What to Consider When Designing Pet Food Packaging
Pet food packaging is a specialized category because of the ever-evolving sophisticated films and closures in the market.
Leveraging our pet food packaging design expertise, we’ve outlined nine considerations to think about when designing packaging for pet foods.
1. Bag size matters. Knowing whether the front, side panel or butt of the bag will be the primary display panel (PDP) is extremely important. In the pet food category, large bags where the butt is the PDP, are displayed on the bottom shelf. But the smaller bag of the same product is placed at eye level. Research in this category reveals that consumers use the front PDP on the small bag to find the larger-sized bag below.
2. Design around the substrate. Whenever possible, integrate the bag substrate into your design. For products where it’s important to seal in fat the substrate is often silver. For one client, we used this silver substrate to our advantage. We designed the packaging to allow the silver to shine through to create a metallic look.
3. Pay attention to that troublesome midsection. Imagine a bag of a heavy product (like dog food) sitting upright on the shelf. As its contents settle a bit, the bag naturally develops what we call a waist, belly and hips. Anything designed or written in this hourglass area will be difficult to read.
4. Window placement matters. For one of our clients, we used a transparent substrate to create a “window” in the bag because research revealed the company’s customers like to see what the product looks like before making their purchase decisions. We had to be sure the window was placed in exactly the right spot. Too high and consumers might only see air. Too low and they have an unappealing view of the fines that have settled at the bottom of the bag.
5. Know your AFFCO regulations. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) regulates many details of pet food packaging content, from wording (claims), type sizes and content placement and more. It’s important to be up-to-date on all requirements, you can order the Pet Food Labeling Guide here.
6. Allow for weight variances. When considering which bag substrate to use, it’s important to choose a material that is sturdy enough. What works for a 5-pound bag might not work for a 50-pound bag, so if the weights of your products vary greatly, choose a substrate that allows for consistent design and proper support of each of your SKUs.
7. Design for a strong seal. The dieline affects how well the bag seals. The more folds, the weaker the seal. Eliminate as many weak points in construction as possible.
8. Glossy or matte? Matte. Always matte. Think of those bright fluorescent lights in stores. Now think of what bright fluorescent lights do shiny things. Forget hips and bellies — lights create such an interruptive reflection that it will be difficult to read anything at all on your bag. The same holds true for packaging sold online. Matte substrate is the way to go if you can swing the additional cost.
9. Think ecologically. Using packaging materials that are environmentally responsible is a trend we hope never goes out of style. When possible, be thoughtful about using materials that can biodegrade more easily.
Designing for bag packaging requires a multi-faceted approach that includes considerations for both form and function. When you do it right, your bag design can help you outshine (or, preferably, out-matte) your competitors.
See my blog on packaging for the digital world for tips on how your pet package can win at shelf and online.