- Jesse Honigberg
CASE STUDY - Nort Port
Nort Port cheese balls were created out of necessity. In the midst of a global pandemic, as wineries, breweries, and distilleries reopened for the summer, food trucks were not readily availiable. The solution: packaged, ready-to-go creamy cheese (in the form of a ball, of course) accompanied with pretzels, chips, or wafers.
"Because who doesn’t like cheese with wine & beer, or really anytime? The idea started around many conversations with friends, parties with cheese balls that were enjoyed, and traveling to wineries & breweries and realizing food options were rather limited, if food trucks were not present."
- Lauren, owner of Nort Port
From its inception, the vision for Nort Port was to creatively and uniquely represent a cheese ball company. When discussing with the owner, Lauren Geldon, what Nort Port would look like, we wanted it to be classy, lighthearted, and warm. Named after her beautiful labradoodle, Norton, his furry face was the perfect representation for the business.
Nort Port is an exciting opportunity because cheese has been part of a well-established growing market, and more specifically, charcuterie boards have risen in popularity among consumers. Cheese balls go well with wine or beer, so targeting vineyards and breweries was a priority, as well as with selling at local events and farmers markets. Always expanding with more cheese ball flavors and partners, our work with their website, branding, and marketing continues to evolve every day.
First was creating the primary logo, a classic brand with a New England-y feel that would suit the target markets of wineries, breweries, and distilleries, as well as a design that would look great on a charcuterie board. We agreed with Lauren that the main brand should be classic and easy to use, so an additional secondary logo of Norton was made, perfect for stickers, pins, keychains, and other merchandise. Our team loved it, Lauren did too, and most importantly, it's Norton approved (probably because he likes to see his face everywhere!)
Package designs were made for the cheese balls, each with their own icon representing their individual flavors. Launching with three distinct flavors - The Mammoth, The Everythang, and They Say It's Your Birthday - we wanted to give each one a personality, and make it a little more interesting for the end consumer. Point of pride: tracing actual dried onion in Illustrator, then hand placing each part of the everything seasoning for The Everythang.
Another aspect of branding is presenting the cheese balls through our product photography, having monthly photo shoots for upcoming flavors. The Nort Port team have worked tirelessly on building new flavors, such as seasonal specials and other creatively inspired cheese balls. Branding for Nort Port continues to be an enjoyable ongoing project, with releases every couple months based on new cheeses and ingredients. It's allowed more room for creative freedom with the names, such as their Sandlot-inspired cheese ball "Some More of What?"
As their company grew, more stickers were made encouraging people to #TryOurBalls. Keeping the voice of Nort Port tongue in cheek, but not too crass, humor is important for the brand. Cheese balls are funny, and make for great puns too.
Another sticker design with the message - "You Could Die Tomorrow, Eat A Cheese Ball" - may sound a bit existential, but it acknowledges Lauren's full time work as a hospice care worker, as well as an EOL (end-of-life) doula, so we thought to show recognition for what she does while also being on-brand with Nort Port.
"A global pandemic. It was 2020 when many humans evaluated their own happiness, and when you’re a social worker working in hospice there’s no avoiding the importance of life & death every single day + COVID… it was kind of a done deal. My choices were to go headfirst into a PhD program, or to make balls of cheese… and well you guessed it, I picked cheese 🧀"
Taking into consideration Nort Port's voice, tone, and cadence, these components all go into a highly-effective plan that both strengthens their identity and creates consumer advocates. Constantly staying up-to-date and providing value, we continue to make sure Nort Port's brand is as thoughtfully orchestrated as their business.
With their logo and package design complete, our next step was creating their website. From the color palette to the look and feel, our team collaborated with Lauren to deliver exactly what she was expecting. After a summer of starting from the ground up, Nort Port's website launched in September of 2020, ready for online orders and other relevant information like upcoming events at wineries, fairs, and public markets.
Nort Port's website is always up-to-date on exciting developments, like where their cheese balls can be found this week, suggested pairings for wine/beer, and pop up sales banners. Through monthly pop up sales opening on the first of each month, customers are able to order online at Nortport.com, with pick ups for the orders on the last Friday of the month from 4:30-6:30 pm with an exact date and location.
Their shop is continually being updated with new cheese balls, seasonal specials, and other innovative flavors coming out each month. As Nort Port continues to gain traction among foodies, their online shop and sales opportunities have been hugely successful in both sales and community engagement.
When starting our work with Nort Port, targeting local businesses that specialize in selling alcohol, including distilleries, breweries, and wineries, was a priority. During the summer of 2020 as businesses reopened, it was important to address the new PLCB guidelines. Governing the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board set gathering limitations, and other requirements, like needing food options and only being able to sell alcohol to someone who had also bought food.
Nort Port's first partner was Black River Farms Vineyard in Bethlehem, a beautiful winery with delicious wine, live music, and (now) cheese balls to share amongst friends. Nort Port then began to work with the Trolley Barn Public Market in Quakertown, filled with amazing food vendors, a brewery, and Black River Farm’s wine bar. As more people felt comfortable going out, and more public events resumed, Nort Port started extending to more markets, various festival events, farmers markets, and vendor fairs in the Lehigh Valley.
These local events include the Christmas City Wine Festival, Stony Run Winery's Outdoor Farmers Market, Macungie Memorial Park's Backyard Vendor Fair, Delaware Riverfest, and Sangria Around the World Festival at the Stone Lake Inn. Nort Port also made appearances at Randall's on the Orchard, Hop Hill Brewing, Plant + Vintage, Domaine Pterion Vineyard and Winery, and Presley Mobile Cocktail bar at the Burnside Plantation.
For each event, Nort Port's tent presented consumers with an organized presentation, proper branding, free samples, and print material featuring new cheese balls to keep things fresh. Community engagement includes partnerships, such as the strength trainers and yoga enthusiasts at Barre3 Lehigh Valley, where members had 10% off orders following their classes.
Over a short time, Lauren has fully engaged herself in the community, making more of an impact while also promoting businesses and special events. A true self-starter and entrepreneur, she not only made the cheese balls by hand with her team every week, but also managed Nort Port's social media (on top of handling a full-time hospice care job!) Her company was selected as a finalist for the Entrepreneur Pitch Competition hosted by Start Up Lehigh Valley live on WFMZ-TV, giving her the chance to show off her product and meet a ton of amazing entrepreneurs in the process.
From all of our branding work, to photoshoots with the cheese balls, working with Lauren and seeing all of the hard work she puts into her business has been a rewarding experience. Lauren has been in touch with food distributors, and is currently exploring food engineers to increase shelf stability. We're hoping to be offering Nort Port at supermarkets soon!
Beginning from scratch, Nort Port's growth and involvement in the Lehigh Valley have proven to be widely successful, despite the many adversities a food manufacturing company might have, especially during the height of COVID-19. While there is constantly more work and collaboration with Lauren, much progress has been made with spreading the word (and cheese) of Nort Port.