Pet Food Packaging in Canada
Pet food packaging in Canada tends to follow international and US trends; however, these trends may be exacerbated or mollified in the national market. This research will examine and compare eight leading pet food brands to demonstrate these trends.
- The main leaders in Canadian dog food distribution are Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. and Mars Canada Inc. Nestlé's leading dog food brand in Canada, as well as worldwide, is their Purina line, while Mars leads with Iams but also showcases a variety of brands under their petcare line.
- However, industry aficionados and discerning consumers frequently prefer local brands. Two brands, Orijen and Carna4, were selected for this research due to their significant standing in industry and consumer communities, namely the Canadian Pet Connection and Feline Living.
- Finally, eight products were chosen for cross-analysis: A generic cat food and dog food sample from each of these leading brands.
- All samples center the use of natural ingredients. Purina and Iams state that "#1 ingredient is real meat" (usually specified to the food in question: real chicken, real beef, so on) on virtually all their dog and cat food products. Orijen packaging states it is "made with fresh regional ingredients delivered daily: free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish and nest-laid eggs." Carna4 places the phrase "synthetic-free" above its own brand name.
- In general market samples, cat food products tend to have closer frames than dog food products. Compare both Iams cat food, and Iams dog food; also see a far more extreme example comparing Purina ONE Smartblend with ProPlan. General market samples appear to act on the assumption that cats should share a larger amount of packaging real estate: the pet head shot dominates packaging on Purina's ProPlan, and Iams furnishes their cat not only with an action pose, but a full natural background (even if under brand color translucency). Niche market samples did not share this correlation.
- The general market, dominated by powerful name brands such as Purina, Iams, Alpo, and so on, trends towards familiar ground; photographs of pets are often dominant on the packaging along with carefully manicured pictures of natural-looking food. Meanwhile, niche markets have highly varied packaging. Orijen, for example, only contains a small silhouette of a canine or feline figure on the top left of the bag while a black-and-white natural landscape dominates the package marketing, while Carna4 uses handmade, commissioned artwork.
- Carna4, the Canadian Dog Connection's #1 Dog Food, is distinct from other packaging in multiple notable ways. Despite the ornate artwork being the centerpiece of the packaging, the rest of the marketing side is fairly sparse. (Compare to Orijen or Iams packaging, which contains a considerable number of percentages.) The food is described, ingredients listed, and a few reasons to buy the product scattered in fairly unassuming positions (except, of course, for the dominant "Synthetic-free"): "Convenient alternative to raw, Made in Canada," and so on.
Mandated Information and Industry Guidelines
- According to the Pet Food Association of Canada, all pet food packaging must follow the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act R.S.C., 1985, c. C-38 and the Competition Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-34)
- These statutes require that the packaging contain the following information about the food: a common, generic name, e.g. "Cat food" or "dog food," a net weight, and the manufacturer's contact information.
- Industry guidelines recommend pet food labels should also contain: a list of ingredients listed in descending order by percentage of weight, feeding instructions, information on projected nutrient quantities, and nutritional adequacy (e.g., for younger or older pets).
To populate a list of representative samples, we required examples of dog and cat pet food products distributed in Canada which were representative of broader market trends. Generally, market trends begin in niche markets and may overtime move to the general market. This trend is known as "The Adoption Curve." First, Canadian brand leaders using an abstract from Euromonitor were identified. Secondly, Brands of dog food chosen by an article published by a leading online pet supply distributor with a similar article which recommends cat food to general markets rather than Canadian markets specifically.
Based on this cross-reference, 4 brands were selected: Purina, Iams, Orijen, and Carna4. Purina and Iams were chosen due to their market presence, and Orjien and Carna4 were chosen based on industry recommendation. Sample choices consider both general and niche market trends.
From these brands, eight products were selected: Purina ONE SmartBlend Chicken & Rice Adult Formula Dry Dog Food, Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Indoor Care Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food, IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™
ADULT LARGE BREED Dog Food, IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™
Cat Food, CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, CARNA4 Hand Crafted Cat Food, ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, and ORIJEN Original Dry Cat Food.
These samples are categorized based on two binary factors: the first four General Market and the last four are, Niche market and they alternate as Dog Food or Cat Food offerings. Each product was chosen either as a generic representative of the brand line or to examine a market trend further, such as the Iams cat food product.
Articles detailing trends relevant to the Canadian market specifically were behind paywalls, though some had useful abstracts. A free American article was cross-referenced with Canadian abstracts. We also investigated the regulatory landscape starting from PFAC website.
All pet food packaging samples trended towards advertising natural ingredients and health benefits. All contained depictions of the animal they were for, but these depictions tended to be large and photographic within the general market and small and artistic or abstract for niche choices. Successful packaging is simple except for a single noticeable feature, unassuming, and doesn't make the customer do any math.