June 28th 2017

Lisa Mathews, Head of packaging design agency Jack, rates packaging design.

I'm a big fan of Dorset Cereals and have been ever since I fell in love, first with their packaging, and then with their super crunchy, roasted nut muesli. There's nothing worse than muesli that turns soggy as soon as it gets a sniff of milk.

From humble beginnings in 1989, founded as an alternative to the "rabbit food" options on the market, Dorset Cereals now exports to more than 70 countries from the UK, including Australia.

Packaging was a factor of that success. Initially looking more like pet food than tasty cereal (according to Big Fish, their design agency), the original redesign helped the brand grow from £4 million to £45 million in just three and a half years.

The power of simple, artisanal design that stood out from the glossy, overly decorated boxes of competitor cereals; the delight of seeing the wholesomeness of the cereal through the little die- cut windows rather than being told how wholesome the cereal was; and the charming copy that made us slather over "glorious bowlfuls" of muesli "gently baked with pecans & almonds" whilst reminding us that "life begins at breakfast".

Recently, the packaging had another facelift, just arriving on-shelf in Australia. Detailed illustrations have turned the previously simple packs into "pieces of delightful tableware" (thanks, Big Fish). Yet for a brand that's built on simple goodness, Dorset Cereals’ new decorative appeal suddenly feels a bit trite, a bit fussy.

They still get it right on so many other levels, and I hope the redesign doesn't mean they have removed the clever little piece of copy I discovered the other day when opening a variant I hadn't tried before.

You know how cereal bags, chip packets and their ilk tend to rip wide open, dispersing their contents all over the counter, no matter how cautious you are? You wonder how good brands can get it so wrong. Just as you'd expect, Dorset Cereals is so much more considered. And considerate.

Printed on the inner flap of the box, just as you're about to tear open the plastic bag are the words: "We seal our bags nice and tightly to keep things fresh, so you will need scissors to open them."

Helpful. Friendly. Engaging. Smart. And only myself to blame when I don't go get the scissors.

Jack's mindful packaging score:

Authentic, Distinctive, Engaging and Better for People & Planet – a tasty yes.

Simple - was a big yes, now heading for a no with the fussy new illustrations.

Dorset Cereals scores a healthy-ish 4 out of 5.