Sustainability has fast become a key topic across all sectors of the economy. In the pet food industry, sustainable packaging is inspiring change. There is also increasing awareness amongst pet owners who, as consumers, are taking a closer look at the environmental impact of the products they purchase, including their packaging. Research shows that 74% of consumers are now willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.
The new legislation, which comes into effect in 2024, aims to shift the cost of collecting, reprocessing and recycling food packaging waste from consumers onto producers. It incentivises producers to make better, more sustainable decisions at the product design stage, i.e. making it easier for packaging to be reused or recycled. Initiatives like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are largely being welcomed to encourage producers to use more eco-friendly packaging.
Shifts in consumer behaviour
As we move away from plastics, whether it’s grocery bags, straws, or water bottles, many brands realise the importance of this shift. For example, 20 pet food brands from the US, Canada and New Zealand have partnered with rePurpose Global to reduce the plastic in their packaging and supply chains.
This is particularly important given that, in the US alone, the pet food industry produces an estimated 300 million pounds of plastic waste annually. Most packaging is made from non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle materials, so 99% of all pet food packaging is thrown away rather than recycled.
In the UK, Mars Petcare recently announced they are replacing all the plastic shrink film with cardboard for their multipack cans of pet food. Their range includes brands such as Pedigree and Whiskas, and this move alone will “help remove 180 tonnes of plastic from the environment every single year”.
From materials to recyclability
As well as reducing the amount of plastic in packaging, producers should be considering the actual materials being used. For example, some pet food brands are now reaching for innovative biodegradable plastics. Options include biodegradable films made from sugarcane, such as those used by Only Natural Pet for their Mindful Meals range. Larger brands such as Nestlé Purina PetCare are now working toward achieving 100% reusable or recyclable packaging.
Recyclability remains another vital aspect of sustainability. The circular economy model has gained popularity in recent years – reuse, recycle and refurbish. While many of us know to recycle water bottles and tin cans, large pet food bags are not so easy to figure out. This is why, as well as offering bio-based solutions. Brands are also working to offer fully recyclable packaging solutions for the pet food market.
Relaunching with sustainable pet food packaging
Global cat and dog food brand Dechra Veterinary Products is known as one of the first pet food brands to introduce an organic pet food option to consumers in eco-friendly packaging. It combines the offer of healthy food with a product that is also environmentally friendly.
UK-based pet food company Wilsons Pet Food recently relaunched their whole range of raw frozen dog food in new eco-friendly packaging. This followed feedback from customers, and they replaced their original pouches with biodegradable trays and recyclable cardboard sleeves. Feedback from customers has, unsurprisingly, been highly positive.
It’s clear that the demand for sustainable products is rising. Many brands are now offering more environmentally friendly pet food formulations as a result. But for the eco-conscious consumer, the packaging has the most impact, though it’s an important carrier of the producer’s brand. The message is clear: sustainability is here to stay, and producers cannot afford to delay.