Pet food palatability is a critical factor in determining what will sell, and what won’t, for a pet food retailer. If pets refuse to eat foods and treats from your proprietary brand, owners may purchase another brand offered on your shelves. They may even begin to doubt the quality of other products within your other proprietary brand products, both pet and human. In this post, we’ll look at three ways retailers can avoid this scenario by ensuring they stock the most palatable options.
Finding the right pet food can be a difficult task for pet owners. The number of options for formula, nutrition, quality and packaging makes it hard to know which product is best for their pet. But beyond the health factors, they also have to figure out which food their pet will actually like.
This is why pet food manufacturers continually conduct research and offer innovations to make their products more palatable. They care about palatability. Pet food retailers should as well. But before we explore how to pick palatable foods, let’s take a look at what palatability actually is.
Why is palatability important?
Palatability is measured in three areas: First Choice (smell), Intake Ratio (taste), and Consumption Ratio (the quantity consumed). If any one of these fields isn’t appealing to your customers’ animals, more than likely they’re not going to eat their food – resulting in decreased sales. Thankfully, manufacturers know the importance of perfecting these areas, which is why palatability research is such an ongoing process.
Palatability studies are scheduled at a third-party feeding lab where a formula can be studied with real animals. Essentially, the results are a measurement of how desirable that pet food is and whether or not it will work for your consumer’s pet.
It is important that retailers work closely with a supplier who regularly conducts these palatability studies to ensure products included in their Proprietary Brands are happily accepted by the pets who consume them, resulting in a happy experience for the pet parent. National Brands are consistently testing and changing their palatants, and so should your supplier. In addition to having the best possible base kibble, here are some other product suggestions to improve palatability.
Imagine eating the same meal 2-3 times a day, every single day. More than likely it wouldn’t take too long for you to get tired of that meal…and maybe even start to dislike it. While pets don’t have quite the palatability range that humans do (thankfully), it’s not uncommon for them to get bored of their go-to pet food.
In today’s competitive and ever-changing market, manufacturers are aware of the need for exceptional quality and constant creativity in formulas. While they’ve started experimenting with shapes, sizes and exotic ingredients, they’ve also introduced mixers as a viable option for adding diversity. A mixer can be a number of things, from freeze-dried ingredients to liquids. And it can either be blended into the pet food or placed on top of the food.
Consumers have grown to love mixers because they provide an alternative option for their pets’ mealtime – one that comes with additional nutrients. Even better is the fact that with manufacturers adding mixers into current products, consumers remain loyal to the brand that they’ve grown to know and love.
Integrate Wet and Dry Pet Food Offerings for Consumers
For consumers today, dry food often comes out on top as the most popular pet food option – typically because of its convenience in feeding and storage. However, wet pet food has proven to work best for pets with a more diverse palate. Wet pet food often appeals to pets’ senses because of its increased aromas and textures. It also serves as a good source of hydration for those animals that are reluctant to drink adequate amounts of water.
Really, there’s no “correct” choice between wet and dry food and either can satisfy pets’ nutritional requirements. It comes down to what works best for a pet long-term. Feeding both wet and dry foods can be advantageous, so it’s important that retailers include and promote wet products in their proprietary brand offerings.
“Combining both wet and dry to their [pets] diet can give them some variety, where they are exposed to different textures that they will generally be more tempted to try. When you offer a picky dog or cat a meal that is a combination of both, you’ll usually find they’ll be drawn to the aromas of this mixed meal in a way that they perhaps weren’t from an exclusively dry diet,” says one expert.
Having the option of combined pet food not only appeals to the consumer as an alternative option, but it serves as a competitive advantage for increased palatability.
Be Picky with Packaging
You’re probably wondering what packaging has to do with palatability. The short answer? A lot. Here’s why: pet food can go stale quicker than you realize. If the food isn’t packaged right the expiration date is shortened. Once the food begins to become stale it loses its appeal to pets. The scent and flavor start to deteriorate in as little as a month after the bag is opened, ultimately wasting both food and money.
Consumer tastes have become more refined as well. They’re no longer looking for the cheapest, easiest option, but rather premium and super-premium products with wholesome, meat-centered formulations. The packaging of that pet food should stand out to the consumer and be the first thing they see when scanning the aisles. Stocking your shelves with something that is appealing to the eye but also sustainable will increase consumer loyalty.
Whether it’s a stand-up pouch, flat bottom or quad seal bag, lining your shelves with sustainable containers will ensure pets can enjoy the product inside longer.
When pets are happy, consumers are happy. There’s no better way to create a satisfied, repeat customer than by satisfying their pets’ palates with nutritious, tasty food. With manufacturers working hard to create continuous, sustainable pet food formulations, it’s never been easier for pet food retailers to stock palatable options.