the rebrand, the inspiration behind the new packaging design and how Steve’s plans to pair art and ice cream in other ways.
What about the Steve’s brand appealed to Dean Foods?
Schneider: As we looked to expand our branded ice cream portfolio, Steve’s emerged as a natural and really attractive addition to the Dean Foods family. First, it allowed us to enter the super-premium segment, something we had been actively pursuing. But even more than that, we saw a brand with a rich history, a lineup of outstanding products and a cadre of passionate fans that we could continue to grow. Steve’s legacy as a pioneer in the craft ice cream movement since its inception in 1973 provided a very genuine and unique backstory that aligns with the desires of today’s consumers who crave quality, authenticity and compelling experiences.
Which aspects of the brand did you update for the re-launch, and which have not changed?
Schneider: First and foremost, we wanted to stay true to the brand’s long-standing commitment to inspire creativity, challenge convention and create crave-worthy product experiences. Expanding our already rich line-up of flavors was our initial priority. We collaborated with our R&D team to drive flavor innovation, which resulted in seven new varieties that are now available across both our ice cream and dairy-free frozen dessert lineups. These just-released flavors were inspired by our passion for global food culture and our mission to share unique and unexpected creations with our fans. Our next step was to update our packaging to embody the brand’s newly-invigorated creative spirit, knowing that every aspect of this rebranding needed to ladder back to communicating art as our core value and connecting consumers to that passion.
Can you explain how the focus on art comes to life with this brand restage?
Schneider: Our connection to art informs all aspects of the brand strategy, and it is what we believe will deepen the connection consumers have with our brand. Our packaging design is what consumers will notice first, which leads them directly to our flavor artistry. Historically, Steve’s has drawn heavily on inspiration from local traditions and ingredients for its flavors, like Kentucky Bourbon, Brooklyn Blackout and Southern Banana Pudding. As we continue to broaden our innovation by leaning into more exotic and global flavor palates, we deliver against the consumer desire for exciting new experiences and artisanship. That focus led to this year’s new flavors, including Moroccan Mash Up, Passion Carnivale and Sicilian Chocolate Cannoli. Lastly, our connection to art will inform our marketing strategy and serve as Steve’s guiding principle for how we act and engage with fans.
How did this redesign come to pass?
Schneider: Rather than engage a traditional packaging design agency, we sought out and identified an artist who could understand our vision, the brand’s history, and help us reimagine the visual identity to clearly embody the uniquely creative spirit that has always made Steve’s so unique. We ended up partnering with Drew Wicklund, a Seattle-based artist, designer and itinerant traveler whose work is informed by the people he meets and the unique places he visits. That aesthetic is exactly what we were looking for: someone who finds inspiration in real experiences and authentically and creatively brings them to life to be shared with others.
What was the inspiration behind the new packaging designs?
Wicklund: The ingredients and flavors inside each pint were my biggest inspiration. We knew we needed something unique that would capture Steve’s personality and help us stand out in a very cluttered category. The exotic palette of flavors Mark mentioned really called for something truly unique. A singular identifying icon on each pint illustrates the flavor and ingredients inside and helps draw the consumer’s eye as they scan the crowded shelves. Icons like a bourbon barrel for our Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla or the bumble bee that creates the honey swirl in our Wildflower Honey Pistachio help capture both the crafted personality of the brand, but also create something wholly unique for each variety.
How do you combine art and brand design to create packaging that resonates with today's consumer?
Wicklund: While I started as an artist at a young age, as I launched my professional career I ended up in the design world. This evolution has allowed me to tap into the best of both disciplines and helps me create work that not only captures the attention of consumers, but also brings a brand’s true essence to life. In the case of Steve’s, that is the brand’s ongoing commitment to contemporary art and artists. And because packaging is the doorway to any product, I focused on what really makes Steve’s different: the notes, hues and textures in each pint, ensuring each design was distinct and captured the essence of the actual ice cream flavor.
What else can we expect from Steve’s this summer?
Schneider: This brand restage goes far beyond packaging and flavor innovation; it completely informs all elements of the marketing mix. Just like our ice cream combinations are unexpected, Steve’s is planning to show up in unexpected ways and places throughout the summer. We’re working with contemporary artists in several markets to create immersive experiences for our consumers to connect with our brand and share in our passion for art. Follow the brand’s social media channels @stevesicecream for the most up-to-date announcements. We will also be returning to our hometown roots and showing up in a big way.
Mark Schneider is ice cream marketing director at Dean Foods.
Drew Wicklund is a Seattle-based artist and designer of Steve’s Ice Cream packaging.
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