As the coronavirus crisis reached the U.S. in March, sending many businesses into an economic spiral, King Arthur Flour became an early (bread)winner, seeing sales rise like the sourdough bread that bored quarantined consumers couldn’t stop baking—up more than 2,000% year-over-year.
“From my perspective, baking is the new baseball—it’s become the national pastime,” Karen Colberg, co-CEO of then-King Arthur Flour, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance at the time.
Colberg’s comment may have foreshadowed the 230-year-old’s company decision to revamp its over 100-year-old logo and name to reflect the hottest fad of 2020’s “new normal.” King Arthur Flour—now King Arthur Baking Company—has retired the medieval knight from its former logo and replaced him with a graphically minimalist wheat crown, emphasizing the brand’s renewed commitment to kneading joy in the kitchen.
Bill Tine, vp of marketing at King Arthur Baking Company, told Adweek that updating the name and logo of America’s oldest flour company was all about highlighting how it’s evolved over the past century. “We’ve grown our offerings, our education and our resources well beyond flour. With hundreds of ingredients, baking mixes and tools, as well as a thousands-strong library of free recipes and resources, we’re truly a baking company,” Tine noted.
During the pandemic, the company rolled out Isolation Baking Show, a video series to help bakers of all abilities improve their skills. The brand also created a baker’s hotline, which anyone can call to get professional hints, tips and help in case of a culinary emergency.
While Covid-19’s fresh crop of baking enthusiasts can expect more products from King Arthur as it invests in “exciting innovations,” Tine said, its product base will remain the same. “We have long been known and trusted precisely for our exacting adherence to quality in all products, a value to which we remain fervently committed,” he said.
“I suspect that King Arthur had been considering a rebrand for some time as interest in baking has grown over the last few years,” Rik Haslam, executive creative partner at global brand consultancy Brandpie, told Adweek. “This trend has clearly been accelerated by the pandemic. So, this was the perfect moment for the brand to seize the opportunity and take some bold steps to reposition itself away from a flour brand to a baking brand that could appeal to a broader customer base.”
Haslam’s suspicions about the brand’s transition from flour to the entire baking process were spot on. Per a recent statement issued by the company, the rebrand wasn’t entirely inspired by the baking frenzy sparked by the pandemic—it was a product of “a rigorous 18-month brand research and creative strategy process.”
“It’s great to see a business recognize that their brand represents much more than their previous logo—or as they put it, ‘King Arthur riding a horse,'” said Ben Brears, design director at branding and design agency Robot Food. “The strategic opportunity is clearly there to build an emotive connection with their consumers and make any baker feel like a king (or queen) in their kitchen.”
Haslam believes that the old logo wouldn’t continue to cut it in 2020 because it does not appeal to a diverse audience of bakers. “The image of a white knight astride a horse felt very masculine, European and old fashioned. Though intended to symbolize King Arthur, the figure actually felt more like a medieval crusader,” Haslam said. “The cross on the flag further emphasized this religious crusader symbol and would alienate many consumers.” In contrast, the new brand removes hints of militarism or religious affiliation, while retaining the connection to the company’s heritage and the name King Arthur.
Tine doesn’t anticipate any challenges when reaching out to consumers and letting them know about all of King Arthur’s various baking products because its rebrand marketing strategy centers on customer engagement and education, relying heavily on its digital and social channels. Consumers can share photos of their doughy masterpieces with GIFs, or try out the wheat crown logo filter on Facebook and Instagram as part of the brand’s “Bake Joy” rebrand campaign.
However, Brears thinks the new design doesn’t live up to the brand’s strategic intent. “Beyond the new logo, there’s a clear lack of ownable brand assets to play with and help build brand imprint—you can already see the issues this causes once King Arthur moves away from their core flours and into their expanded range,” he said.
New products with the revamped packaging coming out in the next few weeks include a sugar alternative, organic rye flour, 00 pizza flour, keto flour and two new flavors of the brand’s gluten-free single serve dessert cups.
As King Arthur moves into new categories, Brears recommended minimizing the work consumers need to do to recognize the refreshed brand, which should build from the positive associations consumers may already have with King Arthur.