Service
Business growth
Design associate
Kate Blandford
Design agency
Brandhouse
Location
London

New consumer branding has helped to highlight the unique nature of a regional Italian speciality food proposition.

Challenge

Donatantonio has been importing and distributing Mediterranean products in the UK for more than 100 years. It supplies food manufacturers, non-retail multiples, wholesalers and restaurants with a rapidly expanding product portfolio of more than 500 lines. Based in Borehamwood and with a staff of 30, it turned over £20m in 2014.

Founded by Luigi Donatantonio, an immigrant from Minori in southern Italy who came to the UK in the 1890s, Donatantonio began as a delicatessen in Clerkenwell, London, supplying Italian delicacies to its founder’s fellow émigrés and continued as a family-run business for many years. In 2001, it was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment as a Tradesman to the Queen and in late 2007, it was acquired by management and investors.

For many years, Donatantonio supplied its lines under supermarket labels before developing its own trade brand, Lupa (Italian for ‘she wolf’). But the business had long had an ambition to develop a retail brand using the name Lupetta (Italian for ‘little wolf’).

“We were looking to make the business more design and brand-led,” explained Donatantonio Chief Executive, Simon Bell, who has a background in FMCG marketing. So in late 2012 he sought Design Council support to bring the Lupetta brand to market. “We hoped Design Council would provide expertise and act as a catalyst to achieve our goal - it did both.”

What we did

There was a wealth of untapped potential within the business.

Kate Blandford, Design Associate, Design Council

Kate Blandford was the Design Associate whom Design Council assigned to work with the business. Blandford’s work began with an in-depth analysis of Donatantonio’s business and its marketplace with senior management and staff and they discussed the business value that could be gained from a design-led approach. “There was a wealth of untapped potential within the business and strong relationships with Italian clients, but without a business-to-consumer brand there was no way for general consumers to directly access the rich array of products Donatantonio supplied,” Blandford explained.

The aim was to tap into the surge of interest in home cooking and growing understanding of Italian cuisine. The key challenge was how best to differentiate the brand from other Italian propositions. What was needed was a strong product range with a united design, which would nonetheless provide sufficient flexibility for a unique story to be told about each product.

Blandford worked closely with Bell to fine-tune the proposition he had started to develop for the new brand. She also helped write a detailed design brief and introduced the business to a number of design agencies with appropriate expertise. London-based Brandhouse was appointed in early 2013.

The design team began work on developing Lupetta. “We needed to create a brand that embodied the idea that there is no such thing as ‘Italian cuisine’, just regional Italian dishes – the best of which are made from the best ingredients,” explained Brandhouse Managing Director, Mark Rae.

A compelling brand history was developed.

Mark Rae, Managing Director, Brandhouse

“International artisanal foods can seem overwhelming to retailers and consumers - sometimes it’s easy to get lost. Our packaging needed to give it a bit of extra standout which would encourage people to pick it up,” Bell added.

“A compelling brand history was developed with emotional distinctiveness and a brand then built around that which was eclectic, individual, quality and with a strong regional sense of place,” said Rae. “To secure listings in good delis and supermarkets, quality and authenticity are key.”

An important visual element of the brand design is a framing device used across all product packaging of two ‘Ls’ which act like a viewfinder to highlight each region and product. The end result is stylish, simple and premium – a marked departure from the old-fashioned, Italian family-style design used by a number of established Italian consumer food brands.

The Lupetta range

In summer 2014, Donatantonio launched Lupetta with an initial selection of five Italian regional products, including Sicilian cherry tomato sauce in a beer bottle and Calabrese ‘nduja (pork) paste in a jar. A larger-scale push into the marketplace then began in early 2015 after Donatantonio began working with speciality and fine food wholesale distributor Cotswold Fayre.

Results

Response to the brand so far has been phenomenal ... And the help we have had from Design Council has been invaluable.

Simon Bell, Chief Executive, Donatantonio

Within six months of Lupetta’s launch, Donatantonio had introduced a further 12 products to the range which is now stocked in a growing array of independent delicatessens, farm shops and other non-retail multiples across the UK. Donatantonio expects its turnover to grow from £20m in 2014 to £24m by the end of 2015.

“Our strategy is to build the brand and our position in the marketplace over time, outlet by outlet. We have our own e-commerce website and are also selling on Amazon. We may well go into retail multiples, but not for a couple of years,” Bell explained.

“Response to the brand so far has been phenomenal – the products are excellent and people love the design and packaging. And the help we have had from Design Council has been invaluable.”

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