The number of pets in Europe continues to grow. Cats in particular enjoy great popularity: according to FEDIAF, the trade body representing the European pet food industry, more than 106 million felines lived in European households in 2019 – an increase of 4 million compared to 2017. The dog population is also increasing in Europe: some 87 million dogs were kept in 2019 – an increase of 2 million animals within two years. With the increasing number of pets, the demand for pet food is rising as well: pet food manufacturers recorded EUR 13.5 billion in pet food sales in 2010. Nine years later, revenues stood already more than 60% higher at around EUR 21 billion. In the industry, a veritable boom has developed around pet food, which is not least due to newly developing dynamics between humans and pets. Owners are paying ever more attention to the right nutrition for their four-legged friends and are therefore willing to spend more money on premium food. In contrast to other price segments, global sales of high-quality premium pet food increased the most between 2013 and 2019. In the coming years, it will therefore be equally important for pet food producers and the packaging industry to stand out in the competition for new and old customers in the pet food sector. Current trends are good indicators of how the market is set to develop in the future.
Sustainable packaging is becoming increasingly important in the pet food sector as well
Pets are more than just a hobby for many people. More and more owners – particularly from the younger age group of the millennials – consider their dogs and cats as part of family and establish a close relationship with them. Owners build bonds with their pets primarily through feeding, according to the principle: “What is good for me is also good for my pet.” Manufacturers recognized this trend: As with high-quality food in grocery stores, premium products with “organic” labels have long since ceased to be a rarity in the pet food sector.
When looking for fresh, healthy, and ethically produced products for their pets, shoppers are increasingly looking for environmentally friendly packaging. Consumers in general are becoming more concerned about the sustainability of the products they are buying. “A recent representative survey in Germany by market research institute YouGov shows that 89% of respondents pay attention to sustainable aspects such as environmental properties and recyclability when choosing their packaging. The majority of consumers want sustainable and recyclable packaging not only for themselves, but also for their pets,” said Carmen Tschage, Head of Communications and Market Development at thyssenkrupp Rasselstein GmbH, Germany’s only tinplate manufacturer.
When it comes to sustainability in the packaging sector, recyclability remains the most important aspect. Packaging material that does not have to be produced new every time, but that can simply be recycled, is particularly easy on the environment. Tinplate cans, one of the best-selling packaging materials for pet food, clearly stand out from competing products in this respect. Due to its inherent properties, tinplate can be easily separated from waste and subsequently reprocessed into a new steel product in steel mills. It is almost 100% recyclable – practically infinitely and without downcycling, i.e., without reduction in quality. Today's cans will be tomorrow’s car parts or bicycle components, for example. The material cycle is closed.
More animals per household in the future
The market for pet food is growing dynamically. Over time, other packaging materials such as the pouch have come into consumers’ focus. It consists of plastic and aluminum layers and contains around 100 grams of pet food. “Tinplate packaging’s advantage over the pouch is that it is highly recyclable and remains in the steel cycle. Especially at a time when sustainable products are increasingly in demand and consumers are becoming more concerned about the impact of plastic waste on the environment, this is a key factor in purchasing,” Tschage pointed out.
Since the pouch only contains smaller amounts of food, it is primarily intended for owners of single pets. Meanwhile the development is going in a different direction: the number of households with more than one pet is continually increasing. This is also due to trends among pet breeders, who frequently no longer give away single dogs, but several puppies at once. Since pets are social creatures, many breeders now refuse to keep them individually. “With an increasing pet population in European households, consumers will reach for larger packaging with more content in the future – such as the can,” Tschage highlighted a trend.
Two-piece D&I can offers advantages to packaging manufacturers
The increasing number of pets in European households directly impacts pet food manufacturers as the demand for packaging is growing steadily. Packaging manufacturers that intend to meet the increasing demand will benefit from the two-piece D&I tin can in the long term: “Over the past few decades, we at Rasselstein have gained extensive expertise in the development and production of steel grades for D&I cans. Our steel grades offer the necessary purity, have excellent forming properties and tribologically optimized surfaces. This is important for packaging manufacturers because the material properties enable efficient processing with smallest scrap rates and lowest tool wear. This makes the two-piece cans particularly profitable for high production volumes,” said Dr. Heiner Schäfgen, Head of Technical Customer Service at thyssenkrupp Rasselstein GmbH. In addition, D&I cans offer all the advantages of other food cans made of tinplate: For example, D&II cans are also puncture-resistant. Customers do not have to hide the pet food away, but can store it stacked on top of each other anywhere to save space thanks to the robust material properties.
As the pouch usually contains food of around 100 grams, owners need several packages for their pet’s daily food requirements. There are already sustainable alternatives even in small pet food packaging: Environmentally conscious consumers who only want to buy small quantities of pet food reach for deep-drawn tinplate cans. With filling weights of 200 grams, this packaging is an optimal solution for the daily needs of adult cats and most dogs. In addition, unlike the pouch, the tinplate alternative may be closed with a plastic lid so that pet food can be stored safely and odorlessly throughout the day.
Wet pet food plays an important role in the diet
The tin can is one of the most widely used packaging materials for wet pet food because it offers several advantages due to the way the contents are filled and preserved. “Canned food retains its natural flavor and nutrients. Minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are preserved throughout the canning process. This is the be-all and end-all for the healthy nutrition of pets,” Tschage explained. This is why tin cans are considered a vitamin safe in the industry – including for pet food. Another plus: due to its high water content, the great advantage of wet pet food is that it is an important source of liquid for pets. “The tinplate can is therefore not only a particularly sustainable choice for pet owners. With its wide range in the premium and organic segment, it perfectly meets today's requirements.”
FEDIAF – European Facts & Figures 2019: https://fediaf.org/images/FEDIAF_facts_and_figs_2019_cor-35-48.pdf
FEDIAF – More than 140 million cats and dogs in the EU: https://fediaf.org/press-releases/2156-more-than-140-million-cats-and-dogs-in-the-eu.html
FEDIAF – Facts & Figures 2010: http://www.stray-afp.org/nl/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2012/08/facts_and_figures_2010.pdf
Processing: Premium Pet Food’s Next Frontier: https://blog.euromonitor.com/premiumisation-the-engine-of-growth/