Pack of the Month: GATHER Pet Food
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 12/07/2016 | 8 Minute Read
Forget “employee of the month” or high school superlatives—this is The Dieline’s Packaging of the Month. This monthly feature offers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most popular designs that’s appeared on the site. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about the designer or agency behind the product, why they designed it the way they did, and why we here at The Dieline love it. For November 2016, we spoke with Matthew Clark, Founder and Creative Director of Subplot Design Inc. and Jamie Turkington, VP Marketing at Petcurean Pet Nutrition about their design for GATHER Pet Food.
Who: Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Subplot Design Inc. has been in the business for over 25 years. For them, no two clients, problems, or opportunities are the same, so adaptation is key to make sure they meet objectives and achieve success. Specializing in Consumer Packaged Goods and the digital space in which they live, Subplot aims to create a connection between the brand and the consumer. Their portfolio alone shows the wide range of their capabilities, including projects with companies like Old Yale Brewing, the Canadian postal service, the Vancouver Aquarium, and many of Petcurean's product lines.
What: Organic, non-GMO pet food with a conscience that’s been dubbed “farm to bowl.”
Theresa: Why did you decide to go with illustrations on the packaging instead of real-life images of dogs and cats?
Matthew & Jamie: The story of GATHER is intricate. It is a story of ingredients that are “farm to bowl”; of ingredients that come from trusted partners and sources; and of specific ingredient and product attributes (Organic, Sustainable, non-GMO). The visuals need to tell as much of this story as possible, while also being bold, clear and relevant to the consumer.
The main illustration wraps from the front of the bag (the main protein source), to the side (farm), to the back (town, city, pet store & pet’s bowl), and describes the direct journey of the ingredients. Illustration allows us to tell this story in a more elegant way than photography would. We felt that some type of linear “collage” of photographic scenes would be contrived and too specific. Illustration also acts as an infographic of sorts for the ingredient journey, and allows us to talk about the main sources without being overly literal.
Illustrative icons then tell the story of the specific ingredients and features: Line-Caught Cod, Free-Run Chicken, Organic & Sustainable Peas, Marine Stewardship Council Certified Cod & Krill, Grain-Free, Non-GMO, etc.
And these amazing illustrations by Darren Booth are just downright beautiful, and are featured on all Brand Identity & Promotional materials.
Theresa: Why did you select the particular color palette for each type of pet food?
Matthew & Jamie: Food packaging and colour are a tricky thing. Colour, particularly in human foods such as juices and beverages, are closely tied to flavour and ingredients. Colour is also used sometimes randomly just to differentiate between skus. And colour needs to consider some kind of “taste appeal”, again mainly for human foods.
But a premium pet food such as GATHER still has to appeal to the taste perception of the shopper: the human. Colour, in our case, therefore needed to have taste appeal; to tie closely into the source of the main protein ingredient (fish, chicken, peas); to tie into the ingredients themselves; and to clearly differentiate each sku on the shelf.
The limited initial SKUs of GATHER were relatively simple to differentiate: Blue = Ocean, Orange = Chicken Farm, and Green = Vegetable Farm. But we also planned for future line extensions, thinking forward toward possible additional protein recipes as well as possible additional breed size or age recipes in the future. With some of Petcurean’s other products lines (GO!, NOW FRESH, SPIKE—also designed by Subplot), there are up to 20 SKUs/flavours in the lineup to find colours for. So having been in this dilemma before, we planned ahead!
Theresa: Why did you go with the name “GATHER” and what does it represent?
Matthew & Jamie: The naming of this product was wide open from the get-go. We did considerable market and consumer testing in the early stages, for the first 4 months or so (the entire project lasted 18 months). During that process, we looked at trends in pet food, trends in organic & sustainable human food, and attitudes that consumers had toward both. These discussions identified the kind of high-ethics food shoppers that we knew would enjoy this food for their furry family members. And we knew that the name and packaging design would need to take many cues from other food products in the lives of this consumer, and not just be a “me-too” pet food name and package.
The naming project explored many different angles for the name from the main sources, to consumers’ values, to the inherent goodness of the ingredients. In the end GATHER had it all: it described the rigorous process that Petcurean took to find and vet the farmers and producer partners who exceeded the high standards set; the expertise it took to bring together these amazing ingredients in a carefully balanced and complete pet food; the act of “coming together" that is central to eating as a family; and a word that was true to farming and harvesting.
The name also matches the single-word paradigm of Petcurean’s other brands (GO!, SPIKE, SUMMIT), helping the brand name stay in family.
Theresa: Why did you call the different varieties things like “Wild Ocean,” “Free Acres,” and “Endless Valley,” rather than descriptive names of the ingredients?
Matthew & Jamie: The product names give additional cues to the consumer that support the positioning for the product. Each name furthers the central concept of GATHER by emphasizing the source of the main protein and elaborating on the central illustrations of each recipe. And the names help set-up a tone for the brand that is natural and “farm to bowl.”
As an added bonus, each recipe name is trademarked. Quebec packaging regulations insist on equal billing for French and English on packaging, which can result in extreme word clutter. The only exception are trademarked brand names, like “GATHER” and “Wild Ocean”—they can appear in English only.
Finally, the trademarked names satisfy AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) requirements that claims like “line-caught,” “organic,” and “free run” cannot appear in the product or flavor name. But having a unique recipe name, we are allowed to add the claims and qualifiers into the descriptive copy underneath each name.
Theresa: Why is organic and sustainable food better for our pets, and how do you feel the packaging highlights this?
Matthew & Jamie: There are really three dimensions to Petcurean’s commitment to GATHER’s ingredients: People, Pets, and the Planet.
Petcurean’s shoppers are like parents shopping for kid’s food: pets are the primary “consumer” of the food, but parents are the “shopper.” So the shopper’s values are critical. Since most of Petcurean’s loyal consumers see their pet as an important member of the family and themselves as the pet’s “parent,” then they are more likely to seek out food choices that mirror their own. And this values-based shopper is already buying organic, certified, sustainable choices in the grocery store; and they want to ensure those food choices are extending to the four-legged family members in the household as well.
Pets, like humans, are what they eat. The quality and purity of the ingredients are important for digestion, for nutrition absorption and overall health and vitality. Food with with limited ingredients; from pure sources; free from GMO’s, pesticides, and over-processing have many health benefits for us—and for our pets. And organic and sustainable foods are simply kinder to the planet, with lower impact on farms, soil, emissions and food resources.
The packaging tells this story both figuratively/emotionally (with illustrations), literally (with icons, descriptions and copywriting), and through the use of 30% bio-based packaging substrate.
Why we love it / Why we picked it: GATHER Pet Food is a breath of fresh air in the dog and cat food aisle. Not only is the food organic, non-GMO, and sustainable, but the packaging makes it a total standout. The bags of kibble focus on the healthy ingredients—wholesome ones that come straight from the farm—which is the exact same thing that many consumers look for when grocery shopping for themselves. By considering the shopping habits of pet parents when they’re not looking for kibble, GATHER speaks directly to them and assures them of the food’s high quality.
Creative Concept & Design: Subplot Design Inc.
Creative Director & Designer: Matthew Clark
Copywriter: Pete Pallett
Illustration: Darren Booth
Client: Petcurean Pet Nutrition