How can you use packaging to differentiate your petfood
products from the competition? The tools are out there. By
using the latest packaging materials, graphics, barriers and
machinery, you can do it.
In the new product/package development process, contact BOTH
container/material suppliers and packaging machinery
manufacturers EARLY. Collaborate with them to develop and
produce a package that will set your product apart from the
competition. Do not make the common mistake of paying too
little attention to packaging machinery in your planning
process. Machinery is what transforms packaging ideas into
Generation 3 equipment is most often designed to be all
electronicfully servo controlled. We're seeing some pushback
from various end users in the US marketplace who do not want
servo only machines. If there are too many servos on the line,
the time commitment required by an electronic technician to
maintain and service that equipment increases substantially..
This can be problematic, especially when operators are
minimally trained and language differences are mixed in.
Generation 4 equipment is simple. It uses servos sparingly:
only where absolutely needed. Generation 4 carries no real,
independent definition. One suggestion is to think of
Generation 4 as describing customer-centric machines, that are
5-S: Smart, simple, sophisticated, sturdy and
standardcustomized to meet an individual manufacturer's
Packaging is crucial in the US$35 billion global petfood
market (Euromonitor). Petfood producers are vying for an
increasing slice of this strong and steadily growing market and
packaging is key to their efforts. Keeping up with, or better
yet, ahead of packaging trends is a must. What packaging trends
will stimulate changes in your operations?
Package types continue to evolve to mimic and, in some
cases, lead consumer trends. From the growth of SUPs (stand-up
pouches) to the continuing switch from paper bags to plastic,
packagers employ many of the same package concepts and graphics
that are successful for human consumer food offerings.
This continuing shift from heavy, rigid packaging to
lightweight flexible packaging is seen in all sorts of product
offerings. Individual portions of dog and cat foods, previously
available mostly in cans, are increasingly being packed in
foil/polyester/polypropylene "retort pouches" which can be
opened without tools or appliances by consumers.
In fact, in the latest wave of retort pouch introductions,
Whiskas led all other market segments, including human food. It
introduced the retort package fully two years before Heinz (now
Del Monte) introduced this package for StarKist Tuna. Use of
retorted flexible pouches delivers two benefits: Foods are
exposed to cooking heat for shorter periods of time vs. canned
varieties, and high impact graphics can be incorporated for
maximum retail shelf appeal.
But straight edge pouches (what the industry calls pillow or
fin-sealed pouches) are not the only approach. While this
package type is experiencing double digit growth in petfood
(one supplier indicates it is the second largest growth area
after beverages), shaped pouches, such as the Purina Friskies
pouch, help provide that extra degree of differentiation.
According to Elliot Young, founder of Perception Research
Services, consumers spend 7-10 seconds evaluating their options
when faced with a variety of choices in the supermarket. Expect
many more shaped entries, as the companies fight to grab
consumers' attention in that brief 7-10-second slice of
Bagged products are shifting from paper (or multi-wall
paper/poly structures) to all plastic bags. With this shift
comes real consumer convenience in sealing/opening features.
The string pulls and hot-melt glue seals of the paper sacks are
being replaced by pressure-sensitive resealing tapes and
Another convenience-based change is the movement to
multipacking, which has been so successfully employed in the
consumer beverage arena. Now, it is easy to find carton and
shrinkwrapped multipack carriers that facilitate the purchase
of six, eight, 12 packages of your pet's favorite foods. Some
of these multipack carriers are paperboard and are produced
from micro-flute corrugated. They are designed to carry
high-impact graphics and promote convenient storage and
dispensing of their contents.
Rigid containers are also offering some unique shelf appeal.
Purina's Fancy Feast Gourmet Gold, a dry cat food, is making
its debut in a zippered SUP as well as a blow-molded
high-density polyethylene canister with full body shrink
sleeves carrying all brand and product identification.
Canisters are sealed with a metallized polyester membrane and
an LDPE overcap.
Another recent entry is the Iams line of sauces for dogs.
Stock blow-molded PET bottles and PP closures are used; once
again a full body shrink sleeve provides product/brand ID.
Finally there's PetRefresh drinking water, featured on the
front page of the Wall Street Journal (March 11, 2005). This
doggie water is available in a family of PET blow-molded
bottles just like the designer waters offered to the pooches'
Execution of your packaging strategy relies heavily on solid
packaging operations. Remember, it is packaging equipment that
transforms ideas into realities. A package that is entirely
produced, filled, sealed, labeled and casepacked by hand is not
a viable commercial container. It may be a limited run boutique
container, but it isn't a viable commercial package for mass
distribution until it can be automatically produced, filled,
sealed, labeled and casepacked. The ability for machines to
automatically complete these steps separates commercial
packages from pipedreams.
When Masterfoods introduced the WhiskasÂ® pouch, the firm
needed to utilize contract packers and/or new machinery. The
equipment used to fill, label, convey and pack pouches is
completely different from that used for cans.
When selecting packaging machinery, remember: One size and
type of machinery or line control does NOT fit all
requirementseven in the same plant of a given company. In
trying to understand the different types of line controls,
consider using OMAC Packaging Workgroup (OPW) guidelines. Two
in particular are particularly useful:
PackML for communicating between separate pieces of
Line Types for describing the degree of automation on a
OPW describes PackML as "the language that machines would
use if they could talk." These guidelines will aid a petfood
company in linking machines for initial operation; routine
service; and even relocation to another plant to take advantage
of better manufacturing rates.
Second, utilize line type designations (Line Type 1, 2A, 2b,
3 and 4) for your in-plant team as well as prospective
suppliers. With these well-defined designations, a packaging
professional can identify the degree of automation their team
expects on the line, as well as how operating performance
parameters will be transmitted to the company's manufacturing
management and ERP infrastructure.
Another vital step is to clarify your firm's willingness to
finance new developments in packaging. Such investments can
benefit packagers and suppliers. One major petfood manufacturer
stated they are actively open to collaboration for new package
developments. This petfood packaging professional believes
suppliers benefit since they receive funding to provide a
solution specific to that end user. However, once the project
is complete, the end user is often open to allowing the
supplier to commercialize the developments in market segments
outside the end user's specific market area.
During your planning, utilize the strong resources groups
such as the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI)
Subscribe to Ben Miyares' Packaging Management UpdateÂ®. This
free electronic newsletter has a weekly summary of current
trends in all market segments. Go to www.packexpo.com, review
the current issue and register.
Attend Pack Expo Las Vegas, September 26-28 in Las Vegas,
Nevada, USA. There are more than 1,200 exhibitors with
Finally, it is worth repeating that early in your planning
for a new product and/or package, you should begin
collaborating with both material suppliers and packaging
machinery manufacturers. Do not make the common mistake of
paying too little attention to selecting the most suitable
According to the PMMI fifth biennial Packaging
Productivity Trends Indicator Study, packaging machinery
factors inhibiting productivity, include:
Slow changeover time;
Downtime due to maintenance;
Limited flexibility; and
Limited line speed.
According to the same study, packagers did the following
to improve productivity:
Redesigned layout of packaging lines;
Analyzed/addressed system bottlenecks;
Intensified productivity measurement;
Redesigned operation schedule;
Instituted productivity measurement system; and
Switched to PC systems control.
Packaging machinery suppliers should remember that
petfood manufacturers will value certified training,
technical service, spare parts and maintenance