Who wants to be a Supermarket Superstar and build the start of an empire... on TV? One San Francisco-based graphic design outfit can help: 99designs is featured on a new reality show called Supermarket Superstar, airing on Lifetime Monday nights. Fans of Michael Chiarello, Stacy Keibler and Debbi Fields (of Mrs. Fields cookie fame) will find something of interest on the show, as well as anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to try and create, market and sell a food product on a mass scale. The first episode on July 22 featured products like overly boozy "Cake Buzz" cakes (actually, this product has potential), peachy desserts with real Georgia peaches from a gospel singer, and cupcake cookies from the Princess Cake Lady, who kept viewers guessing about how crazy she is--seemingly an essential for the reality TV genre. The three contestants were able to tweak their concept, recipe and design in a mad dash to impress one person: a supermarket buyer from A&P.
The local Bay Area angle for this one is that 99designs was approached by Supermarket Superstar’s producers (Project Runway, Shark Tank and Undercover Boss) to provide design assistance to contestants competing to get their homemade creations on grocery store shelves. The competition entails home chefs competing to win money and get their food products distributed at A&P supermarkets. Contestants pitch their actual products (which they've typically been honing for years), packaging design and branding concepts to judges. Each episode names a winner who scores $10,000 in cash and $100,000 in marketing support to produce actual samples as they'd be sold. In the finale airing later this year, those winners present their samples, and the grand prize-winner gets national supermarket distribution.
99designs sent two in-house graphic design pros, Art Director Kyle Wai Lin and Visual Designer Matthew Basham, to Los Angeles to film the 10-episode series. Lin and Basham helped contestants create their final packaging designs on-air, and the design concepts were sourced through 99designs' global design community. 99designs has connected thousands of food entrepreneurs with designers around the world to source logos and product packaging designs, and this show is a way of educating would-be entrepreneurs about how important branding and design are to business success.
Bay Area Bites caught up with Lin recently to find out what filming was like. Before 99designs, Lin previously worked in digital advertising at agencies R/GA and AKQA, and with a wide variety of brands from Apple and Nike to Walmart, Converse, Old Navy, eBay, Taco Bell and L'Oreal. In his free time he's an adjunct professor at Miami Ad School, teaching mobile, social media and product development classes. Lin’s comments have been edited for content and clarity.
Bay Area Bites: What was it like to film the show and work with food-loving contestants angling to win thousands of dollars?
Lin: Matt and I had a fantastic experience working with food-loving contestants because you could really tell they didn't just love their food, but they also enjoyed creating a stronger brand narrative around their product. The "thousands of dollars" aspect added a lot of pressure on us, as well as the contestants. It definitely made for an interesting show.