Fresh From The Field — Citizen by Special Group

12 months ago by

Globally as much as 1/3 of the food we produce is wasted due to loss (in production) or spoilage once in the supply chain. Here in NZ huge volumes of unsold food goes to waste. Citizen is a local project we believe will have a global impact. Ingenious design thinking and environmental stewardship lay the foundations, for Citizen Collective: an initiative which rescues surplus food waste and reworks it into delicious low-impact beer and bread products, “thereby titillating your taste buds and your sense of social responsibility.” Beer and bread is just the start, behind the scenes, they are developing more foods and drinks for launch. It’s all part of their mission to help rebuild a broken food system.

With such admirable ambitions and a novel production process, the design response by Special Group needed to have shelf impact to build brand equity,  be as disruptive as the Citizen products, while having a broad appeal and be flexible to accommodate a growing range. The design also cleverly echoes the collective nature of the organisation with disparate elements working cohesively together. DA loves the outcome and heart!

The brief:

Every year, around the world, we waste a third of the food we produce. Citizen was started by a collective of people who are as serious about tackling this food waste problem as they are about good food and drink.

Every Citizen product is made using food that would otherwise go to waste or low-value stock feed. The team rescues this food, then reworks it into delicious high-quality foods and beverages

To start, they’ve developed a circular solution to Aotearoa’s most wasted product: bread. Their first products are craft beers made using rescued surplus bread, and an artisan sourdough bread which uses flour made from the spent-grain by-product of their beer brews. Bread, into beer, into bread.

The start-up company takes a ‘collective’ approach, pulling in expert brewers, bakers, chefs, food technologists and other collaborators to support its core purpose of reducing food and resource waste.

The brief was to create an identity that spoke to this disruptive circular approach and inclusive ‘collective/positive movement’ ethos, without feeling too worthy or earnest. We wanted to quickly land the ‘rescue and re-work’ concept, while still creating a relaxed brand with wide appeal.


The design response:

With craft beer as the Citizen’s first product, the initial challenge was huge – how to create visual standout on one of the supermarket’s best-designed shelves. We decided a sense of pared-back simplicity would help the brand catch the eye, and went from there.

Taking a lead from Citizen’s disruptive approach to food waste, we disrupted traditional branding and identity thinking. The brand has no single logo, no single colour palette, no single marque or font. Instead, a series of unique assets that are brought together to help tell the story. These assets are combined in different ways across product categories, so each product feels like part of the family, even though it presents in a distinct and unique way.

Because Citizen is a collective of like-minded innovators, this unusual approach also gave us the opportunity to express the brand’s hopeful essence as a collection of ideas, and a way to help people feel part of a positive change movement (simply by enjoying a beer or loaf).

With Citizen’s ambition to create multiple rescued-food products firmly in mind, we made sure the design framework was robust but versatile and able to hero new products in the future. It’s also a system that can be expressed differently across executions from packaging to social posts. As we worked through the design process, we were able to create ‘consistency through inconsistency’.

The inspiration for the identity system assets came from the very products Citizen is looking to rescue. Many of the assets are drawn from common details of food packaging – the bread tags, food stickers and other packaging elements that are part of our everyday experience. Re-working these traditional details gave us a playful starting point to infuse a light-hearted, mischievous feel across the brand.

Citizen needed to balance the idea of a great product with a great movement. Therefore the creative execution had to be optimistic, positive and upbeat. The tone of voice, dubbed ‘relaxed revolutionary’, has a frank, no-frills feel, seasoned with purposeful and positive language, helping Citizen to inspire people to make a positive (and delicious) choice.




@heycitizens |



Special Group

@special_group |

Creative: Arnya Karaitiana, Sarah Shepherd

Design: Heath Lowe, Amy Tasker


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