Pet Food Packaging
On May 12, 2014

Case study: Ohio Pet Foods and Ideas That Kick

How a decades-old petfood brand ‘kicked the shelf’ and changed the game with consumer-focused packaging design

Matthew Golladay, vice president of Ohio Pet Foods, returned to the family-owned and family-run petfood business to manage the buyout of Blackwood Pet Food, a brand the Ohio-based company had manufactured for years. Ohio Pet Foods specializes in co-packing premium and superpremium dry petfood diets and Blackwood certainly fell under this exclusive umbrella, with active and alternative recipes that included grain-free formulations with no soy, no corn or no wheat in slow-cooked, small batches.

The problem, however, was that the packaging wasn’t getting that message across to pet parents when they came across the Blackwood dog and cat diets on the store shelf.

Following the acquisition, Matt partnered with Ideas That Kick to transform the nearly 20-year-old Blackwood brand, which had little consumer equity, into a line of superpremium petfoods worthy of not only packaging press attention and design awards, but one that spoke clearly and directly to consumers.

Stefan Hartung, creative director  and co-founder of Minneapolis design agency, Ideas That Kick (formerly HartungKemp) worked directly with Golladay to rebrand Blackwood. At Petfood Workshop: Marketing to Today’s Consumers, both Golladay and Hartung invited the audience to learn just what their partnership produced.

“Our bag redesigns for Blackwood Pet Food’s premium dog and cat foods placed key nutritional values for each recipe front and just a bit off-center, because pet-loving families want to feel good, at first glance, about what they’re feeding Fido and Fluffy,” explained Hartung. “Our bag fronts also make it easy for busy store clerks to recommend Blackwood foods.” With the help of the Japan-based packaging company Takigawa Corporation, makers of products like flat-bottom, front-zip and side-gusset flat opening bags, and Slide-Rite, Easy Lock and Tear-Rite opening and delivery systems, Ohio Pet Foods and Ideas That Kick were able to take their design concept and make it a reality on the petfood bag.

The new packaging hits  what Hartung identifies as the four key concepts consumers are looking for on a petfood bag: love, trust, knowledge and confidence.

Love is easily identified for a pet parent—it’s that look their dog or cat gives them when they return home from a long day at the office—and the cats and dogs on the front of the Blackwood dry lines of petfood express that emotion immediately, looking “out at you” from the front of the bag.

Trust is ensured with the bag’s seal, which proudly declares all natural ingredients, handcrafted and guaranteed "Made in the USA."

Knowledge, which Hartung identifies as empowering the super clerk so they can educate the consumer, is translated through easy-to-read graphics that highlight key ingredient information and the levels of protein, fat and fiber in the formulation, and point out the small batch cooking process Ohio Pet Foods takes such pride in.

Lastly, the consumer’s confidence is bolstered by the no corn, wheat or soy label, bold and in a bright, noticeable color.

“The brand story we  crafted for Blackwood’s print and online marketing highlights the family-owned company’s commitment to slow cooking all-natural ingredients, right here in the USA,” explained Hartung. “These traditional values are earning Blackwood industry respect and new retail shelf space nationwide. Our strategic thinking and smart design transformed this challenger brand into a Shelf Kicker in the premium petfood category.”

Now Blackwood's bags tell the company's story, says Golladay, and he’s not the only one who thinks so. “Pet-loving families can feel great, at first glance, about what they’re feeding Fido,” raved “The bags also make it easy for store clerks to recommend Blackwood foods,” said

“Based on the overwhelming success of the Blackwood rebrand and re-launch, we’ve created new packaging concepts (and websites) for the client’s [other petfoods] Makin’ Trax and Adirondack brands,” Hartung said. Makin’ Trax appeals to an entirely different consumer than Blackwood, focusing on hunters and their Sporting breeds and the packaging concept certainly expresses that, while the Adirondack brand now brings more focus to the region it’s named after—bright, beautiful landscapes of the mountain range now tempt active pet parents to grab their dog and hit the trail, together.

Learn more

In the following video, hear from Stefan Hartung, of Ideas that Kick, and Matt Golladay, vice president of Ohio Pet Foods, about how they successfully took a 20-year-old petfood to the next level with new packaging, a direct message and by responding to consumer perception: "Blackwood: Repackaging and rebranding Blackwood Pet Foods a successful venture"

Blackwood Pet Food’s re-designed packaging hits Hartung’s 4 important pet parent points: love, trust, confidence and knowledge.
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