Innovative product and packaging development is the key to taking advantage of the continuously growing and changing petfood and pet treats market. The top two ways that pet owners find new products include browsing the store shelf and television advertisements, according to the American Pet Products Association. "Packaging not only improves the shopping experience, but can also play a large role in consumer loyalty to your brand," explains Weatherchem's white [aper on packaging trends. "Studies also indicate that petfood packaging follows many of the same trends as packaging for humans. Brand differentiation, brand enhancement and convenience rate highly with consumers when selecting a brand of food or pet care products."

So what can you do to make your brand's packaging stand out on the store shelf?

Today's pet parents are savvy, well-informed and know what they are looking for. It's up to you to let them know, as concisely and enthusiastically as possible, that your product is  exactly what they are looking for. What better way to express your message than through your packaging? Let's examine what one company did when it decided to overhaul its packaging, and then, let's check out what products are available to give your petfood and pet treat packaging a competitive edge.

Kaytee Products, Inc. recently launched Nature’s Benefits, a new line of natural foods for pet birds (parakeets, cockatiels and parrots) and small animals (hamsters/gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits). The granola-style food line offers a complete daily diet that includes a limited number of fruits and nuts for each species, combined with clusters of seeds and grains, and contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, according to the company. In developing packaging for the new line, Kaytee’s design agency, Directions Inc., attempted to leverage the emotional connection consumers have with their pets to further the brand/consumer relationship.
“The tone and manner of the design needed to convey a very strong sense of wholesomeness on several levels,” says Directions art director Aria Grant. “We wanted to create a crunchy-granola feel that was also very eco-friendly. But we also wanted it to acknowledge the bond between consumers and their pets." According to Grant, the goal for shelf impact was to combine a range of visual cues that worked in concert to create a strong position of all-natural and environmental awareness with the idea of doing something good for the pet. Carton artwork includes natural colors and elements combined with muted tones on a kraft paperboard material that gives the Nature’s Benefits line an earthy, organic look.

Charged with sourcing the carton material for the package, Directions turned to converter Great Northern Corp. and its StrataGraph process. The process uses UV inks and UV dry-trapping of inks and coatings to combine the quality of process printing with the structural integrity of folding-carton paperboard, completely in-line. The result, notes Great Northern, is consistent quality and reduced turnaround time. In addition, cost-to-market efficiencies are achieved by incorporating UV printing, coating, die cutting and stripping in one, continuous process. The resulting carton for Nature’s Benefits is 100% recyclable and compostable. Or, consumers can use the box for their pets “to tunnel and burrow in,” as copy on the back of the carton suggests.

“Our buyers and retailers have been very excited about the unique look of the package and have expressed that it’s a great way to promote an all-natural product,” says Kay Thomson, senior marketing manager for Kaytee Pet Bird.

Now that you've seen how one company tackled the packaging challenge, it's time to arm youserselves with the latest in technology and innovation for the packaging of petfoods and treats.

1. Avery Dennison Flexis Air Valves packaging is designed for use with perishable products. The valves offer proper air management for plastic packaging of perishables. They allow the release of excess air for protection against moisture and consist of a membrane, a baffle film and a permanent

2. Bemis Clysar offers LTC shrink film -- a thin-gauge, clear, heat-shrinkable, polyolefin-based film. It's designed for a blend of strength, balanced shrink and clarity. The film allows for upfront cost savings with material reduction in recommended applications and can be run at the same speeds as heavier-gauge films, according to the company.

3. Mondi Consumer Bags & Films' Hooded Top Slider Bag, developed with Pactiv, was designed with convenience, safety, functionality, marketing and ease of filling in mind. The Hooded Top Slider is integrated into the upper part of a composite plastic bag and is protected. The consumer can access the slider closure only when removing a part of the outer packaging along the micro perforation.

4. Faerch Plast offers a range of packaging specially designed for petfood products. The packaging is made of AMPET, a material for ambient products, which is lightweight, yet stable. It can be tailored to desired shape and color. The packaging is stackable.

5. Nordenia International's FlexZiBox packaging is designed for volumes up to 55 pounds. The reclosable side-gusset bag has a robust patch handle and top slider. The patch handle is tearproof and resilient for ease of handling, according to the company.

6. Peel Plastic’s MicroPerf technology allows for venting while preventing contamination, according to the company. For food and petfood products, this means venting through holes smaller than the ovipositors of most problem insects, Peel says. For hygroscopic products that will be stored or displayed outdoors, the technology allows venting while restricting the amount of moisture entering the package.

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