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Cast your eye down the pet food aisle at your local grocery store, or wander through the relevent section of a nearby pet store, and two label claims will stand out: “natural” and “super premium.” Pet foods from all brands—and at all price points—will lay claim to those designations, and since neither of those claims is officially defined, they have every right to do so. As marketers, however, we have to ask: are those claims useful, or would other language be more effective?

According to Mintel, more than a quarter of pet food purchases involve consideration of label claims, so it’s crucial to get these marketing elements right. Furthermore, premium-priced and naturally formulated brands (as distinct from those merely labeled as such) are growing massively.

Along with that growth has come increasing consumer scrutiny. Consumer advocates and label-readers tend to be skeptical of such pet food claims. Even more important, however, is the effect that the over-use of these claims has on more typical consumers. When a label claim becomes ubiquitous, it becomes invisible. As “natural” and “super premium” claims saturate the market—as our observations suggest they are doing—they cease to differentiate your brand.

So consumers want natural, premium dog foods, and they care about label claims, but “natural” and “super premium” may not be the claims to communicate those necessary qualities going forward. Instead, use packaging, branding, and more concrete label claims to communicate your natural, premium value proposition to customers. High-quality packaging and a brand associated with premium qualities can go a long way toward persuading customers that your brand is truly (and practically) premium. In addition, specific, regulated label claims can accomplish a lot, as consumers increasingly scrutinize pet food labels. And if your premium food can claim a limited ingredient list, that can also be effective.

In short, there are better ways to brand your products as natural and premium than using undefined and increasingly ineffective label claims like “natural” and “super premium.”

At MarketPlace, we approach packaging design with a deep knowledge of consumer trends and a critical perspective on conventional wisdom. If you need food or pet marketing that pursues effectiveness, not convention, get in touch.

Matt Miller staff photo
Matt Miller writes, teaches, and practices biodynamic gardening near Reeds Spring, Missouri. A MarketPlace alum with a background in academic research, he’s fascinated with how culture, media, and business interact—and equally with the best methods of cultivating healthy fruit trees.