By Dr. Becker
According to a recent article in PetfoodIndustry.com, two huge players in the commercial pet food market, Procter & Gamble (IAMS, Eukanuba, Natura Pet Products) and Colgate-Palmolive (Hill’s Science Diet, Hill’s Prescription Diet), have faced declining sales in recent years.
It seems Mars (Royal Canin, Pedigree, Cesar, Nutro) and Nestle-Purina (Alpo, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Puppy Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, Canyon Creek Ranch) have locked up about half the less expensive end of the market, and small and medium-sized pet food producers are increasingly taking a bite out of the premium end once ruled by P&G and Colgate-Palmolive.
What’s interesting about this is that according to Colgate-Palmolive, it was able to begin reversing its downward trend in 2012 with the introduction of Hill’s “Ideal Balance” and “Prescription Diet Metabolic,” and the re-launch of Hill’s Science Diet with “natural” ingredients and improved taste.
Per PetfoodIndustry.com, Colgate-Palmolive “has reoriented its research and development and branding strategies, taking into account both changes in consumer preference and the positioning of its emerging rivals.”
In other words, this pet food manufacturer has studied changing trends in what consumers are looking for in pet food, as well as trends in how competitors promote their products, and has developed new marketing strategies (packaging, labeling, advertising) to reposition their products to be more attractive to consumers and more competitive in the marketplace. And it’s working. Pet owners are buying the hype (literally).
For the record, it’s important to keep in mind that repositioning a product isn’t the same as improving a product.
Both Colgate-Palmolive and P&G are trying to remain competitive as pet owners demand higher quality pet food ingredients, but they have approached the challenge in different ways. P&G purchased Natura (maker of Innova, Evo, California Natural) to try to tap into the growing “natural” pet food market, while Colgate-Palmolive reformulated and expanded their Hill’s brands.
What Does This Mean for You and Your Pet?
So what does this mean for you if you purchase commercial pet food for your furry family member? It means you must educate yourself about the best nutrition for your pet so you won’t fall prey to the extremely clever and convincing ploys pet food companies use to make their products appealing.
What you ultimately choose to feed your dog or cat is up to you, but your decision should not be influenced by persuasive advertising or product packaging featuring buzzwords like “natural ingredients,” “organic ingredients,” “high in protein,” or “balanced nutrition.” The pet food you’re considering may indeed be good quality, but you need to determine that for yourself rather than depend on what the manufacturer says about the product.
As trends change, the big players in the pet food industry will pull out all the stops to market their products to attract consumers looking for healthier dietary options for their pets. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve improved the quality or species-appropriateness of their products – and that’s what you must keep in mind. Much more likely is that a tweak was made here or there to a formula, the packaging was updated, and a shiny new advertising campaign featuring beautiful images and irresistible buzzwords was designed to make you feel as though you’re doing the right thing for your pet when you buy the product.
The Best Nutrition for Dogs and Cats
Figuring out the best diet for your dog or cat comes down to learning what foods are necessary for a carnivore to thrive, and which are unnecessary. Dogs and cats require quality protein from animal meat, fats, and a small amount of vegetables and fruits, which provide antioxidants and fiber to animals that no longer hunt whole prey.
They also need added natural sources of trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids, since the soils in which foods are grown today are depleted of many essential nutrients. Also, food storage, whether it’s in a freezer or a pantry, decreases critical essential fatty acid levels in foods.
Your dog or cat needs unadulterated, fresh, whole foods that are moisture dense. She doesn’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, miscellaneous chemicals, byproducts, or processed ingredients. Although your pet can eat some processed foods, she isn’t designed to consume a lifetime of dry or canned diets.
No processed food is “natural.” Whatever real food may have been included in the raw materials used to make prepared pet diets is no longer “natural,” and certainly not “organic” by the time it is processed and packaged. Processed food is designed to be storable for long periods and convenient to use. It isn’t designed to be whole, fresh and natural – and no amount of marketing spin or clever labeling should convince you otherwise.