OlD Friends

How we sold dirt as a supplement


Quick Take

Ask: Develop a new product/brand within the wellness category.

Key Observation: There is such a thing as being too clean.

Opportunity: Create a product that strengthens our microbiome.

Long Take

Situation: The role our gut microbiome plays in our health is becoming more apparent every year. While alternative medicines have long touted the interconnectedness of our stomach and brain, mainstream health is just now catching on. In fact, the National Microbiome Initiative was created in 2016 as a collaboration between the U.S. Government and 100 other groups in order to research and provide recommendations for a healthy microbiome.

Key Observation: There is such a thing a being too clean. We’ve been getting progressively sicker as our obsession with hygiene has grown.

Research Findings:

Old Ideas are New Again

The over-sterilization of our lives has been linked to a rise in allergies and auto-immune disorders. Science is starting to back up the old idea of the outdoors to cure all ills and apply it as a way to combat our health woes. Unfortunately, we spend 90% of our time indoors and people are increasingly living in urban areas with limited access to the outdoors.

A Shift from Weird to Superfood

We’ve already seen fermentation go mainstream with foods such as kombucha and kimchi. Now we are seeing things like powdered mushrooms and bee pollen becoming more common. As we continue to expect more from our food, we will see a rise in these “superfoods.”

Geophagy is A-OK

Geophagy aka eating dirt, has been practiced for millions of years in cultures around the world. It was long considered a disorder, but scientists have recently discovered a beneficial microbiome in soil that could revolutionize the health industry. In niche wellness sectors, geophagy is already being practiced with the consumption of shilajit (a Himalayan soil that’s sold either in a resin form or powder form).

Opportunity: Create a product that strengthens our microbiome.

Brand Purpose and Values: We knew we needed a strong brand purpose and values to provide the foundation as well as a guiding light for the brand.

Purpose: Create a world where our bodies work with us, not against us.

Values: Dedication to curiosity, Belief in connection, Quality first

Product Introduction: Old Friends: edible earth for total body wellness. A refined soil sourced from places around the world with the healthiest (and lab tested) dirt.

Product Branding Approach: The name came from the “old friends” hypothesis which states that the gut microbiome and humans evolved together in a symbiotic relationship. While most products on the market speak only to “gut health” or “digestive wellness”, Old Friends is about the connection between mind and body and doesn’t treat them as separate entities. Pills can feel a bit medicinal, so we created a product that could easily integrate into daily activities like drinking coffee or a smoothie.

Packaging: When designing the packaging, we wanted to make sure to think through the lifecycle of the product. Our packaging would be fully compostable recycled paper, soy-based ink, and a bioplastic made from algae. We also knew we needed to stand out in the increasingly crowded wellness supplement field.

Design Pillars: Trustworthy, Approachable, Simple

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Team: Meredith Makhoul (ST)

My role: package design and mockup, co-creation of product including primary and secondary research, store visits, concept testing.