Who doesn’t enjoy a refresh every now and then? A remodel, an upgrade, a new hair color—there’s something magical about shaking things up. At ninety-four years old, Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. decided to do just that with their line of coffee offerings. Each selection has a distinct design, created in-house. We asked Mark VanTongeren, head of Business Development, to tell us more.

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Tell us a little bit about your company.

Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. is a family-owned and operated specialty roaster that produces coffee, nuts, and trail mixes with care and quality at every stage. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan since 1924, our organization has witnessed many changes to the region, the industry, and to customer preferences and needs—this has ultimately lead to our own significant organizational and cultural change over the past five years. With that said, our mission to build relationships that thrive through our products has endured and allowed us to continue serving our customers. From partnering with producers to ethically sourcing products in a way that values and promotes the growers and farmers, to roasting and serving our products while highlighting quality and care, our holistic approach to business is not transactional, but relational at heart.

As our company has grown and changed over the years, we’ve had the privilege of serving a wide variety of customers ranging from mom-and-pop coffee shops to national food distributors, churches, workplaces, restaurants, and industry-leading breweries. Every one of our customers is unique, and every customer requires personalized service.

This personalized approach requires much more than simply producing and delivering a great product: we specialize in state-of-the-art coffee education, equipment service and repair, and business consulting services to provide our customers with the support they need to be successful.

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Each package has its own distinct design. What’s the process of deciding what’ll go on each offering?

Our process always starts by meeting with our Director of Coffee, Sam Mirto, to hear his stories from his sourcing trips. He tells us about the people behind the coffee, the farms and mills he visited, and oftentimes small details he experienced that might not be directly related to the coffee, but are still worth sharing—like the time when he could hear wild baboons howling right outside of his cabin at night. Through learning about his unique experiences and perspective, it drives and inspires the design decisions behind each coffee identity. Take Ethiopia YirgZ, for example—a coffee that is hand-sorted three times with great detail. The fingerprint pattern was created to reflect that, but also to feel like a topographical map, that represents the high altitude at which this coffee is grown. The colors in this label are inspired by the Ethiopian flag, but softened and subdued. It is important to us that the design reflects our direct interactions with these people and places, because that’s what makes each coffee and relationship unique to Ferris.

Who designs the labels?

Our in-house design team—Ursula, Lisa, and Kacie. Once the three of us have met with Sam to hear and document his personal experiences, we’ll usually each pick one coffee (or more, depending on how many new offerings are coming in) and start creating the artwork, based off of our collective notes about whichever coffee we chose.

Why are aesthetics important?

There were no visual elements differentiating the nuances of each coffee in our previously designed system, let alone the stories behind them. As we coffee people all know, no two coffees are alike, so grouping them together into categories in that way can only say so much. Each coffee has its own personality and we feel strongly compelled to communicate them to our customers through our packaging. As our coffee program continues to grow, we identified this as a great solution looking forward. By using the bag itself as the vehicle, the star of the show becomes the unique labels and the coffee inside. Storytelling is a focus of ours and finding ways to communicate these stories with our customers is always on our minds- Consciously or subconsciously.

Where is it currently available?

Select grocery and specialty stores, our wholesale partners, in our own shops, and on our website.

Company: Ferris Coffee & Nut Co.
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Country: United States
Design Date: August 2017
Designer: Ferris Coffee & Nut Co.

Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.