Being 100% aboriginal-owned & operated, Uncle Charlie’s is a brand with a difference. For designers working on The Tastes of Country popcorn packaging – this meant respecting, and working with, the cultural values behind the business to create something as unique as the brand itself.
Traditional Aboriginal principles of sharing stories, food, and caring for country are the foundation of Uncle Charlie’s Tastes of Country. In addition to this, the new Tastes of Country popcorn range only uses ingredients sourced from native foods and botanicals. These are sustainably grown, harvested, and sourced from Wiradjuri Country through long-established trade relationships dating back over 80,000 years. So when non-Indigenous designer Prue Marks from ˜Ography, was invited to create the brand and packaging, it was more than just a design project. It was an invitation to participate in, and maintain, a sovereign relationship founded on mutual respect, reciprocity, and proportional joint efforts. Indeed, the Tastes of Country products connect Aboriginal and nonindigenous Australians—through food.
Uncle Charlie’s Brand
At the centre of this brand are the stories and practices of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Nations. Wiradjuri artist Peta-Joy Williams, from Wiradjuri Wave, working in collaboration with Prue, expresses these stories on the packaging through visual language. Each of the three available flavours encompasses artwork representing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Nation-of-origin, from which the ingredients derive.
But traditional knowledge extends much further into the design. Take for example, the concept for the box base, which opens out to encourage the sharing of food. This was inspired by the coolamon—a traditional vessel used for these purposes. The base, constructed by hand without any glue, features blindembossed artwork by Peta-Joy.
Like any packaging project, production is a crucial consideration. An essential part was selecting the correct card stocks that provide the right balance of aesthetics and practicality. To facilitate this, Prue brought in Liam Fish, account manager at Ball & Doggett. They shortlisted and then trialled a number of stocks and weights. The final design uses two Ball & Doggett boards: Barry Uncoated for the lids and Koala Kraft for the base.
Available in three flavours: Bush Tomato and River Mint, Sunrise Lime and Quandong, Davidson Plum and Finger Lime—and in two pack sizes; 20 & 100grams. Uncle Charlie’s Tastes of Country Popcorn uses a variety of native Australian foods and botanicals in each flavour.
The packaging comprises a three-part solution with lid plus belly-band printed on Ball & Doggett Barry Uncoated, and the base constructed from Koala Kraft. For our kiwi readers—the NZ equivalent of Barry Board and Koala Kraft is BJ Ball Prime Bright and Hi-Gold Kraft, respectively. Importantly, both stocks are food safe and eco-friendly with Barry Uncoated certified PEFC—and Koala Kraft FSC certified. In addition, Koala Kraft is 100% Australian made.
Prue selected two weights (300gsm and 400gsm) of Koala Kraft for the two different size packs (20 and 100 grams, respectively). These weights provided good rigidity without being too heavy. She also chose Barry Uncoated 225gsm for the belly-band plus the lid on the 20-gram pack. They used a heavier 270gsm weight for the larger version.
For the printing, Prue engaged long-time friend John Wanless from Bambra Press in Melbourne. However, during the initial design process, it quickly became apparent that the press at Bambra Press would not be large enough to accommodate the necessary sheet size required for the task. John graciously passed on the details for Litho Superpak, based in Brunswick (Victoria). Litho Superpak offset printed the lids and belly-bands in CMYK on their Heidelberg CX press. There were some unique challenges with the printing as this occurred during Covid-19 lockdowns. As Prue explains, ‘…we faced multiple challenges including minimal contact and onsite consultation, stock supply, and being unable to check the designs and colour on press. However, Matan and Avi from Litho Superpak offered support during the difficult times to ensure a well-finished product’.
Wiradjuri men, Mark and Zane McMillan, from Uncle Charlie’s Tastes of Country, are delighted with the final packaging. ‘The packaging does exactly what we intended. It’s a premium product that delivers an important message. —An invitation for nonindigenous people to connect deeper to stories and ideas that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Nations have been practising for over 80,000 years.’