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Boosting pet food brands with design thinking


Acquiring pets in 2020 is no impulse buy. Time, money and personal information are key to finding a new companion in the US, and this commitment upfront means pet owners are thinking twice about the food they buy for their new family member. Bill Kuecker, Vice President of Marketing for Mondi Consumer Flexibles North America lays out what this trend means for the pet food packaging industry.

Let me start by saying my wife and I are pet people. Within weeks of acquiring our first house, two furry additions made our house a home. During the following years, there has not been a time where our home was not graced with a dog or cat, and often times, more than one of each.

Then, in the middle of March, 2020, all that changed. Violet, our beloved Corgi companion of 12 years, had just passed away. For the first time in our married lives, we did not have a pet.

We were quarantined in our home, in rural Middle America and without the pet companionship that we had come to depend upon. After grieving for a few weeks, and with the support of friends and family, we decided that it was time to initiate the process of adding a dog as a member to the family.

Over the years, we had acquired pets in a number of ways.  We have purchased from purebred breeders, adopted from pet shelters, and been gifted pets from others. This time, we were open to all options in the search for a dog, and we did not know what we were signing up for. 

The differences we discovered in the process have implications for the evolving relationship between pets and people, as well as the pet food and other supplies people purchase based on their relationship with their pets.

Here are some of the items in the process that have dramatically changed in the last few years:

  • Cost– Dogs from breeders, be it either purebreds or designed crosses were priced from $1000-$4000 in our area, with the typical cost being $1500-$3000. Shelter dogs were priced from $100-$1000 with the typical total cost being $300-$500.
  • Time– Many breeders had waiting lists of a year or more with 3-6 months being typical. Some breeders required a $500 (or occasionally more) deposit to even get on a waiting list.  While the shelters did not have extensive waiting lists, the process itself was multi-step and may include several meetings and home interviews.
  • Data- Many breeders required extensive questionnaires prior to being accepted on a waiting list. Information requested differed, but often included home, lifestyle, brands fed to your previous pets, demographic, training credentials/commitment, income and much more. On the shelter side, they performed a background check, vet verification and a somewhat shorter version of a lifestyle review.

What does this mean for petfood and petfood packaging?  To me, the largest change in the last decade was the intentionality of the process.  A decade ago, in our area, the acquisition of a pet may have typically have consumed 1-2 days and cost hundreds. Today, a process may take months/years and cost thousands.  The largest aspect of this increased intentionality was the intense emails and questionnaires that were required throughout the process.  We had to think about how we intended to feed, train, exercise and live with our dog before even knowing who our new addition would be. 

Recent pet food packaging consumer research in the United States from Mondi demonstrated that consumers of pet food were extremely demanding of packaging appearance and performance.  Factors in the survey ranged widely; the readability of the font on the nutrition panel, to ease of opening/reclosing of the package, to convenience features that enabled easy carrying, to the sustainability of the packaging material itself, and were all considered to be highly important to consumers.

After going through the intense process that is currently involved in pet acquisition in the United States, it is clear indication that consumers will be even more demanding of every aspect of the pet food their dog consumes.  That will certainly carry over to the packaging that will need to enables the premium look, feel, sustainability, product freshness and convenience that the latest research state that they desire.

So what, you may ask, was the outcome of our search for a new furry family member? After going through an intense process for two months and probably 200+ hours on emails, websites and conversations and while waiting for our lunch at a local restaurant, my wife to leaned over to me and said “the Humane Society just posted a picture of a really cute dog, want to go see it”? We got an appointment for later that afternoon, and just a few hours (and a couple of more questionnaires to fill out) later, we were adopted by our newest family member, Journey.

For more detailed information regarding the above mentioned research, please visit: https://mondichangestheview.com/

Author

William Kuecker

Pet owner & Vice President of Marketing Mondi North America

Journey

The new Kuecker family member

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