A Different Voice 02: Ollie

How can mindful packaging innovation help individuals discover joy, wellness and connection in plant growing?

Meet Ollie:

He’s our Green Thumbed Structural Designer, with a natural talent for transforming any garden, terrace, room, office corner, windowsill or desk into a peaceful, plant-filled paradise. As a creative, he’s passionate about delivering meaningful change and protecting the natural world. He does this by designing based on human observations, embodied as considered experiences, appropriate equities and feasible solutions.

For many, lockdown has completely redefined the meaning of connection, be this with ourselves, our community or our planet. Forcing individuals to socially distance from family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and even random passersby, Covid-19 has destabilised, restricted and isolated us.

Author and journalist Johann Hari describes tribes – the concept of deep human connections on which our families and societies are founded – as being the “superpower” which raised us to the apex. Whilst it’s obvious that we are the most engaged civilisation that has ever existed, with the tools and technologies at our fingertips to connect with millions of other people, more and more of us feel deeply lonely and disconnected.

We have lost our tribes. Coronavirus has accentuated this, but it has also encouraged people to slow down, take stock, reset and reconnect. Many have turned their gaze inwards, prioritising inner strength, balanced resilience and holistic wellness to overcome the current challenges and come out stronger.

For Ollie, lockdown was a chance to reaffirm his belief in the power of growing plants as a means of self-care and connection.


Ollie’s room in London.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I surround myself with plants wherever I spend any time. I fill our office windows with spider plants, my house with a variety of weird and wonderful houseplants and growing projects, and my garden is a space of grown serenity which I cherish and share with my housemates and friends.

Working from home at the beginning of the pandemic gave me an even closer relationship with my plants. And I came to realise, more than I already accepted, that the experience of my plants was exactly that: a relationship, a connection between my experience and the wellbeing, growth and longevity of my Green Guests.

For me, growing plants is a window back into connection. In a way, growing reinforces the connection between care and wellbeing: if you invest in the needs of a living thing, be that a plant or yourself, then you naturally create space for growth.

Additionally, investing in something so intensely over a period of time builds an emotional connection which leaves you rushing for Google as soon as even a single leaf starts to turn a funny shade of yellow. These chlorophyll-filled companions take on meaning and worth beyond their air purifying, Instagram decorating credentials. They become endearing characters in our lives, Needy, Thirsty and Hardy.

Keeping plants also connects you with time and the seasons. You can’t rush plants. They grow (and die) at their own pace. The more time you spend witnessing the way they bloom in spring, how their leaves fill and flourish in summer, to then recede and stagnate in autumn and winter, the more you come to accept that nothing in the natural world is permanent, for better or for worse. This is a sentiment which gives me a great deal of peace.”

Inspired by these trends, this philosophy and his own approach to growing, caring and connecting, Ollie started toying with the seeds of a product that thrives at the intersection of these three elements.

“Earlier in my thoughts, you may have noticed I referred to my plants as Guests, and this ties in to perhaps the most valuable connecting ability of plants: the capacity to be shared.

One of the things which gives me most pleasure as a grower, designer and cook is the opportunity to share – to share thoughts, emotions, moments and experiences. With plants you get an incredibly tangible platform for sharing. Something which is the product of your care and attention, propagated to create more life, and then gifted to a loved one as a living, breathing link to your care. Which is why I feel that we never really own a plant, rather we are part of that relationship, into which we can invite people around us, our tribe, to share in the value and meaning that can come from growing.

At home I repurpose spice jars as makeshift propagation containers. And working daily on packaging innovation, I started to wonder…

Could the growing popularity of mindful and wellness-focused food and drink products become a platform for consumers to discover the deeply meaningful connection which I enjoy as a grower?”

So here is his idea for Gro, a kombucha brand concept that leverages natural connections and pack second-usage to offer better gut health, green serenity and sustainable packaging.

Each drink comes in a bell jar-like container. Consumers flip it over and unscrew the lid to enjoy a shot of naturally flavoured kombucha, a popular functional probiotic drink that improves gut bacteria and aids digestion. Once finished, the cap turns into a base, and the bell jar becomes the perfect container for plant propagation (where cuttings from plants are used to grow new ones).

Consumers are encouraged to try this out and develop a love for growing plants through on-pack comms and a dedicated Gro digital channel with online tips and tutorials. And, when they’ve mastered the skill, they’re encouraged to pay it forward, turning the cuttings into a simple, thoughtful, meaningful gift.

As Gro’s is very much a natural narrative, the colour palette is both vibrant and soothing, balanced and bonded to the plant world that the concept is rooted in. There’s delightful fun to the pattern on the underside of the label, and a soothing softness to the embossed logo, which playfully lines up with printed details in the graphic.

The packaging’s second-usage is part of Gro’s wider sustainability story: the jar and lid are both made of recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET), the most widely used and recycled plastic in packaging. From Method to PepsiCo, many brands are already switching to rPET to be more sustainable. This mono-material approach for Gro’s packaging makes it easier to sort and recycle as – unlike many other plastics – PET can be closed-loop-recycled up to 10 times.

During lockdown, Ollie wasn’t the only one who turned to plants for wellness, connection and entertainment. Many people did the same, and it looks like this trend will continue to flourish in the future: for example, in a recent survey by the National Lottery, consumers listed growing vegetables and redesigning their gardens as top wishes on their post-pandemic bucket list. Concepts like Gro help open up the positives of plants to a wider audience, enabling them to take better care of themselves and to discover new rituals and uplifting habits.

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