Trends in Pet Food Packaging
People care deeply about their pets and consider them a member of the family. I read a satirical quote recently that for newer generations "plants are the new pets, and pets were the new children".
So it should come as no surprise that trends in pet food, pet treats, and their packaging, often mirror trends in the “people food” marketplace.
Freshness for Fluffy
Just like consumer products, pet food suppliers are often producing smaller packaging sizes as well as "right-sizing" them for portions rather than bulk producing them. And they’re turning towards pouches to help get the job done. According to the Freedonia Group’s Pet Food Packaging study, pouch demand in the pet care category was expected to rise over eight percent in 2018 alone and is the fastest-growing of all pet food packaging bag styles, especially in bags of food weighing 10 pounds or less.
One thing that makes smaller pouches so appealing is that they help ensure freshness more than traditional bulk, paper bags. A lot of pet foods have natural fats in them and if not protected or consumed quickly enough, they go rancid. Much of the packaging must be capable of being hermetically sealed with a good oxygen and UV barrier, and plastic pouches are one of the best options for that. Plastic packaging also allows for gas-flushing of the product and integration of a re-sealable zipper, both of which help it stay fresher for longer. Now more than ever, food safety and hygiene are top of mind for consumers, and that includes their pet's food as well.
Single-serve packaging is also convenient for pets, who like their owners, to lead an on-the-go lifestyle. Smaller pet food packaging allows for owners to easily grab their pet’s preferred meal for an overnight stay away or a long day out of the house, without having to portion it out themselves. Owners want the same grab-and-go packaging options they enjoy themselves for their pets.
Appeals to Pet Owners
Beyond the benefits for pets and their owners in terms of freshness and convenience, food suppliers are also turning towards smaller, flexible packaging for marketing purposes. The materials used for doy-style bags allow for bigger, bolder imagery that stands up and stands out on a shelf. This is another one of the reasons plastic is expected to be a strong competitor to paper material in pet food packaging in 2018. You can make a much nicer billboard on a four-corner stand up pouch than you can on a traditional lay-down gusseted sack or even a can of wet pet food.
Marketers are looking for the space to create messaging that speaks to the additional needs of pet owners and the ability to make those call-outs on the packaging. As pet food trends and priorities continue to mirror consumer food trends, call-outs like “all-natural,” “gluten-free", "non-GMO,” and “organic” need to have significant real-estate on packaging.
And if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that people love to see dogs and cats. So being able to present these benefits next to a beautiful, bright picture of a happy, satisfied kitty (or puppy), make pouches that much more appealing to pet food suppliers looking to attract consumers.
Some are even using the extra real-estate afforded by pouches to include interactive elements to their packaging. QR codes can be integrated and easily scanned by consumers to learn more about the product, serving size guidelines, sourcing of ingredients, benefits to their pet, and even to get more familiar with the company providing the food.
Demographics are also playing a role in shaping trends in packaging of pet care products. Aging boomers, for instance, are a devoted group of pet owners who prefer the easily managed size and weight of new package put-ups for pet care products like kitty litter and kibble.
Alternate Food Formats
Fido may not seem like a foodie, but his owner is and wants their pup to have the same exciting options that he gets to enjoy. Brands are getting creative in the ways they produce pet foods and treats that provide optimal nutrition and premium ingredients. One example is freeze-drying pet foods. Since this method makes the product extra fragile, the freeze dried pet food market has largely adopted stand-up pouches as the ideal method of storing and selling the product in a way that protects it and keeps it fresher longer.
Paper or Plastic?
As previously mentioned, the use of plastic is expected to continue to rise, but the use of traditional paper bag packaging still remains a staple in the industry, especially as it applies to larger, over 20-pound, bulk bags. One of the reasons to stick with paper is that infrastructure changes and material costs are a high barrier to overcome. Many pet food producers would need to change their equipment and reconfigure end-of-line packaging systems to accommodate the change over to plastic packaging. Smaller, agile and boutique brands, are early adopters of plastic bulk pet food packaging options. The bigger brands will be looking to them as a model for success before proceeding with sweeping packaging changes.
So what does this mean in terms of sustainability? Typically when consumers see paper packaging, they automatically assume it is more sustainable than plastic packaging. This may sway the consumer in choosing which product to buy. However, there have been great strides in flexible packaging materials to be more environmentally friendly, even biodegradable, while still holding the integrity of shelf stability. Extended shelf life and reduced product waste also contribute to sustainability, and since plastic packaging allows for better design and marketing, manufacturers can use the space to call out the recycled content of their packaging and other environmental benefits that can appeal to consumers.
Of course, stand-up pouches aren't just for pet food, pet snacks, and pet care items. Learn more about the trend toward pouches in general here.