Pura Panela distributes panela in the UK. Panela is 100% cane sugar derived using traditional, low impact farming, production and processing techniques. It’s produced across Latin America, but predominantly in Colombia where Pura Panela’s founder Natalia Welch was born. 


Natalia wanted to bring the health and sustainability benefits of the high quality, artisanal sugar to the UK. Pura Panela sells and distributes panela in bulk through wholesalers and also supplies local shops, coffee shops and restaurants in Sheffield. The business has plans to develop a range of healthy panela-based products.


Natalia turned to the Sheffield Innovation Programme for help when she wanted to grow her business and create a high end, premium brand which is able to be produced at scale. 

The challenge:

Pura Panela packaged its products in a simple generic brown bag and as the product was sold directly to the customer in person, Natalia was able to explain the product and its origins. To move away from this, the product needed to be able to communicate its uniqueness and authenticity by itself.

What we did

The Sheffield Innovation Programme connected Pura Panela with Design Futures, a commercially focused product and packaging design consultancy group based within Sheffield Hallam University.


Firstly, Design Futures helped Pura Panela create a new identity to help convey its benefits and origin to the consumer. The new packaging, which is vibrant and eye-catching, has the ability to speak for itself and tell the consumer about the product from the shelf. The team created a design that would work online, in marketing materials and for use in wholesale distribution. 


The redesigned packaging is made from bagasse sugar cane ‘paper’, a renewable resource that does not deplete fossil fuels and is fully compostable. The fully bio-based packaging is created after the locally grown sugar cane has been ‘juiced’ and used to heat the traditional ovens in the artisanal production process. 


The packaging uses yucca plant-based adhesive, vegetable-based inks and a polylactic acid liner made from corn starch. This has removed the need for externally imported oil-based polymers and has kept the production of all aspects of the product and packaging local – enhancing the local industries and providing added value for both the local farmers and the panela producers. 


The entire process of making the product and the packaging occurs within the same region on the outskirts of Bogotá, from the farming of the sugar canes to the packaging production, reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint.  

The results

The new packaging design generated an increase in sales from small retailers within weeks of the launch. Pure Panela is now listed in Wholefoods supermarket and is in negotiation with one of the biggest supermarket chains in Europe with the ambition of retailing the product in Germany and Romania.


The innovative packaging solution, which ensures the product minimises environmental impact where possible, has been featured in the Food Digest magazine and the Guild of Fine Food. The packaging is highlighting what can be done in the food industry to tackle the carbon footprint of both food production and packaging. The use of leftover sugar cane reduces waste and provides a unique aspect to the product whereby the product is made from the packaging, and the packaging is made from the product.

It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to work with such a professional team. The standards of quality have always been the highest. Pura Panela would not be what it is without the work of Design Futures and Sheffield Innovation Programme. They have made the brand come to life in a magical way.
During the briefing I felt like they understood exactly what I was thinking and trying to say. They made sense of all my ideas and designed it in a beautiful way. Their ability to visualise my ideas was outstanding.

Natalia WelchOwner of Pura Panela

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