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Pet Food UK Ltd, a provider of pet foods, has been operating for six years. The business began as the brainchild of three pet food enthusiasts who spotted an opportunity to exploit an underserved gap in the market, namely the prospect of providing an ultra-premium, all natural, healthy food for cats and dogs. 

The initial seed of this idea was nurtured and grown, blossoming into the current team of 16 which came about as a result of the success of the firm’s primary offering; ‘Barking Heads’ and ‘Meowing Heads’ – pet food designed for dogs and cats respectively. These products are very much aimed at the standard family unit, with the product appearance meant to be understandable and approachable, emphasising the fact that owning cats and dogs is something fun.

Like any successful business, Pet Food UK wasn’t happy to rest on its laurels and began to look to its next possible venture. In recent times, the health and fitness industry has seen a real boom as people concentrate more and more on looking after mind and body. The team at Pet Food UK realised that this hunger to achieve a sense of health and wellbeing amongst pet owners could also stretch to their pets. After all, pets are seen as part of the family so it made sense that owners would want to provide their cats and dogs with a healthy diet similar to their own.

It was following this thought process that the concept of AATU came into being.

Paul Hunter of Pet Food UK said, “The time and research that people dedicate towards choosing a suitable pet food really is extraordinary. The level of thought that goes into selecting the right product for a pet is, in some ways, a bigger deal than choosing a food for human consumption.”

Paul continued, “With this in mind, we looked to develop a product that really focused on high quality, premium content that would appeal to a health-conscious, serious and dedicated demographic. In order to do this, we took the 80:20 approach. This is a ratio where 80% of the product is made up of meat and 20% is a mixture of fruit and vegetables, all of which, with us at least, are grain free, gluten free and white potato free.”

When it comes to pet foods, product innovation has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Five to ten years ago, the maximum meat content used to be 26%, so the 80:20 ratio is a new and innovative concept. However, the team at Pet Food UK believes that they’ve gone beyond that to provide a unique offering.

Paul elaborated, “We were looking to provide the absolute best when it came to meat content. We believe that we’re the first pet food supplier to offer a single protein in the 80:20 market, by which we mean that our offering includes, for example, 80% chicken or 80% duck. Usually the 80% is made up of a mix of meats. Having said that, our fish offering is a mix of salmon and herring but its still 80% fish and therefore a single protein.”

Paul continued, “Quite simply, the higher the meat content, the better the quality. We see AATU as the premium luxury brand when it comes to pet food. We’re the equivalent of Rolls Royce or Bentley, the Tiffany and Co of the pet food market. The current pinnacle of the market is ultra premium. We believe that we’ve gone beyond that.”

With luxury brands, aesthetics play an enormous part in the perception of the product. In regards to pet food, a container is essential which means that packaging plays a vital role in forming a prospective customer’s first impression, something that Pet Food UK was keenly aware of.

Paul said, “The significance of suitable packaging for our products can’t be understated. Of course, ultimately, it’s the pet that matters when it comes to its choice of food. If a pet doesn’t like something, then it won’t eat it. But when it comes to packaging, it’s the owners that we need to appeal to and to attract our target market. We needed the packaging to be absolutely top level.”

With the search on for a suitable provider, Pet Food UK assessed its options. In the course of its six years in operation, the business had worked with four different packaging companies, but knew that the requirements for AATU necessitated something special.

Tyler Packaging had been on the radar for some time. As Pet Food UK’s influence on the market had grown, the packaging provider had courted the firm to offer its services on numerous occasions. This time, persuaded by the packaging firm’s strong reputation and persistent approach, Pet Food UK decided to offer it a trial run producing some Barking Heads products to enable them to demonstrate just what they could do. The initial order was to manufacture a run of 2kg flat-bottomed bags. Tyler set to work and in the words of Paul Hunter, the outcome was “outstanding”

Paul explained further, “The input of Adam (Tyler Packaging’s Sales and Technical Director) was a key part of our decision to give Tyler the initial opportunity. His passion and expert knowledge really shone through at the design stage and eventually manifested itself in the finished product. The end result was far better than we anticipated and we quickly realised Tyler’s worth. When it came to AATU, Tyler had put itself at the forefront as our supplier of choice.”

Tyler was tasked with producing a 1.5kg bag, a 5kg bag and a 10kg bag. The resulting designs saw the 1.5kg bag flat-bottomed with a quad seal and an Easy-Lock opening top by Aplix. The 5kg bag was again flat-bottomed and had a quad seal, but this time with a tamper proof slider. The 10kg bag also utilised a tamper proof slider but with a side handle for carrying convenience due to the extra weight.

Paul continued, “Adam’s experience and astuteness really came to light during the AATU conceptual process. The key was in the finer details. For example, he advised us to utilise as high a resolution an image as possible on the bags, promising us that it would make a huge difference to the overall appearance. He also advised on how we could manipulate different matt and gloss finishes to add depth and shine to convey that sense of quality.”

The first prototypes of the bags were due to be finished at the same time that Pet Food UK was set to exhibit at Interzoo in Nuremberg, the world’s largest pet supplies industry trade fair. Tyler arranged for the prototypes to be delivered direct to the stand, and they duly arrived the night before the exhibition began.

Paul said, “This was the first opportunity for us to see the finished prototypes and, being a perfectionist, I expected to be at least slightly disappointed in the result. But when I saw the prototypes, to say they were spot on would be understating the effect. If anything, they were better than how I had imagined them to be. The effect was, once again, absolutely outstanding.”

Taking the opportunity to garner some feedback, Pet Food UK presented the prototypes to trade stand visitors and the reception was unequivocally positive. Several customers immediately listed the product as a result of this first impression and Pet Food UK has since received enquires from commercial divisions looking for the packaging dimensions so that they can have AATU ready on their systems prior to the launch date.

Paul concluded, “We really couldn’t be more pleased with the result. The whole process for us has been very smooth, from conception to production; the service from Tyler has been superb. Now it’s a case of getting everything set for the launch in September – something we’re eagerly anticipating as we can’t wait to show off what we’ve worked so hard to produce.”

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