Distinctive label lends personality to Wisconsin bistro's sauce

Digital, pressure-sensitive labels help establish Carmella’s as a private-label sauce.


An effective label design can give a brand personality on shelf—just ask Carmella’s Italian Bistro. When the family-owned restaurant in Appleton, WI, decided to market its popular, authentic Carmella’s House Marinara Sauce outside of the bistro, the owners concluded that the right label design was essential for conveying the personality of the restaurant, while also allowing Carmella’s sauce to stand out on shelf at four local retail outlet.

“At Carmella’s, we pride ourselves on freshness,” says Larry DeFranza, chef for Carmella’s. Our recipes are simple, yet all of our dishes are made so that the true flavors of the ingredients shine through. The House Marina Sauce uses eight all-natural, fresh ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind aroma and flavor. We wanted the label to convey these key elements.”

Carmella’s turned to Directions Inc. to design the label. The agency was tasked with leveraging the package to establish Carmella’s as a mid-to-premium brand, and began its work by conducting a category audit of higher-end sauces, ranging from $6 to $10 per bottle. In addition, the design team met with the bistro owners and dined at the restaurant to get a greater sense of where Carmella’s wanted its brand to be.

The team settled on a clear glass jar with a black lid, and the primary label featuring a single sprig of fresh basil leaves—large and lively—to communicate the fresh, all-natural ingredients inside the jar.

“The clear jar allows consumers to visually capture the freshness of the product, in conjunction with the simple elegance of the label design,” says Aaron Graff, art director at Directions. “By working together, the label design and package help drive the brand image and enhance shelf appeal.”

The label design also features two bright green stripes that match the color of the basil. One strip flows across the top of the label and the other goes across the bottom, displaying the brand’s positioning statement, “Authentic Italian, Naturally.” The stripes are used as a color-coding system to help identify sauce flavors.

The secondary label subtly features the Carmella’s logo—the two Ls from the Carmella’s name, with tiny green thyme-like leaves springing out from each side, enclosed in a green circle.

Accompanying the icon is a short note to consumers from the DeFranza family, owners and operators of the bistro, titled “Made with love. Shared from the heart.” The note emphasizes the importance of joining with loved ones to share a warm meal while enjoying each other’s company. It also provides instructions for family-style preparation of the sauce.

The jar’s short-run, pressure-sensitive labels, from WS Packaging Group, are digitally printed. They feature a facestock typically used for wine labels and feature a ribbed texture to provide a tactile feel in the hand, enhancing perceptions of product quality.

The Carmella’s labels are run on an HP Indigo ws4500 press, and are printed in four-color process. A matte UV varnish is applied to the labels for protection against moisture and abrasion.

“By working as a tight-knit team—Carmella’s, Directions, and WS Packaging Group—we were able to capture the personality of the brand,” says Nicole DeFranza, who with her sister, Kristen Sickler, operates Carmella’s Italian Bistro. “With many years of practice and perfecting the Carmella’s House Marinara Sauce, among the other sauces, it feels great to know that our product is branching outside of the bistro and generating brand recognition.”

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