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Think Packaging & Friends Dreams Up The Design For This Insanely Luxe Honey

by evelio mattos on 02/05/2019 | 5 Minute Read

Steens’ 27+ UMF Mānuka Honey is a rare product collected within a short time frame as the Mānuka flower only opens for a couple of weeks every year. Regarded for its healing properties, you couldn't even call Mānuka honey a distant cousin to that honey bear sitting in your pantry right now.

Inspired by the honey bee, Steens’ new packaging is an interactive structure with a bee box exterior and a blossoming insert that allows you to remove its precious amber cargo.

I was fortunate enough to see the early process shots of the concept coming together, and I interviewed Mat Bogust of Think Packaging about the design and how it came together.


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Did you work alone or was this a collaborative project?

This was a collaborative project—quite a large one actually. It included Steens, David Trubridge, Think Packaging, Wrapology and a freelance project coordinator.

David Trubridge’s team scoped and visualized the idea and direction designing the look and feel. Think Packaging’s team took the concept and made it work with structural packaging design—creating the working model, so the client could "feel the idea." Production was taken offshore, as Wrapology was sought after as they are a world class luxury packaging manufacturer. Their impeccable hand assembly and finishing of the components was vital as it was no small feat to produce the critical geometry. We also had Marketing Manager Todd Murdoch of Steens keeping us in check and Nikki Withington of Square One project managing the entire process.

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Take me through the thought process on the Steens box, and what’s Manuka honey?

The purpose of creating such a unique gift box for Steens was to be bold, stand out from the crowd, and provide a showcase for this incredibly rare UMF 27+ Mānuka honey harvested right here in New Zealand. Our goal was to custom design packaging that would attract the attention of premium shoppers by contrasting bright and fun floral colors against all the black and gold packaging in the emerging and ultra-competitive Mānuka Honey category, just as honeybees become irresistibly drawn to the bright colors of flowers. Steens also wanted to share the passion and joy they have for their product and the process of opening a hive when collecting honey. The overarching goal was to challenge the status quo and create an emotional connection with consumers by making it a unique and memorable unboxing experience.

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In New Zealand, Mānuka flowers only open for a few short weeks of the year, and if conditions are right, bees are able to harvest the nectar to make honey. 27+ UMF is one of the highest grades of Mānuka honey, and limited amounts are available annually. Steens’ have developed their unique WholeComb extraction method to ensure more of the health benefits of the honey remain, which are generally lost through commercial honey pasteurizing and filtration techniques.

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What was the inspiration behind the interactive pack, and how does it work?

The look and feel of the package was inspired by beehives that are painted in bright, contrasting colors, commonly found in our countryside landscapes. This is so bees can recognize their own homes and avoid drifting to other hives. We meticulously hand-crafted the packaging, ensuring the outer box and the flower insert seamlessly opened revealing the jar inside. Upon twisting a tab on the base of the flower, the interlocked, crosshatched petals unfurl and blossom to reveal the jar.

Initial consumer attraction begins with the floral insert’s color and interactiveness,  revealing premium honey—consumers are able to collect honey just like bees. We needed to create something delicate, special, and different that would command the $1800 NZD price point without losing a connection to the bees.

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You’ve told me you don’t sketch. Does your mind immediately go to hand sampling?

I was never trained to sketch really. I always just built ideas straight off the bat. Though, as the work developed, sketching, ideation and research are a powerful tool, and I use this approach for the majority of my projects. My favorite part is getting on the cutting mat. That’s my happy place for sure. Nothing beats hand sampling for me. Nothing. Not even nachos and salsa dip.

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What do you say to designers working remotely in smaller cities around the world? How do they break out geographically as Think Packaging has done?

Work hard and put your best work out there for people to see. I started Think Packaging in 2010 as a stay at home Dad. I worked two jobs so I could follow my dream and passion. One job was sorting parcels in a courier depot—I used to call it research!

No one knew what a cardboard engineer was (self-labeled), so I set out to show people the possibilities. I photographed work and started my Behance page—if you scroll from the bottom, you can see how the work and projects developed over time. I just did that, and it kind of blew my mind!

I’m fortunate that I can now work globally for top agencies and businesses around the world as their structural packaging designer. The social aspect of my work has been the success of working remotely I feel. As I say, post WIP shots and share your work. Collaborate with other designers and ask designers to collaborate. That’s all I did and still do.

Working right near the beach on a peninsula in Auckland, New Zealand ain’t too shabby either.



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