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Pet Food Packaging: Growth Throughout the Last 13 Years

Kelle Vandenberg

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Robert Hepburn and I am the Pet Food Packaging Product Manager at PBi.

I have been with the company more than 13 years and it always blows me away how much has changed within pet food industry – and more specifically – in the pet food packaging industry since I first started at PBi.

It used to be when I went out on sales calls, discussing laminate pet food packaging was like to speaking to pet food companies as if in a foreign language.  The concept of moving from the ubiquitous paper bag to a laminated plastic bag, a change that was not only more expensive, but would also slow you down, seemed ridiculous. 


Over time, as the benefits of consumer convenience of laminated packaging became more clear, and the once-familiar arguments began to fail. Part of this had to do changes to our society and lifestyles.  As our pets became more humanized, they went from being our family pet to a family member. We started treating our pets more like our children - wanting to provide not only the best homes for our pets, but also the best toys, treats and food. The rise of new diets and pet food formulations saw the rise of the new product categories such as premium and super premium pet foods and whole new method of selling and distributing pet food. 

The pet food market, which was once dominated by a couple of huge companies, began to diversify and to offer more niche products. This growth of niche products has been reflected in the pet food packaging market as well.  The once common place sewn open mouth SOS paper bag gave way to new formats, structures and features. NEW plastic lamination bags were introduced to the market. The laminated bag allowed for pet food product to stay fresher for longer. The new packaging also included new consumer friendly features such as crisp, clean graphics, easy opening features like tear notches, PTC zippers and sliders closures.

Not all new developments were unmitigated successes. This was especially true when it came to large laminated pet food bags. These bags, while providing superior performance to older brethren, had some serious challenges. Some of the benefits of the laminated bag such as an airtight closed bag and glossy appearance also created its own challenges. 

Things like trapped air within the package that would have normally been pushed out of the paper bag could not escape thus making palletizing unstable. Machinery that was built for the filling and closing of paper bags were not spec’d and designed for plastic packaging exasperating an already difficult situation.

However as the time went on solutions were developed such as one-way and two-way valves, perforations and micro-perforations that allow trapped air to be released.

Anti-skid coatings and Hi-Co Efficient of Friction of plastics were developed to assist with keeping the laminate bags in place while being palletized. 
New packaging lines we developed with plastic packaging in mind.

For me both personally and professionally, PBi has been there leading the way. 

I can speak of these advances and setbacks because we were there. 

Our company CEO (Mark Howley) and VP of Product Development (Bill Walters) helped change the landscape of the pet food industry with their 1995 pet food packaging study. The results of which showed not only that dogs would accept food packaged in plastic bags, but they actually preferred it. The study proved not only scientifically but also via palatability studies that air tight barrier packaging outperformed the paper bag. 

We were one of the first laminate pet food packaging companies in the U.S. We helped define and establish film structures and formats that are still being used today, many of which are considered the industry standard.

We have fought the battles in the trenches with bags that weren’t quite designed to run on the machinery they were being run on. We had to adapt and come up with new solutions to the challenges being put in front of us.  We are familiar with the challenges of running laminated pet food packaging on high-speed automated packaging machinery and have been producing large (20lb~40lb) laminated pet food bags for more than 20 years.

We have remained in the forefront of the industry, offering new package formats and structures. 

Our stock product catalog is a virtual one-stop shopping source for pet food customers looking for value-added, consumer friendly laminated pet food packaging.  We offer more than 250 SKU’s of STOCK bags, which are all available at case quantities. 

We also offer custom designed and printed bags for our pet food customers. We produce over 300 custom printed projects per year, printing and producing some the newest packaging formats and graphics available. 

But in addition to the attractive producing bags with attractive graphics, we also help our customers with:

  • Choosing a proper format, structure and size/dimensions
  • Integrating packages with machinery (possibly at different locations)
  • Air release and Anti-slip coatings
  • Marketing features (i.e. quad seals, zippers, etc.)

For more information about our pet food packaging products and services, please contact Robert Hepburn, Pet Food Packaging Product Manager, at (800) 562-2247 x146 or roberth@pacificbag.com.