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Packaging trends in the Pet Food Industry

Now more than ever, pets are seen as a fundamental part of the family unit, an essential piece of the life of their owners. Experts estimate that the global pet food market will be worth over 200 billion USD by 2025. This means that brands who manage to gain the trust of pet owners have good growth opportunities. Pet owners react positively to brands who focus on food safety, sustainability and animal health.

But how is all of this related to packaging? Its main functions are to contain and protect what is inside. Packaging makes sure the product is safe, but it can also be the starting point of the relationship between a customer and a brand, by catching the attention of a potential customer, making the brand recognizable or transmitting the brand values through the design, material and functionality. 

Sustainable alternatives

Pet owners tend to prefer brands with more sustainable packaging options because consumers are more concerned about social responsibility and the environment. They are making sure their choices are produced in an ethical and sustainable way. What does this mean for pet food packaging? An upsurge in biodegradable and recyclable materials. Paper-based packaging has been a safe eco-friendly option, but recyclable plastic has risen in popularity. This is because paper-based packaging, while environmentally friendly, does not offer the same durability and food safety features as plastic. 

Recyclable plastic provides optimal preservation of the product, and also satisfies the interest of the consumers for sustainability. A plus would be not only using this kind of materials, but to provide clear recycling instructions on the outside, so consumers are encouraged to recycle themselves. Kantek, a Mexican premium dog food brand, has developed a full-rounded concept that focuses both on offering a nutritious and sustainable formula as well as protecting the environment, since the manufacturing plant works with vanguard machinery and renewable energy. Furthermore, the design concept revolves around the Mexican identity of the brand.

Convenience throughout the process

Convenience for the final consumer is an important factor to take into consideration when designing the package of a product, but it is also important to consider manufacturing, handling, transportation and distribution. The packaging design must enable efficient manufacturing throughout the whole process and also must be highly functional and appealing to the end-user. 

For a lot of pet owners it is more convenient to open the pet food package, transfer the product to another container, and discard the original packaging. This is especially true for bigger bags that are difficult to manipulate and can’t be sealed back. Pet owners would not feel the need for an additional container if the original packaging was easy to manipulate and would not compromise the freshness of the product.

In response to the concerns of consumers for freshness, sealing and easy opening, some brands have adopted different strategies. For example, making the opening process easier, reducing the risk of tearing open the package in an aggressive way, we see an increase of packaging with tear notches. Proper sealing ensures the quality, integrity and freshness of the product, so closing options are being explored by pet food brands, such as slide and snap seals. For easier manipulation some producers are implementing stand-up pouches.

Premium features

There is a growing number of premium pet care consumers, so as the demand for premium pet food options increases, brands have an opportunity to expand their horizons. A premium product besides top-quality ingredients, needs packaging that matches the high-grade quality of the product and properly protects it. This can be achieved through flexible packaging films and reseal technology, that preserves the aroma, freshness and moisture.

Other premium features involve capturing the attention of the consumer through graphics and printing techniques. The product design can make the consumer feel through all of their senses that they are acquiring a premium product. Examples of this are soft-touch matte varnish, matte finishes on glossy bags (or vice versa), paper feel varnish and high shine gloss. Clear windows that allow a peek inside the packaging are also really popular.

Premium Brazilian brand, Premier Pet, has an extensive range of products for pets with different needs. For example, their PremieR Clinical Nutrition line was designed to help in disease treatment, and the Nattu line is for those who want to offer a more natural diet to their dogs. Both of these lines have a special and distinctive packaging design. 

Premium pet food buyers are willing to invest more in the nutrition of their pets. A Premium pet food purchaser survey, conducted by Mondi, found that 91% of respondents think it is worth spending a little more on quality pet food, 82% seek out solutions to make life easier. 75% find freshness important and 65% would trust a brand more if it used sustainable packaging. The survey focuses on the North American market, but we can see a similar growth and behaviour among premium purchasers in regional markets such as Latin America. According to Euromonitor data, the Latin American market has an annual growth rate of 6%. As we can see, the growth of this market has been even bigger than for the Asian and European markets, so this is a great moment for foreign brands to look at Latin America as an investment opportunity.

It is to be expected that the demand for sustainable and convenient packaging, as well as premium alternatives, outlines the pet food packaging design choices in the next few years. Additionally, we can expect an increasing interest in personalized products, from the very formula and ingredients (in order to meet the special needs of a particular pet) to the size and shape of the packaging, to accommodate the lifestyle of the owner. 

Zoo Inc. is an international marketing and communications agency only for the agricultural, livestock and pet food industry. For more information: marketing@zooincagency.com

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