Like many startup food companies, Karuna, a St. Louis-based maker of healthful, whole plant wellness drinks, invested a tremendous amount of money in the development of their initial brand identity and packaging, hoping that a big New York agency (and the hefty price tag associated) would equate to sure success.

Initially, local sales were strong, but a variety of industry advisors feared that a confusing information hierarchy, bland packaging design, and failure to adequately highlight the products’ benefits would mean the brand couldn’t compete with more progressive beverage brands on the coasts, where the company had designs on expanding.

Upstart Food Brands was recommended for a complete rebranding and repositioning effort that would include brand strategy, product naming, brand and product story development, tag line creation, packaging design, content development, website redesign, photography, and several other services.


We started by doing an extensive brand analysis, which identified the following primary areas to address:

  • Complex classification hierarchy & unclear, inconsistent naming
  • Lack of engaging story
  • Confusing brand messaging
  • Narrow appeal (initial target was identified as yoga instructors)
  • Bland packaging
  • Minimal focus on product benefits

We then developed a 56-page report, which included specific recommendations on how to address the brand’s shortcomings. They included the following:

  • Insights on the target market
  • Target audience profiles using the Big Five personality classification system
  • Target demographic recommendations with detailed interests and characteristics
  • Research on the competitive landscape, with profiles of competitive brands
  • Mission, vision, and brand positioning statements
  • Initial brand story recommendations
  • Brand talking points and elevator speech
  • Product classification system, which used intriguing mystical descriptors that aligned with each product to highlight the ancient medicinal origin of the Karuna recipes
  • New product naming convention based on the “7 factors of enlightenment” in Buddhism
  • Initial recommendations on a new approach to packaging design


Every journey requires provisions; nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Whether seeking enlightenment, or simply trying to survive the day, Karuna has a whole plant wellness drink that allows you to be your balanced best. We offer incredible function, but beyond the physical benefits, we hope to nurture the emotional spirit. Inspired by the ancient food-as-medicine culture of the Far East, and strengthened by the truth of modern science, we’ve carefully selected and paired unique, sustainable ingredients, like Chinese red dates, mung bean sprouts, aronia berries, quinoa, and black soybeans, to illuminate the path to a truly healthy, enlightened life.


The Karuna packaging design was ambitious, developed for a shrink film that would be applied in a steam tunnel to a glass bottle. The product inside the bottle was not very appealing, visually, so covering it with brilliant artwork would elevate the overall aesthetic.

But the goal wasn’t just to cover it. We aimed to create a dynamic, colorful, sophisticated design that would jump off the shelf. We carefully selected Pantone colors that gave each product its own personality within the context of the overall line, and used different spot metallic inks for each product to highlight the product name, which lended a richness and premium feel to an otherwise simple design.

We also made the decision to highlight the unique ingredients of each product right on the Principal Display Panel by listing them in a simple grid directly below the plant-based designation and product name.

After a couple of very long nights at the press run to ensure a stellar result, we ended up with a stunning packaging design geared to compete (and win) in the growing plant-based beverage market.


This rejuvenating juice features two powerful superfood ingredients–aronia berries and mung bean sprouts–which have long been used as folk remedies by Native Americans and herbalists in the Far East to treat a variety of ailments. Together, they deliver function to the body and joy to the soul!


Traditionally reserved for royalty, Chinese black soybeans (different from American soybeans in almost every way) balance in perfect harmony with nutrient-dense quinoa and gold flaxseed to create a functional, whole plant smoothie that not only tastes great, but is easy on the waistline! With complete essential amino acids, balanced protein, and complex carbs, this superfood blend is perfect to grab and go.


With wisdom, we make increasingly smart choices in our lives. This nutrient-rich, low-calorie whole plant smoothie nourishes the body and soul. Most importantly, because we reuse the pulps and hulls left over from the making of Karuna Joy, we squeeze every last drop of goodness from every single ingredient; a wise and responsible choice, indeed!


The nature of this functional whole plant smoothie–its essence–comes from naturally sweet, creamy wild chestnuts combined with nutrient-dense quinoa and gold flaxseed, creating a powerhouse of essential nutrients at a calorie count that allows for an uncommon, guild-free indulgence.


Our proprietary process for fully dissolving turmeric into this special whole plant brew creates a distinct and flavorful coffee drink that energizes the body, while also focusing the mind. With anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, and a creamy, complex taste, you can expect a lot more from your morning coffee!


This ancient healing elixir features a shelled tropical delicacy, called a longan fruit. It was viewed as an alluring “beauty fruit”, and was served exclusively to the emperors and royal families of China. When combined with goji berries and red dates, this naturally sweet, fruity elixir was used to improver sleep quality, boost endurance, protect eyesight, and enhance beauty from within. This mysterious, functional refreshment is no longer just for the elite!


The shortcomings with the packaging were evident on the web. Confusing site architecture and superfluous, scattered copy, which failed to emotionally connect with the consumer, contributed to a poor user experience. Upstart Food Brands developed a completely new, robust e-commerce website from the ground up, with all new copy that established cohesion and consistency.

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