Alliance in Partnership: The Kitcheneers brand identity

Entrant: Without; Category: Creative Effectiveness

The importance of healthy school dinners has been the focus of many campaigns over the years – from Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners TV series, to the School Food Plan led by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. And it is with good reason – a US study looking at how the quality of school lunch affects academic performance found that student test results improved by an average 4% when healthy meals were provided at school, with a whopping 40% improvement for children eligible for free school meals.

Nutritional poverty has a definitive impact on opportunity and prospects, but the sector is challenging, with regular headlines triggering outrage at the state of school meals. “Our research – conducted among students, parents, consultants, school business managers and head teachers – uncovered a broken language around food between adults and young people,” says Without.

“Price pressure restricts menu innovation. And students, experienced in the flexibility of the high street, are suspicious of the hidden ingredients in common school one-tray or pot dishes like stews and curries. Adults see children as resistant to anything that isn’t pizza and chips. Marketing posters with stock imagery of kids picking blueberries and leafy greens mask the reality that children’s choices are typically deep fried and beige.”

For this project, Alliance in Partnership (AIP) wanted a total review of its brand proposition. Not just a redesign of its identity but a fundamental and innovative reimagining of the brand – from its mission and values, to how it guides behaviour, what it means for the products it sells, how they look, what they say, and how they’re experienced by customers.

Without was tasked with “developing a compelling food offer that is commercially sound, complies with food regulations and reduces operational complexity. The offer needed to be best-in-class and appeal to new and existing clients and the pupils we serve daily,” says AIP.

“Researching and workshopping with students at AIP kitchens showed that many were suspicious of ‘hidden ingredients’. This reduced trust and willingness to experiment and increased food waste,” explains Without. “Instead, we proposed a simple, ‘brilliant basics’ approach: good-quality proteins, supplemented with customisable sides that allow students to personalise dishes according to taste, allergies and beliefs.”

This modular approach became the brand’s philosophy, inspiring everything from the name to the visual identity and tone of voice. The Kitcheneers is about collaboration, choice and experimentation – between pupils, teachers, parents, chefs and suppliers – leading to meals that are easy to make, nutritious, customisable and relevant.

The visual identity was also influenced by research showing that today’s students are motivated by high street brands that make life simple and that take their mission, but not themselves, very seriously. In response, The Kitcheneers took a confident but approachable tone that brings authority and energy into typically generic dining halls.

Once-empty walls now feature posters with new messaging that is led by student interests – like the environment and ethical ingredients – in a contemporary and relatable way. Likewise, the typography was chosen to be hard-to-ignore and easy-to-digest, helping students make decisions ahead of time and reducing queues and congestion. Food photography was inspired by the students’ favourite high street brands, alongside stickers and sustainable packaging for meals on-the-go.

“We designed a scalable brand asset kit that could easily transform a space. Brand signage incorporated school names to feel ownable and unique to each site, and something for the children and adults to feel proud of. Menu, packaging, poster and tent cards were developed as messaging systems while maintaining simplicity and personality and encouraging children to try something different.

“With schools struggling for space due to increased student numbers, we developed pop-up concepts that could use shipping containers or horse boxes to offer a point of sale secondary to the canteen. The overhaul of the canteen needed to be attention-grabbing to drive participation.” Following a successful trial in 2023, AIP is planning to roll out The Kitcheneers to 50 schools across the UK by the end of 2024.

Design Studio: Without