Why pet food is having a design moment

In the past decade the pet food market has transformed: traditional kibble is out in the cold and a new breed of innovative, design-friendly brands represent our evolving relationship with our furry friends

The relationship between humankind and dogs has been traced back as far as 30,000 years, but hearing the buzzwords ‘petscaping’ or ‘carbon pawprint’ recently is a reminder that our co-evolution with our furry counterparts is just as influenced by the zeitgeist as anything else.

In the past two years alone, 3.2m UK homes found themselves adopting a pandemic pet, and that spike has shown no signs of abating, with Moonpig recently reporting that Valentine’s Day card sales for four-legged family members rose by 30% this year. The penny has finally dropped that we are almost as dependent on our pets as they are on us. And a canny new crop of pet brands is here for it.

To understand how this shift has been re-negotiated in terms of branding, we have to time-travel back to your local supermarket in 2008. Lily’s Kitchen, an industry leader in the UK, launched that year. “Our founder, Henrietta, had noticed that pet food was usually displayed in the same supermarket aisle as cleaning products,” Dan Kimmins, head of design, says. “Then, as now, we used high-quality ingredients – proper meat and vibrant fruit and veg – to make our recipes, and displaying them in the bleach aisle didn’t feel right.”

Lily's Kitchen dog food
Top: Doggo sporting technology from ilume brand; Above: Lily’s Kitchen branding

But aside from highlighting the troubling way we had disregarded our pet’s food, Lily’s Kitchen did something else revolutionary. Traditional brands had a stale mix of primary colour and panting-dog portraits. They highlighted ‘performance’ by using science-backed infographics, giving their branding an impersonal feel. But Lily’s Kitchen envisaged itself as a lifestyle brand designed with doggy personalities in mind.

SENIOR DESIGNER

MANCHESTER