Kayla McKee-Bittman considers herself an activist disguised as an advert company CEO. She and her husband, Dave Bateman, personal Innocent Studio, a Camden-based meals product design firm that stands out as one of many few, and maybe the one, solely American vegan promoting companies.
Innocent Studio will solely work with clients who produce vegan and vegetarian merchandise. The corporate was based in Windfall, Rhode Island, in 2018; The couple moved it to Maine in 2021.
“I really like the work we do as a result of I see design as a type of exercise,” mentioned Mackie Pittman. “We’re creating extra of what we need to see on the planet. We’re very selective in regards to the folks and initiatives we work with.”
Innocent Studio has created advertising campaigns for eating places, packaged meals firms, and producers that make wholesale, plant-based elements. Earlier shoppers embrace PlantPub eating places in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and San Luis Obispo, California, and Plant Metropolis vegetarian meals courtroom in Windfall; meals product firms Pure Batch, Unicreamer, Frankie & Jo’s, Umaro, and Social gathering Sloth; and wholesalers Teese Vegan Cheese and Yali Bio.
“We use our backgrounds in advertising and promoting to carry these backgrounds to vegan shoppers,” mentioned Bateman, who labored at conventional companies earlier than he and his spouse based Innocent Studio. Each Pittman and Macy Pittman are alumni of the Rhode Island Faculty of Design.
When PlantPub co-founder Pat McAuley was working with Innocent Studio to develop the restaurant’s model, he informed the crew that he “did not need PlantPub to be a hipster, granola-loving, vegan place.” As an alternative, PlantPub goals to draw non-vegans to get pleasure from all-vegan pub fare by making a fast-casual mainstream model id. McCauley mentioned the Innocent Studio crew understood the idea and delivered a design aesthetic devoid of “Buddhas and shiny colors”. He was impressed by the corporate’s technical experience and information of issues he hadn’t given a lot thought to, reminiscent of fonts.
“It was hours and hours of simply selecting traces,” McCauley mentioned. “They have been actually updated. It has been over two years since we have labored with them and you may see now that a whole lot of manufacturers are heading within the route I recommended two years in the past.”
Beginning a vegan-only enterprise design firm meant overcoming the uncertainty of a brand new enterprise and launching an organization into an rising enterprise class.
“We have had some suggestions that it might not have been the wisest determination,” mentioned McKee-Pittman. “However as a result of we took this leap of religion, it allowed us to develop this superlative, and because the botanical panorama grew, I grew with it.”
Competitors has additionally grown.
“Over the previous eight years, I’ve seen increasingly professionals launch service-based companies with the purpose of serving solely the rising vegetarian and vegan market,” Katrina Fox, an Australian-based writer and vegan enterprise and advertising knowledgeable, tells me. “Whereas you could have solely as soon as or two been in your class, reminiscent of a vegan graphic designer, now there may be much more competitors. I believe it is a reflection of extra professionals keen to work for firms that align with their ethics and values.”
That is definitely what prompted Macy Bateman and Bateman to launch Innocent Studio. What makes it uncommon even amongst design companies that target plant-based companies is their coverage of limiting their shoppers to solely plant-based companies. Different gamers on this area embrace advert companies Levo, based in 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Scout 22, based in 2015 in Los Angeles, and Quicker/Ahead, based in 2022 in Phoenix. One of many oldest vegan advertising firms is Vegan Mainstream, launched by Stephanie Redcross in 2009 in Kissimmee, Florida.
At instances, Innocent Studio turned down potential shoppers; Nonetheless, Macky Pittman mentioned their angle “made us extra engaging” to different clients. As lifelong animal lovers, moral vegetarians for seven years, and vegans for eight years earlier than that, the couple see the motion motion as the precise factor to do.
“No matter whether or not it helps or hurts us as an organization, we work on initiatives that we care deeply about each single day, and it is onerous to place a value on that,” Macky Pittman mentioned.
One drawback all of those firms face is whether or not to make use of “vegan,” “vegan,” or another descriptor on the packaging they design and the advertising they create.
“Context issues,” mentioned Mackie Pittman. For instance, utilizing the phrase “vegetarian” is beneficial on-line as a result of the phrase is a well-liked search time period. “Nonetheless, that’s not essentially the phrase to make use of if (the product) goes to be positioned on the shelf subsequent to animal merchandise” in a grocery retailer, she mentioned. On this case, the best choice could also be “plant”. In between, there are a whole lot of grey areas.
“Firms are likely to see the time period ‘vegan’ as much less politicized, much less divisive, and fewer activist-oriented,” Pittman mentioned.
“In the event you’re not vegan and also you’re searching for a restaurant that sells these merchandise, you’ll be able to nonetheless seek for ‘vegan restaurant’ as an alternative of ‘vegan restaurant,'” Bateman mentioned. Google Pattern information proves this, with solely a small phase of individuals looking on Google for “vegetarian restaurant”. In Maine, that small phase drops to zero and all searches are for “vegan restaurant.”
A lot of the startups and small companies that Innocent Studio works with are searching for methods to make their merchandise stand out in a crowded market. Usually step one to realizing a imaginative and prescient is to assist firm founders really feel snug with “being totally different and taking extra dangers,” as Macky Pittman places it. It additionally means serving to homeowners perceive how one of the best design for a product will not be their first design alternative.
Creating engaging packaging designs and attractive commercials, Mäki-Pittman mentioned, “is not like designing your front room. The purpose is to make folks somewhat uncomfortable. To get their consideration.”
Innocent Studio is clearly getting the eye of many vegan startups at present.
Avery Yale Camilla is a meals author dwelling in Portland. They are often reached at email@example.com.
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