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High Quality Ingredients: The creative evolution of breakfast & lifestyle brand, Qnola

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Conversation with Qnola founder, Danielle Copperman & Tom Maurice, owner and creative director at Sunhouse | Interview by Aimee Rivers

With its empowering #wakeupwell ethos, Qnola taps into the mindfulness movement with a range of quinoa-based granolas. Beyond deliciously pure sustenance, it is a brand that supports the overall wellbeing of its consumers with a knowledge-share approach in which simplicity, positivity and purpose are paramount.

As Qnola looked to expand its horizons from a nutritional niche brand to a mainstream breakfast challenger, its founder, model turned wellness writer and entrepreneur Danielle Copperman, needed a creative partner that understood her aspirations, shared her values, and, most importantly, listened. She found her fit with Sunhouse, a positively different design agency based in her hometown of Bath.

With a collaboration built on a foundation of comfortable chats over cups of tea, Qnola transformed its look from artisanal chic to one of vibrant radiance. I recently zoomed in for my own comfortable chat with Danielle and Tom Maurice of Sunhouse to discuss the brand’s dramatic transformation.

Danielle, there’s no way of talking about Qnola without talking about your personal journey from model to wellness writer to entrepreneur. Can you share this unique story?

Danielle: I was just eighteen when I moved to London to start modelling. This was when I really began learning more about diet, nutrition and the benefits of adopting more holistic habits. It became my passion overnight and I just wanted to learn everything I could.

Working as a model, I was really in need of something to eat in the mornings that was simple, delicious and quick, something I could rely on to be healthy and give me energy. That led me to create Qnola. I felt it was a real-life changer in my day-to-day routine and I wanted to share that with other people. I started making it for friends and family, and we noticed that there was nothing similar on the market, so I began making it for local cafes and stores as well.

What currently exists in the breakfast category and how is Qnola so different?

Danielle: I think it’s just that Qnola is so pure and so natural. There’s nothing added and nothing artificial. Often other mainstream cereals are filled with cheaper ingredients such as rice, corn or oats. Not to say that these ingredients are not healthy, and they are obviously natural, but I think the difference is our focus on high quality quinoa.

When I was developing the recipe, quinoa stood out as such a nutritious component that wasn’t being used to its fullest potential. It’s light, easier digest than grains, and naturally gluten-free, so it ticks a lot of the boxes for dietary requirements. People, however, were only cooking it like rice and many did not like the taste, so I wanted to find a way to make quinoa easily usable and delicious.

But Qnola is more than a breakfast cereal, it’s a lifestyle brand. What is the greater vision for the brand and how are you manifesting it?

Danielle: I didn’t want to just say, “Eat this product, it will change your life.’ Ultimately, no one product that’s going to do that. This is why it was important for me to educate people in all aspects of wellness. We do this by holding mindful mornings and sharing advice that will help people slow down and navigate the stresses of modern life.

The overall vision is about helping people create a sacred morning space that can have a positive effect on their days.

Let’s turn it to design. What was the impetus for a brand and packaging refresh?

Danielle: It had really been a long time coming. I initially made the logo on a word document with my sister formatting it so it would fit into a circle. I got labels printed off a website and bought pouches in bulk. Everything was hand-labelled and hand-packaged, and looked very minimal and high-end. As we moved into more mainstream stockists and supermarkets, however, it just didn’t perform as well because it wasn’t as bright, loud and energetic as the other brands, especially in the breakfast category.

What were you looking for in a creative partner and how did you find that in Sunhouse?

Danielle: It was a new area for me, so I didn’t want to go in with a huge agency that didn’t see my values. I was just really looking for a team with the right kind of energy, that understood the vision of the brand and that, of course, had a strong portfolio of beautiful work. I also wanted to work as locally as possible.

Sunhouse was put on my radar by one of our team members. Every time we had a meeting, it just felt like going in to see friends to have a cup of tea. Very chatty and natural, and I really felt like I was being heard. I know that sometimes agencies want to completely change the whole look and feel of a brand, but with the team at Sunhouse, I felt understood and supported in what I was trying to achieve.

Tom, Sunhouse has worked with some major brands including Magnum and Dove. What piqued your interest about a challenger brand like Qnola?

Tom: To us, it’s never about the size of the client, it’s about the size of the creative opportunity. When you work with more established brands, you can change them, develop them and help them grow, but you’ll always be taking on their heritage to a degree. There’s a bit more creative freedom with challenger brands, an opportunity to push them into really interesting new territories.

So, when we saw the brief for Qnola, it was never a case of ARE we going to do this, it was a case of HOW are we going to do this. It’s an amazing product, with a great story and really that’s where the magic is. We feel very lucky that we were chosen as the agency to work with them.

What was the creative process like? How did you collaborate to reach the final design?

Danielle: The exploration sessions and the re-evaluation of the goals, vision and ethos of the brand at the beginning of the process was my time to say how I wanted to bring the brand to life. I communicated the areas I wanted to go but wasn’t prescriptive and made sure to stay open. It was inspiring and exciting to work with a team of experts, hearing ideas for Qnola that I wouldn’t have thought of myself and being able to trust that I wasn’t going to be led astray. It felt like a really nice, natural progression to the final design.

Tom: The design process is a journey and it never works if the client is left behind. It’s important, particularly with someone like Danielle, who is so personally invested in the brand, to sit down and really listen. You also can’t start that journey knowing the answer. It’s about teasing out the solution, seeing what feels good and what feels right.

Let’s talk about the final design. What inspired the creative direction and where did you land?

Tom: The #wakeupwell ethos is what really sets Qnola apart from the competitors in the category. Our goal was to create a brand icon that could carry the impact and purpose of this message across all touchpoints.

We did this by taking the Q in the brandmark and transforming it into the sunrise. It’s energising but there’s a calmness to it as well. Bright vibrant colours that feel natural and authentic, achieving a lovely balance that brings #wakeupwell right to the foreground of the brand’s expression. Hand-drawn illustrations of the ingredients radiating from that sun convey natural purity and add a bit of vitality and movement to the design. The overall effect is very positive and uplifting yet grounded by a sense of mindful composure.

Danielle: I’ve always been one for safer options but working with Sunhouse helped me leave my comfort zone to see what was possible. The final design has transformed the way we communicate as a brand, which is exactly what I had in mind and exactly what I needed.

What are the essential factors for a successful client-agency relationship?

Danielle: The most important thing for me is to feel comfortable, to be able to communicate and feel like I’m being heard. That’s the only way I can be open to new ideas. You need to trust that agency, and you can only do that when you see that they really understand and respect your vision.

Tom: Honesty, transparency and respect – and, of course, there needs to be hard work and persistence as well. I’m sure we presented work that Danielle didn’t particularly like, but that’s part of the process. We push in different ways to gauge what feels right. Again, the solution isn’t predetermined, it’s discovered and developed by exploring, listening and respecting different perspectives.

What’s next for Qnola?

Danielle: Now that we’ve elevated the brand and created this beautiful packaging, we are going to start building a bigger range. We’ve got two new flavours in the near future that I’m really excited about as well as a lot of other products and projects in the pipeline. I’ve always had a vision of taking Qnola further than cereal into snacks and beyond, so we’ve been actively working on new recipes to make this happen.

Qnola’s new design recently launched and will be available at grocers nationwide as well as online at https://www.qnola.co.uk/

Learn more about SunHouse Creative


Aimee Rivers

Communications consultant with over 10 years of international experience in the design industry. Born and bred in Los Angeles, Aimee worked as a copywriter in Hollywood before making her way to the UK. https://www.plumagecommunications.com

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