When asked about the factors influencing their dry pet food purchases, 91% of consumers rated the brand’s trustworthiness as important. Trust was only second in importance to their brand selection process. (The number one influential factor was knowing their pets will like the products they pick.)

Losing the trust and loyalty of their customers can be costly for pet food companies. So what damages that trust? And, more importantly, how can brands restore broken trust? 

Here are some of the areas where companies risk losing consumer trust, as well as some opportunities to repair damage and nurture loyalty.

Inform, educate, and communicate

Pet owners who don’t yet trust a company are probably not going to view that company as a beneficial and educational resource. They may approach an unfamiliar brand with skepticism and search for secondary sources to fact-check that brand’s information. That’s why it’s important for brands to share external resources, such as scientific studies and nutritional research. This is a good way to educate consumers while backing up product claims and formulations. 

When it comes to where to educate, there are few sources in particular that consumers trust most for pet food and nutrition information. The number one resource is veterinarians — 41% of consumers get their information from veterinary experts. Other popular sources include Internet research (25%) and personal recommendations (breeders, trainers, pet store staff, friends and family, etc.). 

Social media also plays an important role in providing consumers with helpful information, but not through advertisements and promotional posts. Simply being available online to respond to comments and answer questions can go a long way in building trust and winning over customers. 

Social platforms are also a great place for storytelling and engagement efforts — whether it’s sharing the stories behind the food, highlighting authentic testimonials, or asking for input, questions, and cute pet photos. Consumers who connect with pet food brands in these ways are more likely to stand behind their products.    

Take a closer look at labels and packaging

For consumers, deciding between brands often comes down to what’s on the package. The problem is, 63% of pet owners think the information on pet food labels is misleading. And 47% find pet food labels difficult to understand. This leaves an opportunity for pet food manufacturers to clean up and simplify package labels, making it easy for consumers to recognize the ingredients, learn where those ingredients come from, and discover why they’re important to pet health.

Building customer loyalty in pet food products also has a lot to do with the packaging itself. Many pet owners place high value on convenience — 82% seek out conveniently-packaged products that make their lives easier. They opt for packaging that’s simple to open, serve, and reseal so they can quickly feed their pets and keep the food fresh. They also want packaging that’s resistant to tearing and damage, particularly if they prefer to have pet food shipped to them. If they’re receiving ripped bags of food or are unable to securely seal those bags after feeding, they’ll likely consider a brand switch.  

Lastly, sustainability has become an important factor in how much pet owners trust companies — 65% of consumers place more trust in brands that use sustainable packaging.

Demonstrate a commitment to food safety

Nothing damages consumer trust like pet food recalls, especially if those recalls result in devastating consequences to pets and people. That’s why it’s critical for pet food companies to comply with food safety requirements, implement preventative protocols, develop recall and emergency plans, and be transparent with consumers about how they keep their products safe. 

And, if handled promptly and informatively, an unexpected pet food safety issue doesn’t have to cost a company its customers and reputation. In fact, a recall can be an opportunity for manufacturers to prove to pet owners that they can swiftly tackle a problem and take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Many pet owners treat their animals like family members, and they want to know that what they’re feeding them is healthy, reliable, and safe. Pet food brands that repeatedly check off all those boxes will find success in building a loyal and ever-growing customer base.