dog waiting for dog food

How Pet Food Packaging is Evolving to Meet Consumer Preferences


Fido and Whiskers are members of the family, and as pet owners look for more ways to engage with their pets, show affection, and promote healthy lifestyles, the desire to conveniently purchase premium products is growing.

According to Nielsen, pet food consumables in the U.S. totaled $32.7B in 2018—that number is only expected to increase by 2020. Of 2018’s sales, mainstream retail, pet superstores, and neighborhood pet stores accounted for approximately $24B and e-commerce $3.6B. While $3.6B in e-commerce sales may seem rather insignificant alongside brick and mortar sales, compared to 2017 e-commerce sales, e-commerce grew by an astonishing 53 percent.


These shifts in the pet food industry sparked our curiosity. What’s driving changes in the industry and what can we as brands, suppliers, and manufacturers expect moving forward?

You’ll find some key insights in our revealing infographic on pet food packaging. But, it seems the answer came down to two main consumer trends:

  1. I want to purchase pet products more conveniently.
  2. I want what’s best for my pet.

Let’s dig into what these mean for the pet food industry.

“I Want to Purchase Pet Products Conveniently.”

In 2018, e-commerce was the fastest growing channel in the pet food industry, proving that consumers are looking for an outlet to purchase products from the comfort of their own consumables annual sales by channel

Part of this has to do with consumers general purchasing habits shifting towards online avenues. Major brands are making adjustments to meet these needs.

For instance, PetSmart’s acquisition of and Amazon’s launch of Wag shine light on the future of the online landscape.

Online platforms offer even more flexibility by allowing pet owners to set up automatic, recurring deliveries so Fido and Whiskers always have a fresh supply of food—options that brick and mortar retailers cannot offer.

Not to mention, pet owners can sign up for subscription boxes like Bark Box to have fun, mind-stimulating toys and treats arrive at their doorstep monthly. Not only do pet owners love the excitement of seeing what’s in their monthly subscription, Fido and Whiskers get equally as excited for new chew toys and treats.

Another motivation for purchasing pet products online is the need for specialized products that are not always easy to find in stores, bridging the gap between pet owners’ two desires and trends.

“I Want What’s Best for My Pet.”

Research conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) revealed 90 percent of the 1,200 pet owners surveyed believe their pet is a member of the family. This number is even higher with the millennial generation who consider their pets as children.

“Half of millennial pet owners would rather splurge on their canine companions than themselves,” shared Forbes’ contributor Pamela N. Danziger.

The mentality of “what’s good for me is good for my pet” has transformed the pet food industry. Owners want to understand the nutritional value the same way they would evaluate a product from themselves. This is one reason the pet food industry has seen an uptick in premium and natural pet products.

“Millennial pet owners are willing to pay more for quality products, especially those featuring sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients,” noted a recent Packaging Strategies article. “Other opportunities reside in specialized diets targeting the aging pet population and in high-quality, freshly made pet food prepared in-store or ordered online for home delivery.”

Since these options cannot always be purchased in a brick and mortar store, pet parents are turning to the internet.

This mentality doesn’t stray when it comes to primary packaging, either. Pet owners want to ensure their furry companion’s food is fresh and safe to consume. In fact, Packaged Facts reports 60 percent of pet parents are concerned about the safety of pet food.

In a recent Flexible Packaging article, author Maria Ferantte shares, “Consumers are demanding packaging options that not only protect pet food from spoilage but have quality standards similar to human food packaging.”

To educate pet owners on ways to keep pet food safe, PetMD shares five pet food storage warnings, the first two relate directly to packaging attributes:

  1. DON’T Throw Away the Original Packaging: High-quality dog food bags have been designed to keep out the elements and maintain its freshness for as long as possible. Keeping the dog food bag also has the added benefit of retaining the dog food’s barcode, expiration date, and batch code – all of which are important information to have, especially in the event of a dog food recall.
  2. DON’T Expose Dog Food to Air: Sealing the dog food bag after every feeding helps prevent unnecessary exposure to air and humidity — both of which speed up the rate at which pet foods degrade and increase the risk of bacterial contamination like Salmonella.

Experts not only stress the importance of original packaging to consumers, but to pay attention to how it’s stored after it has been opened. Closures like the Fresh-Lock® Click ‘N Lock zipper, mini Slider, and the Slide-Rite® S-Slider provide assurance that the package is fully sealed, allowing pet food and treats to stay fresh, longer than a package with a hook-to-hook closure or no closure at n lock zipper

Fresh-Lock® Click ‘N Lock™ Zipper

  • Audible noise lets consumers know when the package is opened
    and securely closed
  • Noticeable texture between the double zippers can be felt as the bag closes
  • Sensory feedback and reassuring the consumer that the bag is closed
  • Great for medium-sized packages


Slide-Rite® S-Sliderslide rite s-slider

  • Perfect for medium to large flexible packages requiring strong top and end retention values
  • “S” feature locks under the profiles of the track, keeping the slider on the package during demanding applications




mini slider for flexible packaging

Fresh-Lock® mini Slider

  • Ideal for small standup pet treat pouches
  • Premium small-scale slider supports portability for on-the-go pet parents
  • Sustainable closure can be supplied for mono-material applications



What Does This Mean for Pet Food Brands?

Brands that deliver healthy products with functional, safe packaging can more easily attract today’s concerned pet parents.

Consider the following on your next product launch, package redesign, or graphic refresh:

  • Add the proper reclosable slider or zipper to allow owners to easily open, close, and store food easier.
  • Think about an omnichannel packaging approach that allows your product package to work for both the brick and mortar and e-commerce supply chain.
  • Keep in mind that not all flexible packaging closures seal air out completely. When oxygen is transmitted through a package or its closure, pet food is likely to go stale or spoil faster.
  • Create on-pack messaging outlining the importance of your original packaging. Warn pet owners on the dangers of repackaging pet food or exposing pet food to the elements for long periods of time.
  • Showcase appropriate health claims on both the package itself and your brand’s website to attract health-conscious pet shoppers, wherever they may be shopping.

You’ll find more eye-opening statistics and insights in our interactive infographic on pet food packaging trends.

Packaging for Fido, Whiskers, and Their Parents

If you’re looking to update your flexible pet food or product packaging this year, ideate with the experts at Fresh-Lock. We have a long history in the pet food industry and can customize closures based on your specific needs.

From sustainable closures to e-commerce solutions, contact Fresh-Lock online, at 800-265-0750, or visit us at this year’s Petfood Forum Show to develop solutions that meet today’s trends.

Get a closer look at online shopping trends and how they impact brand packaging in our free webinar. We explain how to overcome common e-commerce packaging mistakes.

e-commerce packaging fails webinar

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