The basic functions of effective petfood packaging are containment of the product, protection for the product and consumer, promotion and communication. The most important function of your packaging, however, may very well be how convenient it is for pet owners.

"The primary focus in petfood packaging today is on convenience," said Michael Mullen, spokesperson for Heinz North America, maker and marketer of Heinz Pet Snacks and Heinz Pet Foods, in Food & Drug Packaging.

"An important point to remember, however, is that the consumer is not the one who consumes the actual product, but the one who carries it home and dispenses it."

Packaging pioneers 

With its easy-open convenience and ability to maintain product quality, the retort pouch penetrated the petfood market as an alternative to the metal can with the May 1999 debut of Kal-Kan's Whiskas cat food in a retort pouch. The company showed its commitment to this package by also using it for the introduction of its Pedigree Little Champions dog food in May 2001.

Crown Food Europe received the Gold Award at the 2008 Can of the Year Awards in the Ends, Caps and Closures category for its Easylift easy-open end technology. Launched by Nestlè Purina Petcare Europe on its cat and dog food products, the end represented a new standard in convenience packaging. Improved finger access makes it quicker and easier for consumers to open canned foods without the need to use extra tooling, according to Crown. The technology allows consumers with limited mobility, such as seniors, children and the physically impaired, to access food products without using a can opener or other tools.

The greatest of ease 

The Slide-Rite closure system, developed by Pactiv, is a smooth, reliable, easy-to-use closure system ensuring quick access to the contents. The product stays fresh inside its original, branded bag, and the slider's size is ideal for young as well as senior pet owners and for people with reduced dexterity, according to the company. The new 'S'-Slider system, combined with enhanced end stops, offers extra reliability thanks to improved retention of the slider.

"This unique solution is a competitive advantage for our customers, as it encourages brand loyalty," says Stéphane Soudais, product segment manager at Mondi for reclosable bags. "Combined with the excellent printability of our bags, we deliver an attractive, sophisticated packaging solution."

Zip it up 

Exopack's packaging line Enduro is a line of consumer products in pre-formed bags and stand-up pouches formed from a variety of substrate and package formats. This allows them to deliver the consumer convenience features, as well as the shelf appeal and barrier requirements of a premium petfood, according to Exopack. Enduro-SOS, for example, can feature a tin-tie reclosure system for the convenience-driven consumer; while the Enduro-SUP bags are available with top-slider or top press-to-close zippers.

Slider technology allows consumers easy opening of the package without a knife or scissors and enables hands to easily re-close the package while ensuring clean and safe storage. This convenient package means that customers are not forced to use a secondary container to store your product, re-enforcing your brand message at use.

If consumers want an added level of tamper evidence, a hooded slider from Peel Plastics can provide the added peace of mind they require. By adding very visible tear away seal above the zipper as well as a seal in the slider itself, consumers can be sure that the product has not been tampered with, according to Peel. If you are looking for a way to ease the transportation or dispensing of your petfood products, Peel also offers a wide range of handle formats - like the Grab 'n' Go side gusset handle - that can be incorporated into many of their package styles.

The shape of things 

Peel's SlideCube package is a preferred alternative to conventional package formats including; multi-wall paper bags, folding cartons and gable top containers. The SlideCube allows consumers to have easy access to the product and a simple, convenient storage method. The positioning of the slider at the top of the bag is preferred by consumers over front mounted zippers, according to Peel, because it allows for easier scooping as the opening of the pouch is larger and permits the consumer to see the product when pouring. Check out a 3-D eDrawing of the SlideCube packaging (best viewed with Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher).

"Consumers are always looking for greater convenience from their packaging purchases," states Peel Plastics' website. Peel's Shaker Pouch Technology delivers convenience by giving customers the ability to apply products - like toppers and mixers - precisely where they will be most effective; with the one-step of open and shake.

What's ahead? 

Petfood manufacturers absolutely need to cater to the female buyer when selecting packaging since women are the buyers of pet products in 8 out of 10 households according to Weatherchem, a research firm. If packaging does not meet their requirements, their buying decision is clearly influenced. For instance, if the product shape is not ergonomic or if a package is difficult to lift and carry, it is much more difficult to sell to women.

Packages like Deli-Cat brand cat food are more appealing to the female buyer. The product comes in a large jug container that is easy to store and has a convenient carrying handle to make using the product effortless for the consumer. Peel Plastics' Grab 'n' Go side gusset handle was launched in April 2009 - another innovative solution focused on customer convenience, making large bags of petfood more easy to carry and transport.

For dry food packaging, plastic SUPs will continue to replace multi-wall paper, and convenience features like resealable closures will proliferate. Adding a directional dispensing closure to such packages would make it even more user-friendly, according to Weatherchem. Another example of what's certain to be a consumer must-have is Easy Snap, made by a division of SIG Pack, a rigid closure for flexible packaging that holds the bag wide open for easy access. This feature can make it especially attractive for a package of dry cat or dog food.

Watch packaging in action

Take a look at Peel Plastics' Grab 'n' Go handle in action.

Get a peek at Crown's award-winning Easy-Lift packaging technology.