R+K Foods Logo and Brand Design
After 40 years, a fresh start
Since 1983, R&K Foods has been one of Seattle’s top distributors of fresh, local, organic foods produced in the region. The company has long supported small, dynamic producers—providing opportunities for these producers to get onto shelves, for stores to sell unique products, and for consumers to try them.
After decades as an industry leader, however, R&K had seen its reputation and relevance slip slightly; while the company’s systems and technology used to be a step ahead of customers, that wasn’t the perception any longer. Beyond that, R&K is seen as a short-term (3-4 year) solution/testing ground by some, which limits its ability to grow with customers and producers. And this was all indirectly reflected in the logo, unchanged for 40 years.
This project was aimed at presenting a re-emergence of R&K, an indication that new things are afoot. The company needed branding that can help build new and diverse business relationships, revitalize existing relationships, and communicate R&K’s role across all facets of the industry.
Chalkbox had worked with R&K before, redesigning the packaging for its line of dried fruit and nuts (Sodo Snax). We were happy to put that institutional knowledge to use on rebranding the company itself.
Competing with national players
As with all projects, we researched the industry and competitors; our prior experience with R&K was around a specific product, so we needed to take a broader look. Grocery distribution is dominated nationally by just a few large players—while they have reach and depth, they are not local, they are not fast and nimble, and they typically don’t help smaller producers get products to market.
Those are all strengths of R&K, and it was key for us to create a visual identity that differentiates the company from corporate behemoths. R&K focuses on small and local producers, they help bring adventurous new products to consumers, and its direct-to-shelf distribution model creates efficiencies and strong problem-solving abilities.
Another factor in R&K’s favor is that the Seattle area—and the Northwest in general—is a region that highly values local connections and supporting smaller businesses (some of our own corporate behemoths notwithstanding).
A careful touch
Replacing a 39-year-old logo takes a great deal of care; there is bound to be strong emotional attachment, and perhaps even a bit of fear of moving away from something with so much history.
This identity needed to feel appropriate for a well-established business in the historically industrial part of Seattle (SODO)—but at the same time, it had to reflect the fact that R&K is a cutting-edge distributor with robust capabilities, and in touch with current trends. It also was necessary to create a visual that would resonate with a variety of audiences: producers, sellers (stores, food trucks, and potentially restaurants), and consumers.
We sketched extensively, and had several discussions around various concepts before landing on what we all felt was the right direction. As a small yet capable firm that is nimble in our own right, we are comfortable with shifting quickly once certain concepts are eliminated and others make the cut to move forward.
Confident yet approachable
The completed branding for R&K includes custom lettering making up “R+K”—with a subtle yet important change from an ampersand to a “+” between the two letters, providing a more modern feel.
Rather than focusing on something iconic in combination with the name, we found a typographic solution that draws visually on the history of the area in which the company is located, appears confident but accessible, and features a color palate that is warm and trustworthy. Supporting materials such as letterhead, envelopes, etc., are no-nonsense but friendly, utilizing rich floods of color with straightforward typography.
It's an identity that blends classic and contemporary, one that nods to the past but doesn’t feel dated. And most important, it positions R&K as company that believes in local producers and sustainable practices, rather than focusing solely on numbers.
Does your branding reflect who you are today?
Even businesses that have been successful for decades need to re-evaluate their branding from time to time—an outdated look can limit your appeal to new clients, and even cause the eyes of existing customers to wander. (Look! There’s a shiny new thing over there.) If you want to explore whether your brand today will be right for your company tomorrow, it’s time to talk to Chalkbox.