Pet food packaging report

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With an increasing number of products, brands,
health claims, and design elements, a purchase
decision at shelf can be daunting, and a clear picture
of the most effective design strategy can become
lost. In 2013, Shikatani Lacroix initiated an intensive
research study of pet food packaging and pet food
consumers in order to inform future strategic and
successful packaging designs. This two-part study
consists of a pet food brand audit as well as an in-depth
consumer survey, and resulted in key category
insights.

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Pet food packaging report

  1. 1. Pet food packaging report Key trends and consumer insights on pet food brands
  2. 2. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 1 At Shikatani Lacroix, we design compelling purchase moments that connect with consumers in the blink of an eye. Our philosophy and strategic design approach, the Blink Factor, is driven by a consumer's motivation to make a purchase decision. Everything we do is geared to owning the "at-purchase" moment. Our firm has a well-earned reputation for designing integrated branded experiences that effectively connect brands with consumers to drive measurable results for clients. We extend the branded experience through a consistent and coherent approach to omni-channel communication design. About the author Sydney McMurter, Account Coordinator at Shikatani Lacroix As an account coordinator at Shikatani Lacroix, Sydney works with brands such as Financial Executives Canada and Canadian Restaurants and Foodservice Association, and conducts research and analysis for client projects and presentations. Prior to joining SL in 2012, Sydney graduated from York University with a Honours BSc in Psychology and a certificate in Urban Studies, where she researched the connection between psychology and design.
  3. 3. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 2 A growing category in transition Pet food is a growing category and major industry player. It was valued at USD 58.6 billion globally in 2011 and is expected to reach USD 74.8 billion by 2017. Furthermore, North America accounts for 40% of the total global pet food revenue, in 2012 (Transparency Market Research, 2013). Premium and organic pet food is one category in particular that has seen considerable growth. It has grown 20% per year in the past 2 years and is predicted to continue to increase (PMMI Pet Food Market Assessment, 2013). The growth in premium and organic products can be partially explained by fear induced by a major pet food recall in 2007 and through advances in animal nutrition science, but also by increased pet “humanization.” More than ever before, pet owners are treating their pets like human members of their family. This thinking has inspired a shift (similar to human food trends) towards quality ingredients, and explains why consumers are often willing to spend premium prices for pet food (International Markets Bureau, 2010; PMMI Pet Food Market Assessment, 2013). In fact, a common term to describe today’s pet owners is “pet parents,” which reflects their devotion and emotional connection to their pets.
  4. 4. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 3 Category complexity With an increasing number of products, brands, health claims, and design elements, a purchase decision at shelf can be daunting, and a clear picture of the most effective design strategy can become lost. In 2013, Shikatani Lacroix initiated an intensive research study of pet food packaging and pet food consumers in order to inform future strategic and successful packaging designs. This two-part study consists of a pet food brand audit as well as an indepth consumer survey, and resulted in key category insights. Part 1: Pet food packaging audit A total of 45 major pet food brands were identified and analyzed for packaging trends.
  5. 5. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 4 Packaging trends While not mutually exclusive, four main patterns emerged through the research process. 1) Healthy look Packaging with a healthy look emphasized ingredients and health claims. Shots of ingredients that carry healthy associations for humans such as vegetables were often included. Imagery of landscapes incorporated into the design to give a feeling of organic, healthy ingredients was also common, and healthy pet imagery implied product health benefits as well. 2) Tasty/appetite appeal look This design approach centered around appetite appeal through flavour call-outs and imagery of ingredients as well as happy pets enjoying the product. Often food imagery in this group looked human-like, perhaps to appeal to the humans that will be purchasing the pet food, and featured cooked ingredient shots such as cooked chicken.
  6. 6. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 5 3) Scientific look A third design approach was to emphasize credibility through scientific claims. This packaging often included numerical data, charts, and credibility claims such as “vet recommended.” 4) Playful/emotional look This design approach catches consumers attention through humour, positivity, or emotional imagery or call-outs. Often imagery that makes consumers smile, laugh, or think about their bond with their pet was included. While the other approaches indirectly appeal to the emotional aspect of the purchase decision (food that will make their pet healthy and happy), this approach attempts to directly speak to the emotions of pet owners.
  7. 7. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 6 Brand positioning These four design approaches form a brand positioning chart on which the overall look of brands were plotted. The dimensions of the chart were from healthy to tasty and from scientific to playful. The below chart shows approximations of the brand positions of major pet food brands.
  8. 8. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 7 Part 2: Consumer survey To build on the audit observations and gain deeper insights into the category, consumer research was also conducted. Participants in the online questionnaire were United States residents over age 18 (41% male, 59% female). Average age was 45-54 years and average income was $30 000-$50 000. Sixty-five percent of respondents had no children in their household and 68% completed at least some college or university. Participants all indicated that they owned at least one cat or dog and did at least some of the pet food shopping, with 65% doing all the pet food shopping. Seventy percent of respondents owned at least one dog (29% small dog(s), 31% medium dog(s), and 23% large dog(s). Fifty-eight percent of respondents owned at least one cat. They were recruited through Fluid Surveys panel experts to ensure representativeness across the United States. Section 1: The pet food consumer The first section of the survey measured pet food shopping habits such as frequency, store type, packaging format, and brand loyalty. Type of store Consumers that frequently purchase pet food from grocery stores or major retail stores were found to on average put less time and effort into reading health information on pet food packaging than consumers purchasing pet food from pet food stores.
  9. 9. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 8 Section 2: Path to purchase Second, the pet food purchase decision process was assessed to inform the design of the on pack communication hierarchy. The average order that consumers look for information was reported to be first type of animal, then brand and product type, and finally nutritional and ingredient information. Purchase drivers Consumers’ likelihood to purchase packaging that has a specific look (healthy and natural, credible and scientific, appetite appeal, and friendly and positive) was also measured. The top two reported purchase drivers were “food my pet will enjoy” and “healthy and natural look.”
  10. 10. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 9 Health claims Comprehension of health claims • 43% of pet owners mostly understand health claims and take them into account 30% only understand the basic health claims • Consumer breakdown • 30% of consumers: “I never/rarely or sometimes look for or notice health claims” (Mostly look for “food that my pet will enjoy”) • 25% of consumers: “I look for key health words or symbols” • 27% of consumers : “ I usually read most health information” (Mostly look for healthy and natural appearance and food that their pet will enjoy) • 18%: “I often spend a great deal of time thoroughly read all health information” (Look for healthy and natural appearance, food that their pet will enjoy, and credible/scientific look)
  11. 11. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 10 Key health and ingredient claims Key health, ingredient, and credibility claims were identified in order to determine important call-outs on pack. • Protein and no artificial preservatives were rated as the most important ingredient claims • Complete nutrition and healthy digestion were rated as the most important health claims Consumer trust of health and ingredient claims Consumers were asked the degree to which they trust health and ingredient claims: • 54% rated ingredient claims as credible or highly credible • 57% rated functional claims (about healthy heart, digestion, bones, weight, skin and coat, oral care, and joints) as credible or highly credible • 65% rated a complete nutrition claim as credible or highly credible Vet recommended was the claim highest rated credibility claim to support other claims, followed by a 100% guaranteed claim.
  12. 12. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 11 Communicating health Lists of ingredients and health checklists were the top rated communication tools that consumers said they look for when assessing the health benefits of a product. • 59% of respondents reported that ingredient imagery made the product seem healthy • 63% of respondents reported that health symbols made the product seem healthy What elements do you look for when assessing health benefits? (often or always)
  13. 13. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 12 Section 3: Ratings of mock packages For the final section of the survey, six mock pet food packages were created as stimuli for survey participants to assess. The visuals varied from simple to complex and differed in their amount of copy (from one to four claims) and amount of visuals (ingredient imagery, health symbols). In addition, some packages included a vet recommended badge. All other design factors remained constant. Participants were randomly shown 2 out of 6 packages and asked to rate and describe how healthy, credible, and easy to understand they perceived the packages to be. They also rated how likely they would be to purchase the products. Missing from the mock packages were product shots, which pet owners noticed and reported to be important elements that reinforce credibility. • Packaging that did not have enough information was perceived to be unhealthy • Packaging with a combination of copy and imagery had a higher purchase likelihood rating than packaging with only copy or only imagery • Detailed information was reported to give packaging credibility • The most complex packaging with four claims and ingredient imagery was perceived to be the healthiest
  14. 14. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 13 Applying the research The insights from this study can inform the packaging design process of pet food, and are summarized in the following recommendations: 1. Determine an appropriate brand position based on your brand identity and product and the target consumer. 2. Design a communication hierarchy around the path to purchase. 3. Emotionally connect to the consumer. 4. Emphasize purchase drivers: • Appetite appeal: make sure that consumers believe that their pets will enjoy the product • Highlight the healthy and natural aspects of the product through ingredient lists and health checklists • Emphasize protein and complete nutrition • Communicate credibility (use claims if the product meets governmental requirements) and include detailed information
  15. 15. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 14 The emotional decision One major insight from this study is that purchasing pet food is often an emotional decision. Consumers enter the pet food aisle looking for food for their pet specifically, and therefore packages that remind them of their pet, how they feel about their pet, or their pet’s needs will stand out. Making their “pet children” happy and healthy is a strong driver. In the survey results, the number one purchase driver was reported as “food that my pet will enjoy”, followed closely by “food that looks healthy and natural”. This concept also explains the high number of playful package designs as well as human-pet imagery, as these images trigger how consumers feel about their pets. Making consumers smile at the imagery on packaging and associate it to their pet therefore increases the likelihood of purchase. Ranked third as a purchase driver was a “credible and scientific” look. While one can see the merit of this packaging since it conveys the message of a trusted product, it does not lead to a positive emotional reaction nor immediately create a brandmy pet connection, unless the pet has a specific medical condition. It is still an important element however, especially with fear of pet food recalls. Many brands give their packaging a credible and scientific look by adding earned credibility claims such as “vet recommended” and through the inclusion of tables, charts, and descriptive information.
  16. 16. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 15 Conclusion These observations and insights are not exhaustive nor definitive, however they provide a starting point for further research and inform the packaging design process in this category. Shopping habits are often firmly engrained in the behaviour of consumers, and can be difficult to change, especially with pet food. Even if a package includes everything that pet owners are looking for, it still needs to be disruptive enough and provide strong value to cause consumers to switch brands.
  17. 17. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 16 Reference materials Transparency Market Research “Pet Food Market – Global Industry Size, Market Share, Trends, Analysis and Forecast, 2011 - 2017 http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/pet-foodmarket.html. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/8/ prweb11077951.htm PMMI Pet Food Market Assessment http://www.pmmi.org/files/Research/ ExecutiveSummaries/PetFood%20ExecutiveSummary.pdf International Markets Bureau 2010 The United States, A Growing Pet Food Market http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/statistics/agri-food/ us_pet_food_en.pdf
  18. 18. White paper | November 2013 | Pet Food Packaging | 17 For more information, contact: Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President Shikatani Lacroix 387 Richmond Street East Toronto, Ontario M5A 1P6 Telephone: 416-367-1999 Email: jplacroix@sld.com

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