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Cat-shaped pouch turns heads overseas

A cat-shaped, stand-up pouch available in four collectible printed versions (three are shown) has helped Gilbertson & Page (GILPA) successfully launch a new dry cat food called Umami.

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The 500-g serving, said to contain about five days' worth of meals for a cat, was introduced by the Welwyn Garden City, Hertsfordshire, England-based pet food manufacturer in January. It's marketed throughout the U.K. and in more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia. Discussions for U.S. production are underway. Pouches are made by Kobusch Folien GmbH, Warburg, Germany, a part of Pactiv Inc. (Lake Forest, IL). The 5.3-mil material includes, from the inside out, low-density polyethylene/adhesive/foil/adhesive/polyester. The outer polyester layer is reverse-printed flexographically in eight colors by Kobusch. Pouches are left unsealed along the top (across the cat's ears) for semi-automatic filling at GILPA's headquarters facility. Understandably, filling is quite a challenge. "We fill them on equipment we had in place that we've modified," says Nick Grierson, GILPA's marketing and export manager. For the launch, he says the machine was modified using key components from UVA-Butler (Richmond, VA). "We blow air into the bags to open them, fill through the top and then heat-seal them shut. We have a more automated system in the wings when we reach [greater] sales volumes." So far, sales "are quite pleasing," he says. "We're selling through independent pet food stores and supermarkets. And it's quite a novel package compared to the regular boxes and cans. We're finding retailers are also marketing it in other areas of the store besides the pet food aisle." Pouches retail in the mid-price range: £1.39 ($2.29 U.S.). A sign of the pouch's initial success: "We've had some of the strangest calls from consumers who have complained that their local store only carries three of the four pouches and they can't find the fourth," says Grierson. "We've never faced this before. I think it shows the value of research and investing in a good [packaging] design."

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