As part of her semester project in Design for Sustainability and Resilience, first-year student Sowmya Iyer chose to re-design the packaging and promotional strategy for a local, farm-based business in Upstate New York called Saratoga Apple. Her goals were to use design to help the business educate its customers around the topic of local farming practices, along with enhancing the user experience for customers visiting its tasting room.

Sowmya came up with the idea when she travelled to Upstate New York on a weekend retreat for the course. There were several opportunities to experience personal connection with local business owners/farmers, their work environments, and the challenges faced in food-related businesses. One such business was Saratoga Apple—a family-operated apple orchard and cider mill. The orchard grows apples with great care by using low-spray techniques and micronutrient fertilizers, such as sea minerals and rock dusts.

During the conversations and tour of the orchard, there was a lot of emphasis on how the tasting room should be promoted. The owners wanted their customers to experience the rich ambience of the tasting room, and take home beautiful memories of their experience. The owners also wanted sustainability to be a driving force in Sowmya’s design process. They hoped she could reuse materials and products from the orchard—such as cork, wooden crates, cardboard boxes and tissue paper for packaging.

 

How might we promote the brand among hard cider drinkers and make them aware of the farmer’s community, while enjoying the experience of the tasting room?

 

"How might we promote the brand among hard cider drinkers and make them aware of the farmer’s community, while enjoying the experience of the tasting room?" With the above question in mind, Sowmya began exploring and creating different branding and promotional products.

 

 

Experience
“From Farm to Bottle” was one of Sowyma’s goals when designing the labels and packaging. Depicting farmers, cider mill workers and their equipment, the visuals give the consumer the opportunity to see the hard work, dedication and personalized care that goes into creating each bottle of hard cider. Additionally, the packaging includes a brief history of the orchard. By giving the products and services an identity, the consumers form a personal connection with the brand.

 

 

Engage
Sowmya designed puzzle coasters—a set of coasters that tell the complete story of the orchard. This is instrumental in bringing customers together at the tasting room, as it is a medium of interaction between strangers. It is also a fun way to get to know more about the origin of the cider produced by Saratoga Apple.

 

 

Cherish
In addition to the above materials, Sowmya realized that she needed to integrate the customer's experience in the overall plan. With that in mind, she designed a giveaway package with the following items: a bag of handpicked apples, a voucher which customers can redeem the next time they visit the tasting room, and a beautiful wooden box made of recycles crates which contains personalized postcards. The customers can go on a traditional apple picking tour around the orchard and they can post their pictures on Instagram (social media promotion). The photos are then printed and made into a set of personalized postcards, on which customers can write about their experience at the orchard and tasting room.

Sowmya's next steps are to get constructive feedback on the feasibility of the project from the business owners. She hopes that she can travel Upstate in the near future to test out these concepts and observe how customers react to the products. She would also like to attend a tasting session at Jimmy No. 43, a cider-tasting event in New York, to get a better understanding of the taste and preferences of hard-cider lovers in the city. 

See more of Sowmya Iyer's work at www.sowmyaiyer.com, and contact her at siyer2@sva.edu.