Enabling the future of food with sustainable salmon production
PA’s work with Wildtype has been honored in the Fast Company 2021 Innovation by Design Awards, with the project being named as a finalist in the Graphic Design category and receiving an honorable mention in the General Excellence and Branding categories.
Salmon is one of the world’s most popular fish. Consumers’ insatiable appetite for this protein has led to overfishing of wild salmon and the rise of farmed salmon at scale, which has had damaging effects on the environment. We created a brand strategy for Wildtype, a start-up developing clean, cell-based protein, as it prepares to take its first product, cell-based salmon, to market. This work included consulting on the company’s name and positioning to enhance the image of lab-grown food.
- Conducted a focused audience and competitor exploration
- Developed a visual design language for the product that accentuates its crafted nature
- Created a brand strategy to help launch the product with key audiences
Protecting our world’s supply of salmon
Wild salmon stocks are changing, as they lose their habitats and genetic diversity. Overfishing means that they can’t reproduce fast enough, which puts future salmon populations at risk. Meanwhile, farmed salmon can contain chemicals and host parasites, which can transfer between farmed and wild fish as well as among farms, presenting a risk to wild populations or other farms.
Recognizing that many animal and fish husbandry practices are unsustainable, start-ups have begun developing meat-based substitutes and cell-based proteins. Wildtype, based in San Francisco, CA, was founded by Aryé Elfenbein, a cardiologist and microbiologist and Justin Kolbeck, a former diplomat, to create a sustainable, scalable way to enjoy salmon that brings out its best nutrients, without any toxins. The start-up raised $3.5 million to help reinvent meat for a new generation.
Pioneering the creation of cultured fish
Cell-based meat is new to chefs and consumers. As it creates a new product category, Wildtype must educate key audiences on its new product’s benefits and also address stereotypes about lab-created food. The start-up’s founders wanted to develop a name and brand that would showcase its mission more effectively.
Creating a brand that changes people’s perception
Our strategy, product innovation and graphic design expertise was instrumental in developing the Wildtype brand, bringing our passion for visual communication, sustainability and social media to the fore.
We brought behavioural science insights, human-centred design and brand strategy capabilities to develop a brand strategy that would change perceptions and behaviours around salmon selection, so that consumers would choose cell-based salmon as a healthy, sustainable choice. This work included providing market research and strategy, a competitive analysis, naming, branding and positioning, illustrations, packaging concepts, photography direction and social media guidelines and tools.
We spent significant time with the start-up’s leaders to understand their company, vision and desired brand. The phrase Wild Type, the start-up’s name, means a common strain in nature but is sometimes associated with mutation as it serves as the parent strain used for research and development. As a consequence, we undertook a naming exercise, developing storyboards with audience and market research and the company’s goals and roadmap. We presented three naming options to help the start-up humanize its brand and create a naming system for future products. The start-up chose Wildtype to evoke positive consumer associations with the process of creating salmon.
As we created branding concepts, we shared progress along the way with in-person check-ins and work sessions to make sure ideas aligned with the co-founders’ goals. We created a concept board called “The Craftsman” with handcrafted illustrations that won them over. The illustrations are designed to evoke the artisan nature of the food and the chefs that prepare it, while creating an organic, playful look that’s very consumer-friendly. The brand mark is a roe, which is what the Wildtype salmon is grown from. After finalising the brand, we created a toolkit to demonstrate how the brand flexes across media, including the web, apps and social media.
Wildtype is using the brand to launch its sushi-grade salmon product first to chefs on the U.S. West Coast, as well as host them in the Wildtype Kitchen, the company’s innovation space. The brand will help the start-up build buzz and interest in its salmon, as it prepares for full-scale commercial production over the next few years, launching to consumers and then eventually expanding to other proteins. As of February 2022, the company closed a $100 million Series B funding round to support its growth trajectory.