O’Brien Beer —
Leading the gluten-free rebellion.
Like most Australian blokes, former engineer, John O’Brien loved a beer. But when John was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 1998, it wasn’t just the bread rolls that had to go.
Not one to be easily defeated, John decided to take matters into his own hands. After a couple of years of elbow bending “research,” John began to develop his own method for brewing gluten-free beers, using millet and sorghum. The aim was to create a gluten-free brew of “true flavour, without compromise” and once he’d suitably honed the formula, O’Brien Beer was born.
O’Brien Beer hit the market in 2005, but did so with packaging that was traditional from the outset. Despite being a new product that was unique in the marketplace, visually it blended in, rather than standing out. The product had actually filled a very functional need for gluten intolerant beer drinkers. They needed the brand, but they just weren’t in love with it.
Six years on, the beer had scored great press, won industry awards and achieved significant national distribution through Woolworths and Coles. However only 10% of the ‘functional market’ had cottoned on to the benefits of drinking O’Brien Beers – a market that John was keen to capture. Concurrently, the local craft beer market had exploded and beer drinkers were becoming much more discerning about what they were drinking.
When John first came to us, our brief was to repackage and reposition the beer, from what was perceived to be a forced, functional choice, into people’s preferred choice. What was clear to us however was that the brand required a coherent identity that stretched beyond just the packaging.
Enter Round’s trusty team of testers – a crack crew of designers, consumption experts and “beer specialists.”
From the outset, it was clear our design response needed to make the packaging feel more crafted and aspirational, yet not to position it too far into the boutique beer realm for fear that it might alienate O’Brein’s existing customer base. Eventually, we found a happy medium; creating an identity that was at once bold, contemporary and uncomplicated, with enough nods to tradition to keep the beer purists satisfied.
Alongside the brand’s new visual identity, we created the positioning line, ‘Distinctly Different’, which we felt neatly summed up both the product and John’s story.
It worked. The identity and narrative we crafted helped position O’Brien as a credible boutique beer with functional benefits. Off the back of the re-launch, sales grew by 20% above forecast growth; the brand has expanded its domination of market share in the gluten-free beer category; and consumption and awareness of the brand amongst general beer drinkers has increased dramatically.