There are few industries in the world that offer quite the same level of high-intensity competition as that of the pet food and care sector. Indeed, recent figures from the U.S indicated that whilst the sales are obviously there – and substantial, totalling $20.0 billion in 2013 alone (a 4.5% increase on 2011) – almost every dollar in the trade has to be absolutely scrapped for. Indeed, research director for Packaged Facts David Sprinkle, noted that, “As mass-market pet food sales stagnate, the action is in premium and super-premium foods, where growth has reached double digits in some segments.”

In addition to this, consumers obviously maintain their desire to save money. According to the same report, whilst 29.4% of dog and cat-owning households have increase their income levels, nearly 25% still insist on shopping at discount stores in order to save themselves.

The market does offer huge potential for new ventures, then, but it takes real skill to tap into it.

The importance of labels

Getting the labels right on pet related products is vital for a number of reasons.

  1. The marketing aspect. As is the case with all products, the right label will really grab the attention of shoppers and will set your product apart from its multiple competitors.
  2. The legal aspect. In the case of food or care products, the labels will be responsible for detailing all legally required information, including nutrition, ingredients and any warnings regarding the product itself.
  3. The instructions. If a product is detailed enough to require instructions, then these will usually be included on the label. Again, it is usually a legal requirement to have this information, especially if the product could potentially be dangerous when used incorrectly.

Achieving label success

There are a number of fundamental principles to follow in order to achieve success when designing a label for a pet product.

A.) Know your audience. It’s absolutely vital, before any ideas are developed, that it is firmly defined who the product is being targeted towards. This can completely have an impact on the final label visuals. At the most basic level, this usually means pet lovers: it’s for this reason that nearly all pet food has a picture of an absolutely adorable pet in question on the front! It’s why Whiskas was originally the name of a specific cat, with a wily and yet universal personality that was specifically designed to remind people of their own four legged friend.

B.) Show the product itself, looking great. This is obviously a bit of a no brainer, but it’s vital to ensure that there is a high quality image of the food itself included on the label. Here’s a little tip: it should be made to look irresistible to the consumer, as they’re the ones who have the final call on whether it goes through the till or not. That’s why pet food is full of flavours like ‘lamb and rosemary’ and ‘chicken in a garlic sauce’. Those delicious sounding combinations are designed to entice owners, not pets!

You only need to look at packaging from the likes of Nutriment where they show their raw dog food on most labels, since it is generally more aesthetically pleasing to look at over things like dry food.

C.) Get familiar with the competition. It’s important to ensure you know who your main competitors are, and how they’re currently advertising their own products. The key to success is, again, to set your own stock apart from the rest. This can be through the copy used on the label, the colours used in order to catch the eye (make sure that it’s a different combination from the rest) or even the expression of the pet portrayed on the box (remember, you’re appealing to pet lovers!). Invest time in every aspect of the label, and you’ll nearly always end up with great results.

Going Bespoke

There are some areas where it’s simply not advisable to take the cheapest route, and design is one. Your product’s label is absolutely the only thing that someone in the supermarket has to go on when judging your product and your company. That’s it. If there is anything on the label that makes them concerned (a lack of applicable age groups for the product, for instance, or even something as basic as a missing tagline) there’s no way they’ll risk giving it to the pets that they love so much. No, they’ll put it right back on the shelf and go with an already-established brand.

Bespoke design revolves around catching the eye of the buyer, and using that visual flair to then hook them into the details on the label itself. Obtaining and retaining customers is all about offering them quality, which is why it’s a very good idea to invest in a design and supply company that can help you create pet product labels that appeal to the average shopper and also communicate your brand successfully.

Tammy Southgate is a representative from Labelnet, a UK-based label supplier that specialises in labels for the pet care industry. She and her design team help clients create a concept for their labels and guide them through the manufacturing process all the way to the delivery of the finished product.


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