How to write successful pet product packaging copy

How do you get your pet products to fly off shelves? You’ll need an eye-catching design and convincing copy. Easier said than done—that’s why these questions can help you plan what and how to write successful pet product packaging copy.

The pet products and services industry is thriving

There’s no denying it: global pet ownership is booming. But that’s not the only thing that’s flourishing.

It's getting harder for pet brands to stand out and capture market share. Effective pet product packaging copy can make a huge difference in sales!

As the number of households with pets continue to increase, so does pet-related spending. That makes the pet industry a particularly attractive one for entrepreneurs—and why you’ve entered the fray!

But more competition means it’s harder for pet brands to stand out and even harder to capture market share.

Note: We don’t know yet how spending on pets will change in a post-COVID-19 world. But for now, as more people lose their jobs and have to reign in their expenses, spending on pet products could be limited to pure essentials. We might also see a temporary shift to mid-range or budget brands as opposed to premium brands.

In such a climate, it will become even more challenging to convince pet parents to choose your products over the competition. Ultimately, barring price, brands that best communicate what they stand for (while making a compelling case for the benefits of buying their products) are the ones that will survive the current economic crisis.

How can a pet brand stand out?

Beyond a few shelves, entire aisles (indeed stores) are dedicated to pet products like pet food, pet grooming materials, toys and accessories. To land the sale, your products need to stand out.

That’s why proper branding (everything from interactive touchpoints through to packaging) is so important—especially for small pet product businesses that want to compete with big-budget industry giants.

Design aside, another important element of branding is copywriting or how a brand chooses to present and market itself in words. This is particularly true of packaging.

Because other than what’s written online, the product’s packaging is what customers physically touch and inspect while out shopping. How it looks and what’s written on it play a decisive role in influencing sales.

Therefore, it’s not enough to just throw a few words together and hope for the best.

Small pet food brands as well as accessories, grooming and over-the-counter medicine brands need to approach their packaging’s text with a clear understanding of who they are and what their ideal customers want in order to successfully encourage a purchase.

Tip: You obviously also need a really great product! Even if you manage to convince the consumer to purchase your product today, if the pet doesn’t like it, falls ill, or there are numerous recalls and bad reviews online, that would have been the first and last purchase ever.

Writing copy for pet product packaging: What should go on the box?

Before you sit down to write your product’s packaging copy, make sure you have answers to the following crucial questions.

1.    What are your brand’s most important attributes?

As a small business, your very first consideration should be: What are our brand’s core characteristics and traits? What is its personality? Another way to think about this is: if your brand were a person, how would you describe her?

Perhaps you consider yourselves classic, conservative, serious and professional? Or maybe you’re modern, smart, innovative and playful? What about casual, natural, trustworthy and caring?

Note down your brand’s top four to five qualities—those points will influence everything else about your branding, including your pet product sales copy.

2.    What do your ideal customers care about most?

You want your product to appeal to your ideal customer. You can’t do that if the copy doesn’t resonate with them. But when you know (1) what matters most to your customers and (2) what your product does or offers better than anyone else, then you’ll know what you need to write about in your pet product packaging copy.

3.    What keywords do you want to focus on?

Keep in mind that whatever the product – whether it is canned or dry dog food, medicated dog collars or herbal pet shampoos – space for text is limited. In other words, which words must be on the box?

Which adjectives do you want to highlight in your packaging’s text? What are your ideal customers looking for? How can you best describe your product and the promise you’re making to pet parents? What do pet parents want? What kind of information do they need to make the all-important decision to add your item to the shopping cart?

Answer those questions and you’ll have a starting point for suitable keywords and ideas you’ll want to incorporate in your copy.

Tip: “Organic” and “all-natural” are popular keywords in the pet industry but we’re gradually seeing a shift towards and growing preference for “grain-free”, “non-GMO” and even “clean label”.

4.    What do you need to write for this product to fly off the shelves?

How much do you want to say in your pet packaging copy?

Some brands want to share their story on the packaging. Others are happy with a few of the most important points to describe what their product is, who it’s for and why it’s worth buying.

Your goal is to write pet product packaging copy that instantly convinces the reader your product is exactly what they want to give their beloved pet.

Note that the purchaser may only dedicate a few seconds of time to actually look at your product. Make those few seconds count!

5.    What is legally required information?

Most countries and even regions mandate legally required information for pet food packaging labels.

For example:

  • Product Name
  • Net Quantity Statement
  • Manufacturer’s Name and Address
  • Ingredient List
  • Guaranteed Analysis
  • Nutritional Adequacy Statement
  • Feeding Directions
  • Calorie Statement

Make sure that your pet product packaging copy follows all the labeling rules of your home country and / or the rules of export countries.

You can take a look at the FDA or FEDIAF good labeling guidelines for more information.

6.    What tone and style do you want to go for?

How much of your personality do you want to shine through in the copy? At the end of the day, it should be consistent with your overall branding, so go back to the attributes you listed earlier on and use that to guide your choice of language and style for your packaging copy.

7.    What is your pricing?

This is important because it also dictates the type of words you use to describe your product. A low-budget product may raise eyebrows (and skepticism) if they highlight premium ingredients. It might be more effective for the focus to be on something else, e.g. how it provides a complete and balanced meal with all the vitamins and minerals puppy needs.

Tip: A great design alone won’t sell. You need to think of the entire picture, i.e. the impression potential customers will get from the packaging and its label as a whole. Think about balance and how much space you have to work with. Look that the design complements the words. Colours, text, font choice, design, imagery and even packaging style have to work together harmoniously to sell your product.

Know what pet owners value

Every pet owner desires three things: their pet’s good health, safety, and happiness. The best copy taps into (and uses) those desires as a guide for their copywriting.

Transparency

At the end of the day, every pet-loving owner wants to ensure that their pet will be safe if they consume or use these pet products. That’s why transparency is crucial for long-term success.

Pet parents want to know how your pet food was made, where the ingredients came from, how it was handled and processed, if there are additives and if so, what they’re for and of course how safe the product is.

Personal preferences

The pet products humans buy is a reflection, in many ways, of their own values, priorities, and preferences. Another way to put this is that their pet’s lifestyle mirrors their own. In that sense, you will want to be aware of general food and lifestyle trends.

For example: If consumers want products containing natural, organic ingredients and care about how sustainable a brand is or if it’s doing its part in being environmentally friendly, chances are they’ll have the same standards and criteria for pet food.

Origin

We’re also seeing increased interest in where a product was made and where ingredients were sourced. This is because a product’s origins can say a lot about the expected quality and safety of a product.

Many pet food brands proudly declare that their ingredients are 100% sourced domestically as well as made and packaged domestically.

Tip: As online sales grows in popularity (or simply out of necessity during these times), make sure you’re paying just as much attention to your e-commerce product descriptions as you are to the physical pet product packaging copy.

Pet industry statistics

To close out this post, let me leave you with some interesting pet ownership and expenditure statistics. May they inspire you!

Top 5 countries with the largest dog populations

  • USA: 69,929,000
  • China: 27,400,000
  • Russia: 12,520,000
  • Japan: 12,000,000
  • Philippines: 11,600,000

Top 5 countries with the largest cat populations

  • USA: 74,059,000
  • China: 53,100,000
  • Russia: 17,800,000
  • Brazil: 12,466,000
  • France: 11,480,000

Source: A Guide to Worldwide Pet Ownership

Top 5 countries with the largest pet care spending per person in 2018

  • United States
  • Britain
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Germany

Source: Which country spends the most on its pets?

Spending on pets in the USA

In the USA, pet industry expenses amounted to $95.7 billion in 2019.

  • Pet food and treats: $36.9 billion
  • Supplies, live animals, and over-the-counter medicines: $19.2 billion
  • Vet care and product sales: $29.3 billion
  • Other services (e.g. grooming, boarding, training): $10.3 billion

Source: American Pet Products Association

Spending on pets in the EU

In 2019, EU households spent:

  • $21 billion on pet food products
  • $8.7 billion on accessories
  • $11 billion on services

Source: The European Pet Food Industry

Pet ownership statistics

  • There were 85.2 million dogs and 103.8 million cats in Europe in 2018.
  • Between 2017 – 2018, there were 76.8 million dogs and 58.3 cats in the USA.
  • In 2019, approximately 85 million US households owned a pet.
  • In 2019, approximately 85 million EU households owned a pet.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association, Statista

Competitive landscape

In the USA, there are an estimated 630 pet food and treat brands.

In the EU, there are an estimated 132 companies producing pet food and 200 production plants.

Sources: Pet Food Processing, The European Pet Food Industry