Petfood, one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry, is expanding at a robust rate worldwide according to a recent report by Global Industry Analysts Inc. The study, entitled "Pet Foods: A Global Strategic Business Report," projects the market will reach US$43.9 billion in 2010. With this growth, it's no wonder more and more brand owners are leveraging the power of packaging to help influence consumer buying decisions.

Originally intended as a way to contain, protect and preserve goods, packaging has evolved into a strategic marketing tool that plays a major role in shaping a brand's image and personality. While traditional marketing methods and advertising create awareness and drive demand for a product, the package is what physically connects that product and brand to the consumer. It is also an important factor in brand success. If packaging fails to meet consumer expectations or does not function properly, it can spell disaster for a brand.

Metal packaging is an effective medium for achieving such objectives due to its ability to add convenience to petfood brands and lend an extra bit of pizzazz to attract attention at point-of-sale.

For example, the added convenience provided by rigid easy-open and peelable ends, neither of which require a can opener, is in high demand from today's busy consumers.

This growing popularity has been made possible by significant enhancements to rigid easy-open and peelable technologies. Crown has undertaken decades of research to develop technology that is safe, reliable, and truly delivers on the promise to be easy to open for the consumer while at the same time holding up to stress and shock during transport.

Easy-open ends are judged by the following features: "pop force" to pierce the score, "tear force" to initiate the peel and "peel force" to remove the panel. Crown's latest development, Easylift easy-open ends, features some substantial technology improvements that make every single stage of opening easier. A critical challenge with easy-open ends has been difficult tab access. Easylift easy-open ends overcome this challenge by featuring a generous gap between the can lid and tab for easier access to the product inside. Now even consumers with limited mobility, such as seniors, children and the physically impaired, can access pet food can contents more quickly and with greater ease than ever before.

Originally launched with Nestlé Purina Petcare Europe in 2007, the ends will be manufactured in Crown's Massillon, Ohio production facility for the domestic market starting in late 2008.

Another development in easy-open technology is in foil sealed ends with a pull-tab, which offer a simple, intuitive way to feed pets on-the-go or accommodate single-serve portions. This system, branded the PeelSeam opening system by Crown, consists of a rectangular or round aluminum or steel ring, sealed with a peelable flexible aluminum lid and seamed to the aluminum body. The lid is constructed of aluminum foil laminated with polypropylene film on the inside and lacquered on the outside. The PeelSeam lid also features a small tab for easy opening.

These peelable ends are fully compatible with Crown's range of bowl-shaped cans for the single-serve food market. The bowls have a sleek and modern shape that draws attention on store shelves, helps convey a premium image and provides petfood brands with a competitive edge at point-of-sale. Available in a silver, white or gold external finish, bowl-shaped cans can incorporate advanced surface printing technologies to further enhance visual appeal and extend brand messaging. High-quality print may also be applied to PeelSeam ends to maximize the bowl can's shelf impact, adding extra flair to an easy-open feature that conveys product freshness, enhances filling line efficiencies and provides an extended product shelf life of up to 3 years.

In addition to being easy-to-open, both rigid and peelable ends are durable packaging solutions, specially designed to protect product integrity and ensure that petfood products maintain their flavor and freshness.