The Latest in Creature Comforts

January 1, 2006
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The Latest in Creature Comforts
By Jennifer Acevedo
If the words “pet care packaging” conjure up images of a crumpled paper bag of dog food stashed at the bottom of the pantry, it’s time to think again.

More and more, pets are considered part of the family, and smart marketers are making the most of this trend with an array of products and packaging that recognizes Fido or Fluffy’s current elevated status in our society. In fact, U.S. retail sales of pet supplies accounted for $8.5 billion in 2004 (source: Packaged Facts)—and that’s noticeably more than the $6.2 billion consumers spent on baby-care supplies in the same year.

So what’s the best way to tailor your packaging to communicate with today’s modern pet owner, pardon me, pet “guardian”? Not surprisingly, the same appeals—convenience, luxury, shape and ergonomics—that are used to market our own food and personal care products can be used to communicate the consumer benefits of food and accessories in the pet food category. Apparently, our pets are just as on-the-go, time-starved and deserving of pampering as we are.

Out and About
It is the age of doggie daycares and play dates at the local dog park. And like their masters, most pets are no less likely to leave their creature comforts at home when jet-setting around town.

That’s why OOH Pet Products introduced its Pup Cups brand of portable drinking water, designed for dogs. The single-serve four-ounce cups are filled with purified water and feature a wide mouth so dogs can drink right from the package. The product was developed by two dog lovers who wanted to provide a solution for fellow dog owners having trouble providing water for their pets while away from home.

“Pup Cups provide the luxury of pure bottled water that pampered pups deserve and the convenience that busy pet parents demand,” says co-founder David Shrank.

Though the concept of bottled water for dogs might seem frivolous to some, the product took on a more serious role during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. OOH Pet Products donated more than 10,000 Pup Cups to the Humane Society and SPCA to help in their efforts to provide safe, potable water for the many animals affected by the storm.

More established manufacturers are getting in on the trend too. Del Monte Pet Products, which owns familiar brands like Pup-Peroni and Meaty Bone, recently introduced a clever convenience item in the booming $1.75-billion dog snacks category. Snausages to Go! are miniature versions of the popular snack, packaged in a pocket-sized resealable polypropylene container from Berry Plastics that features a clip for easy attachment to a belt or leash. A flip-top lid makes accessing the product easy and keeps the treats fresh for Fido’s next excursion. Available in select markets, the product retails for about $1.99 in a 2.5-ounce package.

And what workout would be complete without a refreshing drink afterwards? Human athletes have their choice of sports drinks, but what’s the active canine to do? Drink plain water? Nutri-Vet Nutritionals thinks not. The brand offers its version of a performance drink for dogs, K9Plus Nutrient Enhanced Powder, infused with vitamins, electrolytes and your dog’s choice of bacon, beef or chicken flavor. Packaged in single-serve flexible stick packs, the product can be easily stored and carried, then mixed with a 20-ounce bottled water to give your running partner the boost he needs after exercising.

Pampered Pets
Just as consumers have been trading up and indulging themselves in luxury items, our pets, too, have benefited from this desire to pamper—and be pampered. So this Valentine’s Day, as you’re dashing from store to store hunting for the perfect card and gift for your beloved, Claudia’s Canine Cuisine reminds us not to forget our furry friends. Packaged in a carton decorated with dog bones and featuring a die-cut window for product viewing, the brand’s gourmet dog treats look good enough to make human mouths water. The paperboard box, designed and manufactured by Tulsa, Okla.’s Professional Image Printing and Packaging, contains 16 gourmet treats that temptingly resemble truffle candies.

For the pooch who likes to party, Purina offers its Appawtizers Party Mix for Dogs—a festive assortment of bite-sized treats. Designed “for the variety your dog craves”, each nine-ounce flexible pouch (printed and converted by Printpack) contains three treat varieties: Beggin’ Littles, Tiny T-Bonz and Mini Chew-rific Twist ‘Ems.

And finally, any trend-setting party animal knows that proper grooming and attire is a must when being seen. Castor & Pollux Pet Works noticed a lack of high quality pet treats, accessories and toys in the market and turned to Portland-based Sandstrom Design to create a brand that would appeal to the high-end, design-conscious pet owner.

“When we looked at the industry, we noticed that there were larger companies making pet food and treats and other companies making the leashes and collars and toys, but there wasn’t a brand that could really bridge that gap and connect the two. We made sure we were creating a brand that could do that,” explains Sandstrom’s Jon Olsen, creative director on the Castor & Pollux project.

Armed with the tagline “We make stuff we like”, Sandstrom developed a line of products and packaging that makes an emotional appeal by recognizing the strong bond between pet and owner.

Sandstrom designed an array of treats, collars, leads and leashes and catnip and plush toys and their respective packaging for the brand, but the signature package is a custom fire-hydrant-shaped bottle for its “Head to Tail” shampoo. Packaging and naming play up the brand’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor across all of the products, says Sandstrom’s Kelly Bohls, project manager on the Castor & Pollux effort.

“We wanted to make it fun and engaging, and I think a lot of that came through in the naming,” says Bohls. “We designed the “Play Dead” flea collar, “Gotta Go” kitty litter and “Good Buddy” dog treats. We even got down to the level of designing the products themselves. We drew sketches of what the plush toy products would look like, and we also designed and colorized the leads and leashes, too. We wanted to create something that you wouldn’t mind laying on your floor.” BP

The author, Jennifer Acevedo, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine. Her German Shepherd dog, Ayla, is spoiled rotten.

Where to go for More Information...
Resealable snack container. At Berry Plastics Corp., phone 812.424.2904 or visit www.berryplastics.com.
Package design and printing. At Professional Image Printing and Packaging, phone 918.461.0609 or visit www.aspecialtybox.com.
Package converting. At Printpack, phone 404.691.5830 or visit www.printpack.com.
Brand identity and package design. At Sandstrom Design, contact principal Rick Braithwaite at 503.248.9466 or visit www.sandstromdesign.com.

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