We already know how important sustainability is to consumers all over the world, and with the future for pet food packaging in the U.S. looking like it’s going to only get more eco-friendly, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the European market is heading the same way. 

In May, a survey of pet owners from the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and France was carried out by PETS International, Yummypets and the Pet Sustainability Coalition. The topic of the survey was sustainability, and around 220 people took part. One of the questions posed was “How important is it to you that pet companies help address global environmental problems?” and almost 60% of the respondents highlighted the importance of pet companies’ actions in their answers — 31% stated extremely important, 28% very important, 23% important, 15% somewhat important and only 2% stated not at all important.

The problem with packaging

In the UK the issue of excess, unsustainable packaging is becoming more and more of a concern, and after the BBC’s Blue Planet II was aired, the damage that plastic is doing to the world’s oceans has become a particularly hot topic. In 2018 the Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, vowed to remove all avoidable plastic waste from the UK by the year 2042 (despite environmental groups saying the target lacked urgency and detail).  

For pet food brands it can be a fine line to tread between addressing environmental concerns and providing a convenient solution for consumers, and that can be seen clearly in packaging. Single-use pouches are incredibly popular, particularly for single-pet households, but it’s not easy to recycle them as they’re usually made up of mixed materials.

That’s why the European Pet Food Recycling Program, launched in 2018 by Mars Petcare UK and recycling experts TerraCycle and led by pet food brands Whiskas and James Wellbeloved, is such a valuable initiative. The first of its kind in Europe, the program lets pet owners either drop off their waste packaging (such as wet food pouches) at specified locations or freepost it directly to TerraCycle for recycling.

Pet food manufacturers making the change

As well as U.S.-based companies like ProAmpac making changes, companies across Europe, including the UK, are developing sustainable solutions for the future that includes greener packing. Beco Pets, Scrumbles and Butcher’s Pet Care are just some examples of brands making changes in terms of more sustainable packaging.

With the global pet food packaging market expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.3% from 2019–2025 and be valued at US$8.56 billion by the end of 2025, according to 360 Market Updates, being ahead of the “pack” is something manufacturers should be aiming for.