The Packaging Pitch: Ikigai, what’s your reason for being?

October 04 , 2017

By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork

I learned a fantastic new word recently: ikigai. It is Japanese and means ‘a reason for being; that which gives life a sense of purpose.’ It looks beautiful in Japanese characters and makes me wish I had known this word before I got my last tattoo. I might have changed my option, but that is another story for another time!

I came across this word preparing for a presentation I have to give in a few weeks to a women’s agribusiness conference in California. While I love to speak, I usually speak at industry conferences about the importance of strategy and branding. It is rare I have to create a speech that is more personal and about my journey to where my business and I are today.

For those of you that know me or have worked with me, you know I am lucky to be living my ikigai every day. For me, there is no doubt the reason I am on this earth is to help growers and industries drive fresh produce consumption and sales growth by bringing consumer-centric strategy, branding and packaging thinking to their businesses.

I get that I have not quite worded my life quest in the way Deepak Chopra might, but it is my passion and I get to do it every day and get paid. As a result of this, my work has never felt like a job and this is what I want to share with my agribusiness women audience – find your passion and you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. This is how I found the word ikigai and I am now looking forward to sharing my story with them because passion at work is something I wholeheartedly believe in.

For many growers and I am sure for many in the industry, you feel the same – you are living your ikigai every day.

I had a lovely mentoring conversation the other day with a young woman who has been in our industry a few years and she was the embodiment of this. Not too long out of a Master’s degree, she has been working a range of different jobs to find the role that made her heart sing. She’s now found it and tapped into this amazing passion for fresh produce and helping the company drive fruit and vegetable consumption. It bodes well for the future of our industry doesn’t it to have passionate young people in the fresh produce industry?

In my work with growers, I am starting to do more workshops before we jump straight into a branding project. The reason why is I get to know them a bit more, get to understand their vision, their mission and their passion. This is a really important part of helping them build a brand strategy because most growers ‘are’ their business. So any work we do in branding and creating a brand strategy must be true to them and their vision for their business.

What I have learned however, is growers don’t often speak of their passion easily. It really has to be gently cajoled out of them. There is no doubt they are passionate, they just often find it hard to put into words.

The classic was a recent Sunday where I ran a five-hour telephone workshop with an overseas grower. There was no doubt he was passionate…and there was no doubt he was totally committed to growing and building a more ecologically sustainable produce business, but he really struggled to put his story into words. Fortunately, we have ways of helping growers find and tell their story as it is an important part of building brand connection with consumers.

So, now it is your turn. As a test to see if anyone reads this column (!) and as a chance to hear from you, I want to know what your ikigai is. Does your current work represent your reason for being? Does it get you out of bed in the morning? If yes, tell me why. If no, tell me why not. I promise to keep everything confidential and in a couple of months, I will anonymously share a few of your stories in a future column. Email me your ikigai at

As a fitting way to end this article, let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Steve Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle.”

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