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Iams launches fetching cans

The word Eukanuba® may sound like a tongue twister to some, but for pet lovers, it's quite a familiar term, coined in the 1940s to mean "the best." And the best describes what Iams, the maker of Eukanuba and Iams® premium petfoods, wanted when unleashing its new canned formulations of dog foods under the Eukanuba brand. To differentiate the canned food from the heavy competition at stores, Vandalia, OH-based Iams Company tapped the packaging expertise of Silgan Containers for can design and product branding.

For more than 50 years, Iams Co. has provided "the best" in Eukanuba and other world-class, quality foods for dogs and cats. Yet Iams knows that the petfood market in recent years has become saturated with many new products aiming to meet consumer demand for nutrition and convenience alike. The company has had to go paw to paw with rivals in a battle over market share. Companies vying for a larger chunk of the market have made major investments to differentiate their products and revitalize their packaging. Competition between brands as well as between wet and dry food choices has led many petfood marketers to re-think packaging presentations.

An established player in premium petfoods, Iams works hard to stay ahead of the pack, and relies on packaging to do so. An emphasis on healthy diets, less free time and a consumer preference for one-stop shopping all play into purchase decision-making, the company says.

Its Eukanuba canned foods are available in many varieties, for puppies, adult dogs and large breeds, and senior dogs, as well as in specially developed veterinary diet formulas.

Formulated to be palatable and highly digestible, the canned foods all come in a 10-oz, two-piece, 307/207 coated draw/redraw aluminum can with a full-panel, aluminum, easy-open end and a plastic resealable overcap. The can has a well-groomed shelf presence aimed at sparking consumer interest, with Eukanuba's signature hot pink and white color scheme, color-coded product variety panels, paw-print logo and vital health symbols prominently placed on a glossy, UV-coated cut-and-stack wraparound paper label. Smyth Companies prints the 60# C1S MeadWestvaco label stock by sheet-fed offset in five colors.

Eukanuba Vital Health System™ icons identify formula components, and there are new color schemes for many of the dog food formulas. Other elements include a formula box that displays the particular life stage and the appropriate age-to-feed formula, along with product copy in English and French.

Can-do attitude
Having worked with Silgan since '91 on many container projects for the Iams brand of products, Iams Co. was impressed with Silgan's hearty "can-do" attitude for the Eukanuba wet food project, says a spokesperson at the Iams Heartland plant in Sioux City, SD. Though the product launch was a critical one and came with a tight time frame, Silgan answered the call. With the design details in place, Silgan had about 90 days in which to complete engineering drawings, create machine tooling and enter into commercial production in time for filling to begin. The cans were ready for filling, in time for a Sept. 1, '00 launch. "After Silgan presented us with its ideas for the packaging, we knew their team would work hand-in-hand with us," the spokesperson says. "The new product had to stand out on the shelf. Our innovative can concept grew from our desire for a unique shape and size to convey the exclusivity of the product."

Silgan's marketing manager Bill Clancy tells PD that the project was challenging, but gratifying. "Iams sat down with us and shared their plans to bring Eukanuba into the market, and we created a rather new can size, which gives the brand a big billboard on which to incorporate the type of look Iams has with the Eukanuba bags."

Silgan was able to use existing technologies to come up with the 10-oz can configuration, which Clancy says was driven by a need to project a look Iams was after, a rather unusual approach, he tells PD.

"The bright white overcap, printed in magenta with the Eukanuba logo and the phrase 'Results Oriented Nutrition' adds to the package's unique appearance and offers reclosability," he says. "We supply them with other cans for the Iams brands, but this is the only can for the Eukanuba brand. They considered all sorts of can options and designs, but had a fairly limited time frame in which to get the product into distribution, so we took that into account."

Can-ine appeal
Clancy adds that transferring the Eukanuba look and appeal of the company's dry food in large multiwall bags to small, 10-oz metal cans with labels was challenging, especially with the time constraint. Work was set to begin in April, '00, for the Sept. 1 rollout.

Iams needed a can compatible with its existing manufacturing capabilities and packaging criteria. But to achieve a distinct look, aspects taken into account include base metals, can coatings and container performance, film labels, the use of a shaped can and multipacks.

After analyzing packaging choices, the team agreed on packing the product in the round, 10-oz aluminum can size, a unique choice compared with conventional 3-, 6- and 14-oz can sizes. The 10-oz size would facilitate the transference of the dry food label graphics from the large multiwall bags to the canned line, says the Iams spokesperson: "Paired with the plastic overcap, the ten-ounce container gives us an edge over competitors because it provides consumers with a new container size of petfood and looks so good."

The cans sell in petcare stores for about $1 to $1.15 each. They also come shrink-wrapped in 12-packs for about $13.Sales volumes and product demand still exceeded sales plans a year later, says the spokesperson. "Silgan brought us an idea for exclusively branding our new product, and was able to ramp up quickly and meet our aggressive timetable."

More information is available:

Can: Silgan Containers Corp., 818/710-3742. Circle No. 234.

Label: Smyth Companies, 651/646-4544. Circle No. 235.

Label stock: MeadWestvaco Corp., 203/461-7400. Circle No. 236.

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