It wasn’t long ago when pet products owned only a small space at the end of a less desirable grocery aisle. Only a few household names owned this space because, well, dog food is dog food, right?
Then came the growth of warehouse stores. Costco and Sam’s Club offer giant 50 pound bags of pet food for a significant savings. Brand name and ingredient profiles didn’t matter since pets never seemed to complain about what they were being fed. Again, cat food is cat food, right?
Today is a completely different story. Pet products don’t just own the end of an aisle, they own the entire aisle and the end cap! Grocery, discount, warehouse, and pet stores are all competing to make their pet product brands stand out. Companies use POP displays, unique packaging, and sampling strategies to get in front of the pet owner, who is eager to make their animal healthy and vibrant.
Pet Industry Growth
According to Acosta, there has been a 9% increase in pet supplies over the past year. This growth will not slow down anytime soon especially as our society continues to delay the time in which they have children. Millennials make up the largest percentage of pet owners at 32% proving that they are looking for love by way of their four legged friends.
Now that the pet industry has crossed 100 billion in annual revenues, a lot more research and science needs to go into product design. Based on a study by Statista in 2020, the average spend on a pet is $1201.00 per year for dogs and $687.00 for cats. This number skyrockets in more metropolis areas with denser populations.
Let’s look at how pet products are trending.
Pet food is up 9.7% much of which comes from an increase in the cost per pound. Label claims such as organic, grain free, soy free, and corn free are ways that a pet food brand can up the sticker price and increase its revenues. With these truths in mind, pet food packaging needs more strategic thinking in its overall design.
Brands need to understand that pet owners often give more care and consideration into their pet’s food than what they put in their own human bodies.
Yes, you can still find buckets filled with rawhide and bones in your local pet food store. But even these rough and tough treats have catchy packaging that encourages you to choose their meaty treat over the competitions.
There is another emerging sub-category of pet treats. Tough treats have met their match with the emergence of pet pastry products such as donuts, cupcakes, and even Petzels? There will undoubtedly be more novelty pet treat items since the demand for these products continues to rise.
Pet parents take animal love to the next level by ensuring they are on a series of health supplements. They reported that 45% of all pet owners give supplements to their loved one’s for a more complete pet nutrition program. These pet supplements have followed the standard set by the supplement industry when designing their pet wellness products.
There is a wide open opportunity for a pet product brand to capitalize on the common appearance that fills store shelves. With a projected 2.32 billion market size by 2028 now is the time to capture this upward market.
Non-consumable pet products are big business! Leashes, collars, backpacks, carriers, and tags are just the tip of the iceberg for pet supplies. While the product may “speak for itself” the packaging for these items needs to build brand identity and resonate a feeling of comfort and durability.
Like pet supplements, there is a big opportunity to capitalize on the lack of package design strategy that is prevalent in the market.
Package Design For Pet Products
All of this is to say that pet packaging matters.
Most designers lead with “what are some designs that you like”? But there should be no subjectivity in package design, even if the product is not intended for human consumption. For your pet food brand to stand out, you will need to address:
POP displays flood this growing (and evolving) market, but the industry now demands true package differentiation. How can your packaging stand apart from the competition or solve a problem that the customer has? In pet food, this is especially true as we have all suffered from a poor package experience when seals break or bags tear.
While your packaging can make your brand stand out, your messaging may cause them to stand back. How certain are you that the sales copy on your product packaging is resonating with the pet owner? To build brand loyalty, you will need to unpack and address what matters in the customer’s mind.
Build a Brand Story
Does your package tell the brand story and does that story increase purchase intent? Not every story we tell is a home run, but the ones that do we should tell time and time again.
Make Them Emotional
Does your copy evoke emotions? If so, are those emotions strong enough to create a repeat purchase? Hitting the right emotional triggers increases the amount of brand recall.
Showcase the Right Features
Are you surfacing the most important product features? Most pet food products today include quality ingredients that have wide ranging benefits. Trying to include them all on the front of the label can be visibly overstimulating. Making sure your packaging design includes the right benefits at the right quantity is a recipe for success.
A Product Design That Aligns
Does your packaging design take a minimalist approach or look like a bright shiny object? We should create a package design for pet products in a way that it aligns with the image you want the customer to have about your product. Graphic imagery that stands out will only detract the buyer if it mis-aligns with the other aspects of your packaging.
Designing For the Evaluation Stage
Most pet products have a unique package shape. While the front panel is the most important point of increasing brand recall and product messaging, there is value in carefully considering what is placed on both sides and the rear panel. Any purchase drivers and branding elements that fall just short of being worthy of front of pack placement, should be placed in the next best location. You want this messaging to be displayed when the consumer narrows down their options and begins evaluating those that remain.
Designing For Product Placement
At SmashBrand, we test on the specific in-store location and match the shelf presentation which includes the competitive landscape. Our testing design is developed with consideration to the competing products that will inevitably sit on the shelf next to your product.
Solely testing in an isolated environment leaves out important variables that negatively impact a product’s purchase intent. The package design should be based upon accurate data gathered by testing the locations in which the retailer places your pet product. A human grade dog food product not considering confined spacing and an emerging competitive landscape, may create packaging that poorly performs in that setting.
Assuming Customer Intent
Changing trends in organic, natural, and sustainable packaging does not always result in increased revenues. Existing brands that jump on a trending bandwagon may experience a decline in sales, an increase in product costs, and a loss of space for sales copy that converts. As with all packaging design elements, we should first verify that a purchase driver leads to increased purchase intent.
Unfortunately, many pet food package design agencies make decisions based on what’s trending instead of what’s testing positive for purchase intent. Sustainable pet food packaging is one of those subjective examples. As with any consumer packaged goods category, removing subjectivity reduces the risk of a potentially disastrous design change.
Package Design That Performs
SmashBrand uses proprietary data as a part of our testing methodology to ensure we optimize your pet product packaging for on-shelf and online retail sales. Book a time to discuss your project with our team.