Palatability and Pet Food: Building a Successful Private Label Brand

Learn why palatability plays a role in creating a private label brand that makes both the pet and owner happy and gives your brand a reliable name.

Whether you’re providing low-cost kibble or a premium product that emulates some of the big brand names, your goal is to have satisfied customers. What’s the best way to create happy, repeat customers? By making sure their pets are satisfied, too, and that requires the perfect combination of quality nutrition and satisfying taste/smell/texture, otherwise known as palatability.

Building a successful private label brand, then, often relies heavily on the pet food manufacturer you choose and their approach to palatability. A great manufacturer will consider your specific business goals and work with you to come up with a formulation that creates a sustainable pet food model. The result? Less churn and more customers who become brand loyalists.

Read on to find out exactly why palatability matters so much and what questions you should be asking your manufacturer about it.

Protecting Your Brand Promise

If you believe in the power of a good customer experience, you need to care about both the quality and palatability of the pet food on your shelves. While having pet food that is cheap to produce looks like it would result in a more desirable profit margin, if the bags remain on your shelves you’re not going to be meeting your goals. 

Consider what message your pet food is sending to your customers. If a customer takes home a bag of food and their pet refuses to eat it (poor palatability) or ends up at the vet with health issues (poor quality), it wouldn’t be surprising to find out they’ve decided to pass on buying your other private label products.

The Value of Palatability Testing

Private label brands, by nature, emulate current brands on the shelf. As a retailer, you want to compete with the fastest moving pet food products with the addition of giving pet parents a better experience all around, from taste and nutrition to price point. Palatability testing can establish whether your brand can compete head-to-head with your competitors when it comes to taste and desirability. And how to best tweak your formula to deliver the combination of flavor, quality and value that will best meet your business goals.

Not sure you can afford your own palatability tests? Look for a manufacturer that is already running multiple palatability tests over the course of a year. Chances are, after witnessing hundreds of palatability tests, they have observed trends in how pets respond to certain variables.

These expert-level manufacturers will also often have built close relationships with the palatant suppliers and are privy to the in-depth research and latest advances on flavor formulations. And there is inherent value in working with a manufacturer who has this kind of knowledge and knows what works and what doesn’t work.

Balancing Palatability, Quality and Price

Now, more than ever, retailers are evolving. Rather than just wanting a product that nearly replicates a current brand, they are often asking manufacturers to create unique brands they can promote and grow in a differentiated space, and that requires open and honest dialogue and a willingness to work toward a common goal.

Quality pet food that’s highly palatable certainly comes at a cost, like all great products do, but the right manufacturer will work with you to create a private label brand that meets palatability goals and increases sales enough to offset the cost of production. Creating a pet food under your private label that not only tastes great but provides pets with all the nutrition they need and at the price point your target audience will bear is the ultimate goal.

–Dustin Keys, food scientist, American Nutrition