Pet humanisation drives growth & opportunities

POSTED BY Christina Arbini on Dec 20, 2016

Recently, Nicola Thomson of our UK office had the opportunity to speak with Packaging News magazine and share her thoughts on the healthy eating trend within the pet care category. 

Full article reprinted below:

(Nicola Thomson, account director, new business, Hornall Anderson)

Healthy eating is big business and it’s so hot right now. Millennials and Generation D are following healthy and clean eating bloggers and Instagrammers in their millions. And as a society, we are becoming increasingly concerned about how what we eat impacts on our health. We also love our pets and want them to be just like us, so it’s no surprise that trends for healthy and natural food with provenance, have migrated over into the pet care category. To maximise on opportunities, pet food companies need to understand these trends and the link between human, pet products and behaviours.

However, it is important to understand that pets’ diets don’t need to be as diverse as our human palette. Animals can be extremely fussy about what they eat. They won’t even so much as look at food if they don’t like it. And if the food disagrees with them, the owners will certainly find out. As a result, loyalty to brands consumers know and trust is very strong.

Interestingly the past decade has seen demand for dry dog food rocket by 90 per cent, with moist food sales declining. This is motivated by convenience, price and improvements in quality. And promotional strategies on pet food have led to customers stocking up on favourite brands whenever they are on offer. However raw and chilled pet food is on the rise, which ties in with owners’ desire to live healthier lives and to ensure their pets can do the same. Evidence shows that eating raw food can improve pets’ coats and their health in general.

It’s raining cats and dogs

Love for our pets and improvements in animal healthcare, mean we are taking better care of our pets than ever before. This means animals are living longer which is great news, but it is also leading to an explosion in the numbers of elderly pets needing specialised care. Brands should be aware this is creating scope to bring out bespoke and specialised product ranges. And fuelled by love for their pets, owners are prepared to spend more to keep their animals healthier.

High income households are the main drivers behind the trend for premiumisation in pet care. They have the money, don’t have children and look at their furry friends as child substitutes, so want the best they can afford. As a result, brands are taking design cues from trends in diet and nutrition in human foods, with organic and natural foods becoming more prevalent. But food which is good for people, isn’t necessarily great for pets.

We love our pets – sometimes a little too much. Treating them to too much food is sparking a surge in overweight animals with health problems such as joint disease, type 2 diabetes and aggravating skin conditions. Canny brands might spot another opening here: specialist products to help improve the health of pets. Slimming World and Weight Watchers ranges for pets have the potential to be the next big thing.

Every dog has its day

It’s often said that a dog is a man’s best friend, but it seems these days we’re taking this to its extreme, with owners increasingly ‘humanising’ their pets. What about a pet friendly hotel or cinema? Fancy going out for dinner? These days your dog can dine out with you, picking from a menu of canine treats.

Humanisation of pets is driving growth and innovation across the pet care category. The market is flooded with new products, many based on human foods, with treats such as cupcakes and cookies being snapped up.

The growth in single person homes and the loneliness this can result in, has led to pets filing the gap. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people living alone, aged 45 to 64, increased by 23 per cent between 2005 and 2015. And the Blue Cross animal charity recently revealed three in ten couples were choosing having pets over children and were delaying parenthood. In many emerging markets, spending money on pets is seen as an indicator of status and wealth.

What about own label?

The problem with own label in pet care is they don’t have the expertise and credentials of specialist brands. Customers want to be able to trust in the products they feed to their pets. They are visiting branded websites in ever increasing numbers to source information, customer reviews and recommendations. The generic retailers’ websites just can’t deliver on the experience customers are looking for. In addition, a rocketing number of online pet specific retailers are offering free delivery, bespoke offers and subscriptions to add fuel to the fire.

Brands must also optimise their packaging to ensure it works online, as so much pet food is bought this way. This involves only including essential information which influences purchasing decisions and enlarging certain key aspects, such as the flavour variant. Often the product pictures appear as small thumbnails — there is no point having a lot of text that no one can read.

Pet food is a crowded category with more and more challenger brands entering the market. So, brands must make sure their messaging is clear, concise and that the USP of the ingredients is obvious. It is essential to take customers on a journey and not overcomplicate the packaging to create a successful product for a category which can be confusing for the consumer.

So. in conclusion, the products consumers buy are directly related to how they view their relationship with their pet. Therefore, it is essential design, substrates and pack formats are carefully considered. More importantly, in a crowded category, these products need to achieve true standout, be easy for a customer to shop and communicate the products’ benefits clearly, otherwise brands will miss out on sales by barking up the wrong tree.

WRITTEN BY Christina Arbini

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