Canidae leans into sustainability with brand overhaul

Learn about Canidae’s new brand strategy, including a merging of their old standards with a new focus on sustainability and reaching their consumers via an omnichannel strategy.

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A lot has changed in the pet food landscape since Canidae Pet Food delivered its first truckload of dog food in 1996. In fact, a lot has changed since 2015, when Petfood Industry first profiled Canidae (see Petfood Industry magazine, June 2015). But equally important to the company’s strategy now, as it launched full speed into a major rebrand at the beginning of 2022, is what has stayed the same.

“I went back and read that article, and what struck me is how much is the same and how much is extremely different,” says CEO Bret Furio. “There’s a real dichotomy that’s very interesting to reflect back upon. There were two key themes that came out of that article that are exactly the way we think about the business today: One is making the best food we possibly can for pet parents and the second is the commitment to our customer. We know that our customers want a pet food brand that aligns with their personal values. We have evolved our company to align with what they want, which is a more sustainable pet food.”


Canidae Ceo ProductBrett Furio has spent his time so far as Canidae’s CEO merging the company’s past with its future to build a cohesive brand story. | Courtesy Canidae Pet Foods

 

From a house of brands to a branded house

One of the most significant undertakings for Canidae as plans for a major rebrand got underway was honoring the roots of the company while leaning into the trends of today.

“I feel really good about not only our quality but our ability to innovate and move and take advantage of trends,” says Furio. “And then I think of Canidae just in terms of our brand and positioning. Canidae had a lot of different lines of business back in the day. But what was different was we had lines of business, but we didn’t really have a brand. We were a house of brands, not a branded house.”

It was important for everyone to get on the same page, which meant a lot of corporate soul-searching — and listening to the customers in order to find the weaknesses in Canidae’s existing brand messaging.

“We’re have reimagined our brand to be [more] cohesive,” says Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Dana Paris. “Our brand awareness scores, if you asked somebody about Canidae, were very, very low. People associate [more] with our sub brands. So we spent a lot of time doing consumer insights research and created a new brand positioning statement and mission that reflected what was most important to our consumers. We have relaunched our entire brand with a new look and feel to reflect our brand mission.”

Unsurprisingly, Canidae’s consumer base indicated that they respond to high-quality, nutrient-dense food. It was two other primary factors the consumer research brought up that really gave Canidae something to sink its teeth into.


Canidae Goodness Cat“More goodness in every bite” and “goodness-first ingredients” are part of the messaging for Canidae’s nutrient-dese formulations. | Courtesy Canidae Pet Foods

 

“What was interesting is that our core consumer groups also really care about eco-friendly brands and sustainability,” says Paris. “Canidae has always been at the forefront of regenerative ingredients and sustainability but has never shared that with consumers. So those insights really gave us permission to put that at the forefront of our brand statement and our brand mission. So while we’ve always stood for high-quality food, We’re now weaving in and talking a lot more about our responsibly sourced proteins and regeneratively farmed ingredients that come from nutrient-dense soil, which will help round out that message.”

“Creating a more sustainable world of goodness for pets, people and the planet.”

Enter the 2022 Canidae look, a year-and-a-half in the making, which Paris says is renovated, modernized, more accessible and brings joy to the brand. It was also a significant undertaking that required buy-in from the Canidae team as well as retailers and the end customers.


Canidae Pure DogCanidae’s Pure line has both grain-free and wholesome grain options, catering to both sides of current grain trends in pet food. | Courtesy Canidae Pet Foods

 

“Internally, there was a lot of change to get people around the idea of ‘hey, this is where we want to go,’” says Furio. “People were really excited about that internally. But you have to be able to walk the talk. You can’t say you’re going to be about sustainability and then not be able to back up your statements.”

Obviously, getting a rebrand launched during a pandemic has presented unique challenges, particularly in terms of working with retailers to get the process of rolling out new packaging going in a way that made sense.

“When we first showed our customers the new packaging, I’d say 9.9 people out of 10 loved it,” says Furio. “So, the next thing was, how do we roll it out? And from a practicality standpoint it’s really complicated. It took us a while to convince [retailers] that it had to be an iterative process. To bring the consumer along on our journey, we were very sensitive to that. You’ll see some of our bags are going to evolve, rather than all of a sudden be completely new. There’s a lot of thought that went into how we bring the loyal consumer along, but at the same time we do think the new packaging will recruit a lot of new consumers into the brand. But we had to be thoughtful about it. Changing a brand is a complex, messy process.”


Canidae Old New PackagingCanidae’s new packaging rollout is a deliberate process that aims to bring the customer along on the journey to the new brand message. | Courtesy Canidae Pet Foods

 

Where the new, improved Canidae fits in the current pet food landscape

The current state of the pet food industry is one of flux, where the channels are being reshuffled and everyone’s trying to meet their customers wherever they’re at — which may not be the same places they were two years ago.

“I think you’re seeing lots of movement, lots of new players but not lots of new ideas,” says Furio. “Some people want to be DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands; some people are making the leap to Target, Walmart, etc. You’ve seen big box looking at pet saying this is a really interesting category. You’re seeing the big guys like Petco and PetSmart focused on how they are going to continue to win, and then you have your independents who feel a little bit abandoned because all of a sudden brands they carry are at Walmart and Target.”

Canidae’s aim is for clarity.

“I think where Canidae can bring a little bit of stability to it is in terms of our commitment to bringing consumers and innovation to pet specialty,” says Furio. “For instance, we just launched the Kibble Refill Station exclusively at Petco.

“While we’re an old brand, we’re also a new brand,” he says. “We’re refreshed and we have a commitment to lead the pet food industry in sustainability. We feel really good about where we’re putting our stake in the ground because we think it best serves our consumers. We are activating our brand purpose to create a more sustainable world of goodness for pets and our planet through our commitment to regenerative agriculture and eliminating single-use plastic. We will be sourcing more than 50% of our plants from regenerative farms, and we will continue to launch packaging innovation to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. We have evolved our business to not only be good for our pets, but also to be good for our planet.”


Fast Facts

Canidae Logo

Headquarters: Stamford, Connecticut, USA

Officers: Bret Furio, CEO; Peter Margetis, chief strategy officer; Dana Paris, CMO; Wally Shaw, COO; Jacopo D’Alessandris, chief customer officer; Karen Casey, head of people and culture

Brands: Dog: All Life Stages, Canidae CA, Goodness, Pure, Sustain, Under the Sun; Cat: Balanced Bowl, Goodness, Pure

Website/Social Media: www.canidae.com; @canidaepetfood on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Notable: 

All our employees are called the Canidae Crew. The alliteration is catchy! The crew boat inspires the way we do business, together. On a crew boat there’s no motor or sail to propel you forward — it all comes down to the team. Everyone on the boat plays a unique and pivotal role, and it only works when we’re working together, in sync. While we all pride ourselves on being passionate, self-driven achievers, we value collaboration, teamwork and mutual respect.

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