Oct 11, 2021

Retro packaging: Opal Fruits is back

Opal Fruits will be hitting the shelves again for the first time in 22 years, thanks to a "nostalgic redesign" by London-based brand and packaging design agency Straight Forward Design.
Elisabeth Skoda

Opal Fruits were first launched in the UK in 1960, but were aligned with the global brand name, Starburst, in 1998. Since then there has been an increasing appetite for retro sweets – and a growing campaign on social media to bring back the popular fruity chews.

Straight Forward Design says its work shows how brands can use nostalgia to draw on consumer emotions and reconnect by being completely authentic.

Best before 1998

Not only does the latest brand and packaging identity take us back to yesteryear, but the flavours are returning to sweeter times, too, with just the original four in the line-up: strawberry, orange, lemon and lime.

Mike Foster, creative director and founder, Straight Forward Design, says: “When much-loved brands like Opal Fruits disappear they leave people wanting. People miss them, and bringing them back carries a certain weight of responsibility. You’ve got to do it properly if you are going to fully reconnect with the original consumers as well as draw in new ones.”

Old meets new

And it’s not as simple as digging into the archives and pulling out an old master of the design. “For starters, in this digital age, there were no packaging artworks for Opal Fruits, so we started working from old TV commercials and print ads. We quickly realised, though, that the most important archive existed in people’s memories. So to ensure that we made a meaningful connection, we asked people what Opal Fruits meant to them.”

Opal Fruits went through several iterations in its 38-year history, however, including the years when it transitioned to Starburst, so different people remember different things.

An original OpalFruits wrapper

“Nostalgia is interesting, because perceived and actual memories are two different things, and people are drawn to one particular iteration. The task for the designer is to marry all these factors and come up with a brand and packaging identity that works for today and is universally reminiscent of the past,” says Mike.

To honour the production values of the original brand and ensure an authentic result, Straight Forward Design collaborated with experienced typographer David Bateman and illustrator Simon Critchley, who have both worked with the world’s top FMCG brands for over 35 years.

“Mars doesn’t own Opal Fruits,” says Mike. “The people who love them do. To get the design absolutely right, we needed to immerse in the archive to find the right solution to transport people back to their youth. It also creates an opportunity for Mars to reach new consumers as parents introduce their kids to the sweets they loved in their youth.”

Victoria Gell, fruity confections UK portfolio director, Mars Wrigley says: “Straight Forward Design totally understands how important retro brands are to people and that it requires a special, nuanced approach to get it right. The design has generated a huge amount of excitement, and has taken Opal Fruits fans on a fun and emotional journey back in time.”

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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