Like many pet owners, I am pretty used to running to the local pet mega mart and picking up a 50 lb. bag of my usual kibble and putting its contents in a storage bin – and that is as far as my relationship with the packaging goes. Of course, I know it is the kind and quality of food I want the dogs to have (the dogs have not communicated otherwise) so I have become a brand loyalist – until now. I recently found out the brand we have relied on for years is discontinuing production of that product. This means I am back to the drawing board to find a new product that offers the same high-quality content and the flavor to inspire the dogs to eat it.
My strategy? Research and review brands online, then search for details on the brand I select at the local pet stores. My tactics are to buy small packages and try them on the “girls” for size, and when I find one with universal acceptance, I will go back to my normal 50 lb. bag purchasing routine. But this has been harder than expected. Pet food packaging has become as diverse and as complex as human food packaging. It is no longer enough to simply buy chow to fill a dog’s empty stomach, now there is the same desire to understand product content and preparation that consumers are embracing in human food. After all, we are what we eat, and that goes for our pets. But with pet foods, you also need to take it a step further and consider age and medical status in your food selections.
That said, I never really thought of shopping for dog food at the grocery story, I just assumed that the 50 lb. bag size was limited pretty much to the pet mega marts. I was surprised as I walked through one of the local grocery stores, and saw Wild Harvest dog and cat food and how much it stood out on shelf. It certainly got me to stop and check it out – rule number one of effective packaging!
The backbone of the packaging is built on a strong design grid used uniformly on all products in this segment, relying on strong contrasting color palettes to separate and distinguish product styles and forms, defining dog versus cat food preparations. A consistent gold and yellow Wild Harvest logo stands dominant at the top of the face panel.
The use of black as the secondary background color of the package not only ties the packaging together but allows the superbly done high impact food photography to proactively answer any questions on product content and quality. As we all know, no pet is going to review the package to determine the desirability of the product but the human will – so instead of showing happy pets playing or staring you down, you see salmon and poultry with a small supporting litany of ingredients. Dog and cat icons are integrated into the copy and designed to walk you through the priority messaging of the package, further distinguishing the dog and cat food.
The net content tends to disappear at the bottom of the package, but at this point, it is obvious that the product comes in two sizes, and most pet owners already know what package size they need. The back panel offers details on the Wild Harvest commitment to wholesome foods, along with a very detailed breakdown of pet care and product content. The side panels are composed so that if it is necessary to display the package on its side, the copy acts as a working face panel.
There were just a few shortcomings in the package design that I feel diminished its effectiveness. Based on the store I was visiting, the smaller bags were shoved into shelf space that crushed the package, disguising the strength of the color and copy-capping package. If it weren’t for the impact of the food photography on the face panel, much would be lost in connecting with the consumer.
Additionally, as the design is translated down to the treat-size packaging, the accompanying shift in color palettes becomes muted, losing contrast and resulting in poor legibility. The velvety matte surface of the packaging adds elegance to the design but it also further mutes color contrast. Translucent windows meant to display the product inside are opaque, obscuring any view that could meaningfully impact consumers – perhaps high-quality photography would have been more effective. Additionally, the treats are wisely presented in a tray designed to keep the product organized and upright, however, the trays have no consumer copy and are sized so that they somewhat conceal the critically important food photography.
With a little more thought given to how this packaging was actually going to be presented on a store shelf and the issues surrounding printing and display configuration, this would be a total design system winner on shelf!
If you are thinking of exploring innovative packaging to renew or refresh your product line, contact us at 920-725-4848 or [email protected]. Throughout our 60 plus years in supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions.
The purpose of our “findings” blog is to spotlight packaging that displays thinking that breaks the mold delivers something new or chancy – or at the very least, highlights packaging that catches your eye in the retail environment.