Pet food packaging continues to be a valuable resource for telling a brand’s story as well as communicating the execution of top trends in the pet space to consumers looking for things like functional formulas, a particular novel ingredient or even a sustainability focus. Below are three companies who have recently overhauled their packaging to stand out in the marketplace, better tell their stories and educate consumers on what they have to offer.
Solid Gold: A new ingredient blend is cause for a new message
Prolific mention of Solid Gold’s new ingredient blend NutrientBoost is just one of the driving forces behind the brand’s new look, which also featured a clean white background. | Courtesy Solid Gold
Solid Gold (which is now owned by H&H Group alongside Zesty Paws) has recently added a proprietary ingredient blend to all its formulations that the company says increases palatability, reduces inflammation and increases the absorption of nutrients. NutrientBoost is the result of a lot of work that leverages the scientific community Solid Gold gained access to under the H&H umbrella, and the company is not shy about its desire to promote its new blend.
“We're doing the packaging refresh not only motivated by the illustrations or the physical part of the packaging, but because we are bringing innovation to the category by launching formulas powered by NutrientBoost,” said Yvethe Tyszka, vice president of marketing for H&H North America. “So in order to highlight NutrientBoost and what it is, we wanted to make sure to refresh the bags so that we can communicate to the pet parents why NutrientBoost is superior to all the other formulas [on the market].”
While considering how to promote NutrientBoost, Solid Gold decided to take a look at its packaging overall to see if it was still telling the right brand story post-acquisition. As it turns out, there were some updates to be made, particularly in the three-fold message at the bottom of the bags.
“We did a lot of strategic work at the very end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, to really dive into all the uniqueness of our brand and what NutrientBoost was bringing to it,” said Tyszka. “And we figured out that we could encapsulate ‘Cleanse Balance Fuel,’ which used to be the uniqueness of the regular formulas, into [a new] ‘Nourish’ pillar, and add ‘Crave’ because this is important for pet parents based on studies that we've conducted. And then ‘Thrive,’ because we know what they’re going to do as pet parents is feel good about what they're giving their pets and seeing their pets live longer, happier lives. ‘Crave Nourish Thrive’ is now the thread that drives all our product development and our communication moving forward.”
A final significant change is the coloring of the bags, which retain the bright animal illustrations that have come to be a staple of the brand but swap out the previously colored backgrounds for a clean white look.
“Some really smart, tactical designing went into it,” said Brian Quinn, director of brand marketing for Solid Gold. “From a packaging perspective, we have a very bright portfolio and it's a little bit disjointed. This is a real seamless way to convey the science behind NutrientBoost really graduating this holistic health into the next level of ‘let's prove it,’ and we can prove NutrientBoost because there’s literally nothing like it in the market. So bringing that to life, going to the white for a bit more of a science-y background, and then a brand unifier for the block on shelf is great to help customers shop it and actually improve the legibility [of the message on the bags].”
TOP’s Parrot Food: New equipment, new capacity, new packaging opportunities
Expanded production capacity gave TOP’s Parrot Food the opportunity to re-evaluate its packaging and provide more nuanced messaging to its customers. | Courtesy TOP’s Parrot Food
Sometimes something as practical as new equipment can be cause to re-evaluate packaging opportunities. TOP’s Parrot Food recently commissioned new manufacturing equipment that allows the company to significantly increase its capacity to serve the market. The transformation of both packaging and process was a huge undertaking that positioned the company for continued growth well into the future, according to Gary Rubin, chief operating officer for TOP’s.
“Several highlights rose to the top of our list to include on the new packaging,” he said. “First, our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Certification is prominently featured in several areas of the bags so customers will know that we are committed to the organic process. Second, calling out ingredients that are both contained and not contained in our pellets was very important. We addressed the most common questions that we receive regularly from customers, such as being peanut-, sugar-, soy- and corn-free. Lastly, the new bags are multi-lingual so they can be shipped to our international partners without the need for additional labeling to meet local regulations.”
Communication to consumers was paramount, which meant going through plenty of testing to ensure everything worked on the new packaging as it went through the new machinery.
“We faced several challenges during our packaging redesign, many of which revolved around timing and testing with the new manufacturing equipment,” said Rubin. “From altering text placement to revising packaging material composition, our team worked tirelessly to meet each challenge as they surfaced. Overall, seven SKUs were redesigned at the same time so we were fortunate to have great packaging and manufacturing partners who worked with us every step of the way to help ensure our success.”
Fortunately, all the work seems to be paying off, according to Rubin, with customers providing positive feedback since the new packaging launched in February 2023.
“The reception to TOP’s restyled packaging has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We collaborated with several of our partners in the design effort over the past year to ensure they were happy with the new bags and that the look reflected our brand identity. Our partners are as excited as we are about this new phase in our company’s evolution. Overall, we are very pleased with the outcome of this long process.”
Vital Essentials: Refresh, refine and drive the butcher-cut protein message home
The Vital Essentials brand has gone through different iterations since its inception in 2009, but it has always maintained the same look and feel. Now, the company has done its first complete overhaul of the brand, looking to update its messaging and try to stand out a bit more in the growing segment of raw/freeze-dried pet food.
“There was an opportunity for us to redefine our position in the marketplace; we always knew we had an amazing quality product,” said Nick Ebert, vice president of sales for Vital Essentials. “And this was an opportunity for us to refresh, refine and really drive this whole message of butcher-cut protein. We believe our dogs and cats deserve the best, and we believe better protein equals better results. We wanted a packaging and design that really defined that message and was also an opportunity to refresh to what consumers are looking for today: It's a clean, simple packaging with a beautiful message that's all about the health and nutritional balance with our pets.”
Differentiation was an important message for Vital Essentials to get across in its new look.
“One of the first things that we wanted to resonate was a simple message,” said Ebert. “So it's easy for consumers to understand not only what the protein is — you can see that through our viewing panels — but also what is the nutritional statement? What are the ingredients inside? If you turn our package over and you look at our ingredient panel, it's simple, it's clean, it's much different than most that we find in our space today. As you look at the packaging in our space, it's really busy. You know, there are lifestyle images, there are varying claims, and it becomes pretty crowded and pretty noisy. So for us, again, it was really about defining a simplified package, but also at the same time making the key claims that we believe are necessary and differentiate us from our competition. It was about redefining how we tell this message of butcher-cut protein, how we talk about our sourcing, our process, our variety and what makes us different from everything else out there.”
The company took the opportunity to make some mechanical changes to the packaging, as well.
“One of the biggest differences that you'll see between our legacy packaging and our new packaging is we came out with a flat-bottom bag,” said Ebert. “It helps a lot from a merchandising standpoint; it really simplifies the user experience, especially in our retail trade partners. Now we're continually looking for different ways to innovate, we're looking at ways to make packaging more eco-friendly. As we look at innovation, eco-friendly is a big piece for us as we look into considering our impact and imprint on the environment.”
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