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Headline Hero: Labels for change and Most Wanted Wines

Published:  25 February, 2022

Design linking the liquid in the bottle to a worthy cause has reached a new level, as Andrew Catchpole reports.

The concept of what we’ve dubbed ‘labels for change’ is simple enough. These are wines and spirits which flag up to the consumer that purchase of a given product will have a demonstrably positive effect on the world, with the drink typically wearing those sustainability-enhancing credentials on the label. At best, these credentials are part of the ‘lifestyle’ appeal, allowing the drinker to ‘do their bit’ while indulging in glass of something that aligns with their sense of responsibility – giving something back in return for that treat.

At its broadest, this can be seen in the likes of the well-established Fairtrade brands, putting social responsibility at the fore, or any number of organic and sustainable labels that flag up an environmentally and ecologically sound approach. More specifically, there has also been a growth in labels that hone in on and champion a singular cause, aiming to highlight (and alleviate) a certain issue.

Such labels have long existed, but now they are coming thick and fast. They range from the ambitious likes of Spearhead Spirits, the black-owned producer of wholly African-produced vodka and gin, aiming for global brand status, to the niche, stand-alone Care for Wild wine range from I Heart founder Robin Copestick. Both have a specific ‘agenda’, reflecting a passionately held interest of the owner.

Spearhead, says co-founder Chris Frederick, came about as the realisation dawned that “Africa as a continent was not represented in the products being served” in UK bars and pubs, looking to help redress that under-representation.

The idea for Care for Wild, meanwhile, was seeded after Copestick met former England cricketer Darren Gough, who was a longstanding supporter of this rhino charity’s work, agreeing to become brand ambassador for the money-raising wine.

Other examples of ‘labels for change’ abound, with one notable example being the Sea Change wine range, which bagged a highly commended in the sustainability category at Harpers Design Awards 2022.

From 10 International, Sea Change’s labels – featuring whales, dolphins and starfish – have cleverly woven in (on closer examination) plastic waste to the marine life imagery, pairing those animals with a clear message about the plastic damage being done to our oceans.

Planting Trees

Another example popular with the Harpers team is 17 Trees, a range launched last year by Australian producer De Bortoli, which partnered with not-for-profit Trillion Trees (the clue is in the name) to realise the initiative. With Australia having lost more than 11 million hectares of land to fire over the last year and with carbon emissions spiralling ever higher, the label supports the planting of a tree for every six bottles sold.

A different tack has been taken by Most Wanted (see right), which has focused on supporting diverse up-and-coming artists, both from ethnic minority and other under-represented backgrounds in the arts world, complete with QR codes that enhance the artistic/artist interaction.

Not only are the labels eye-catching and refreshing as they sit among rivals on the shelf, with the art itself hinting at the grape varieties in the range, but as this campaign goes on it will work with more artists to support an ever-growing roster of creative types.

The examples could run and run, but perhaps a last word in this limited space should go to Journey’s End and its augmented reality Identity wine range. The rich and visually engaging labels draw together key facets of this Cape estate’s sustainable journey, which also ties in with the Journey’s End Foundation. This has established a soup kitchen network that has provided over half a million meals to help mitigate some of the regional food poverty in the face of Covid.

Nay-sayers may mutter about greenwashing and cashing in on issues for marketing purposes. But each and every one of the above ‘labels for change’ is a worthy Headline Hero, rooted in a genuine and demonstrable desire for real action, with clear goals and measurable results. Moreover, consumers do their research these days, and are increasingly buying in when wines and spirits align with their own world view.

As Journey’s End owner Rollo Gabb points out: “There is good reason to have producers out there who are doing really good things to shout about them a little bit more, in order to help guide consumers to follow brands that sit along alongside their own moral compass.”

Most Wanted Wines

Using eye-catching art to promote both wine and a diverse collection of artists, the Most Wanted Collective is at the forefront of ‘labels for change’, as Off-Piste Wines’ marketing director and creator of Most Wanted Wines, Rachel Archer explains

Why is the label design element important?

Label design is hugely important, particularly in an off-trade setting where the wall of wine can be confusing and even intimidating for some consumers. Most Wanted challenged the aesthetic tradition of wine labels with an incredibly memorable, cool, monochromatic design that jumps off the shelf with immediate impact. Good label design should engage directly with the consumer and make them want to pick up the bottle. We have wanted to work with artists on special edition labels for a while now but wanted the series to have a bigger purpose than just being nice designs. Enter The Most Wanted Collective. The labels on our bottles are our biggest window to the world and we are extremely happy with how the first Collective is looking.

What inspired the creation of the Most Wanted Collective range?

Most Wanted has been involved with the accessible art scene for a number of years, collaborating with events and initiatives such as Art Battle Manchester, Cheltenham Paint Festival and Creative Debuts’ Black Artist Grant. We have sponsored the Black Artist Grant since June 2020, offering a monthly no-strings-attached grant for up-and-coming artists from minority ethnic backgrounds, who are systematically under-supported within the arts, to help them further their careers.

The brand has always appealed to creatives, artists and art lovers, so it has been a natural step to support a community of artists who challenge tradition in the art world, both through choice of media and subject, and through their own backgrounds and experiences.

The wine industry still has a long way to go before we can claim to be truly diverse. The Collective is a conversation starter and represents a small step in the right direction.

How did you choose which artists to work with?

We carried out extensive research online and through social channels to come up with a long list of artists, selected first and foremost because of their art and how they incorporated their experiences into their work. It was also important that the final five pieces of art worked well together as a Collective, but contrasted visually from each other.

We were already in contact with or aware of some of these artists, such as Pete Obsolete, through previous campaigns. We wanted to include street artists – hence the choice of Nomad Clan and Jelly J, both of whom incorporate powerful narratives around social and personal experiences into their art. Chris Hawkes is a fine art graduate who combines figurative and abstract elements, while Dorcas Magbadelo brings high-intensity patterns and illustrations that celebrate black women.

The pairing of the artists and the wine was relatively easy. We considered wine colour, style and bottle shape when matching the wines, so for example the pastel tones and wider canvas of Chris Hawkes’ design work perfectly on the Chardonnay label, while the darker hues and theme of Nomad Clan’s design was more fitting for the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Why is it important to bring together art, equality and diversity with wine?

It’s important to bring together equality and diversity into everything, and art is a good vehicle to do so in this instance. If we can help open conversations within the wider wine industry and our own business then we have achieved our goal. We are lucky to have a wine brand that is on shelf in a variety of retail settings, allowing us to make the special-edition labels accessible and visible to all – a gallery in the wine aisle.

Can you tell us a little more about the theatre that the QR code helps deliver?

The QR code takes the consumer to the artist’s video, putting them directly in front of the artist as they talk about their background, art style and why they do what they do. We wanted to ensure that the Collective would give a podium for the artists to tell the story behind the labels and their work in general.

Where to next?

We have had a huge amount of media interest in the campaign from a wide variety of consumer and lifestyle magazines, national press, TV and influencers, so it is an exciting time to see the wide reach that the campaign will have. The Collective as a campaign is one that we will build on, so the future looks very exciting with further series of special-edition labels and new artists to work with.

We are also offering an on-demand print service for consumers who wish to purchase the Collective artwork via our web shop. The print service will be fulfilled by Art Wow, with all proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

The absolute dream is for the campaign to give all of the artists a bigger platform for their work, while also taking Most Wanted into new spaces, enhancing the engagement from existing brand fans and bringing in new audiences.