Waitrose head of design Maggie Hodgetts on branding for cost and health conscious consumers

Ahead of this year’s The Drum Design Awards, we caught up with judge Maggie Hodgetts, head of design at Waitrose, to find out how design is changing at the grocery brand and the role it's playing in helping Waitrose boost its focus on health in 2016.

How central is design at Waitrose?

I would say pretty central one of the reasons I joined the business because I could see very clearly in the way when I walked in to a supermarket it was so beautifully put together, so elegant, the attention to detail was very obvious to me and that appealed. Our own label range is really where we have put a lot of effort and of all the marketing directors I have worked with everyone has really valued what design can do for the business.

How have you seen the approach change?

It’s changing in as much as we are seeing the value of communicating to our customers easier. For example the essential Waitrose range identified that actually we weren’t making it easy for our customers to identify the ‘good ordinary’ and when not to spend lots of money on something. We weren’t making that easy to find so the idea of creating that range and branding it accordingly really worked. Tiering has been around in a lot of supermarkets but we wanted it to mean something and deliver something to our customers and the feedback has been brilliant.

What is exciting you in design at the moment?

Illustration is coming back. It’s lovely because you can really be expressive with illustration and I love craft skills, the value in that of being unique is wonderful and so it’s coming round to being much more a communication tool rather than photography, although that plays a great part, so I’m really enjoying the opportunity to be expressive with illustration.

What can we expect from Waitrose in 2016?

A lot. We’ve really spent some time tidying up and re-ordering our offer and so there is a lot of ideas rolling out. The other area that we are going to spend some time on his health. We think it’s essential for life and it’s complicated and it’s changing and we feel as a food retailer we need to do more to make it easier for people to ad clarity to the offer and that’s where I think design can really help in that arena.

Nominees for The Drum Design awards were announced last week with AKQA, jones knowles ritchie, NB, Seymour Powell and Elmwood just a few of the names featured on this year’s shortlist.

An awards ceremony is set to take place in central London on 27 April.

Natalie Mortimer

Natalie is The Drum's fashion, design, luxury and food & drink reporter.

Tweet her @nataliemortimer

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