Packaged FINDINGS: Kodiak Cakes “bears” witness to consumer nostalgia

Posted on Oct 10, 2019 by

Not every product put on a retail shelf is there to be mass-produced or to meet astronomical sales expectations. Some products, especially those from smaller companies or from companies presenting innovative new products are on shelf because the manufacturer wants to share something that perhaps its family has made for generations or that it feels offers a unique solution to a problem that remains unsolved.

Many new or startup products begin with minimal marketing dollars to support their product rollout, which makes the role of packaging critical. Not only does the package design need to be as unique or innovative as the product, but it is also the essential vehicle to introducing a brand image that effectively positions the brand and breaks through the visual challenge of a retail environment. In many instances, package design for these products must be the manufacturer’s first and best effort to tell and share their product story – to pull the consumer into the product, perhaps hoping that something about experiencing their product will make you think of a place, time or event in your life that you might want to re-capture and share with others. Enter Kodiak Cakes.

When I saw this package, it immediately triggered memories of cold mornings at the family cabin, when we would have a hearty breakfast of hot flapjacks to get our day started. I have had countless breakfasts in my life, but the ones at the cabin in the woods (where there really were bears) were somehow always better. I was eager to confirm the potential of this product to recreate that taste experience. The design didn’t necessarily leap off the shelf into the cart, but it was very effective in reigniting positive memories – building an immediate affinity with me, the consumer.

My curiosity was satisfied as I combed the package and read the story behind the product and inspiration behind the package graphic design. Recreating a treasured family recipe for flapjack mix based on wholesome and healthy ingredients, the package design was created to echo the brown paper bags that product was originally sold door-to-door in; and by creating a brand image based on a big old bear, it lent the “feel” of the outdoor woodsman era to the design. The choice of black, sienna and white to house the image of the bear filled at least half the package with bold, in-your-face branding, reinforcing the notion of being as hungry as a bear. Compared to other like products, the Kodiak Jack package clearly stood apart in its bold, direct design, which immediately separated the product in the category, and yet connected with the consumer.

Perhaps the reason why this package design worked for me is that it made me stop and remember one of my truly big life adventures. One morning when we got up and walked up to the door to welcome the day and let the dog out, through the window in the door, we saw a big black bear sitting on our small porch. The bear had opened our icebox and was snacking on our total available food supply. The bear simply turned its head, looked at us and opened its mouth – it was enough to let us know we were trapped inside until the bear was done with its breakfast, and it ended up being one of the few days we went to town for pancakes.


Regardless of what you are developing packaging for, if you need help with the structure and design that will ensure your product’s success, we invite you to start a conversation with us by contacting us at 920-886-7727 or

The purpose of our “findings” blog is to spotlight packaging that displays thinking that breaks the mold and delivers something new or chancy – or at the very least, highlights packaging that catches your eye in the retail environment.