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Buyers "Bust" This Pet Food Company - Should You Too?

Reformulated Pet Food

Story at-a-glance -

  • Science Diet, made by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, is losing market share as pet owners seek out nutrition for their companion animals that more closely resembles human food, with higher quality ingredients.
  • In response, Hill’s has introduced two new brands of pet food and reformulated their Science Diet line. However, there continues to be a disconnect with consumers who don’t view Science Diet products as “natural” pet food.
  • Only time and the market will tell if Hill’s can turn things around, in part because shifts in consumer preference extend beyond pet food products and ingredients.
  • One of the biggest shifts, according to trend watchers, is Baby Boomers are being replaced by GenX and GenY pet product consumers who have very different lifestyles and buying priorities.
  • Regardless of shifting consumer trends and demographics, and “new and improved” pet foods and products, as a pet owner you should keep in mind that your dog or cat has not changed. She is essentially the same creature as her wild ancestors, and will always have the same basic need for high quality, species-appropriate nutrition and a wholesome, natural lifestyle.

By Dr. Becker

According to, a major industry player is losing market share because consumers are “increasingly choosing pet foods that more closely resemble their own foods.” It seems more and more pet owners are actively seeking out smaller pet food companies that sell products with higher quality ingredients.

Science Diet’s Declining Sales

The major player in this case, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, brings in $1.00 for every $7.00 its parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, makes in sales and profit. But sales for Hill’s primary brand, Science Diet, have declined in recent years as consumer buying trends have shifted.

To combat the drop in sales, Hill’s introduced a “Nature’s Best” brand of pet food and has also reformulated the Science Diet line, removing chicken byproducts from their formulas. But according to Colgate-Palmolive’s CEO, “the consumer had a disconnect with this idea of Science Diet and a naturals products.”

Hill’s also recently launched another new brand called “Ideal Balance” that claims to contain more natural ingredients and no corn, wheat or soy.

'Lab-engineered nutrition like Hill’s has become a liability.'

The pet food industry as a whole is undergoing a shift in response to consumer demand for the same types of ingredients and foods for their pets that they want for themselves. Pet owners are looking for products and ingredients that are (or are perceived to be) natural, fresh and locally sourced (or at least not sourced from, for example, China). According to the Wall Street Journal, "The image of lab-engineered nutrition like Hill's has become a liability in an age where the new mark of quality is organic or natural, and the brand has lost market share.”

According to, only time will tell if Hill’s can turn things around, because shifts in consumer preference extend beyond pet food products and ingredients.

Another major change on the pet consumer horizon is a demographic shift away from Baby Boomers. Boomers, the current primary purchasers of pet products and services, will be less likely to replace elderly pets as they get older themselves. Taking their place will be GenX and GenY consumers who have different lifestyles, wants and needs than Boomers.

For example, the X’ers and Y’ers are “active on social media, have less brand loyalty and are looking to companies to invite them into the development phase of products or services through social media interaction.”

According to Pawsible Marketing, a pet industry trend watcher, in order to be successful with GenX/GenY consumers,

“… pet businesses must alter the way they market to these new consumers and become more readily available and mobile, create unique and creative ways to grab consumer attention, and be more flexible - readily adapting to change frequently - in order to compete. Consumers are now in the drivers seat.”

What Does This Mean for You and Your Pet?

Hill’s Pet Nutrition isn’t the first and won’t be the last processed pet food manufacturer to try to give savvy consumers what they want without hurting their own bottom line. You, as a knowledgeable pet owner, must remain unmoved by the hype. Educate yourself about what species-appropriate nutrition for your dog or cat really means, and measure each new entry in the pet food market against that standard.

Regardless of shifting consumer trends and marketing strategies … and whether you’re a Boomer, a GenX’er or a GenY’er … your fuzzy family member’s need for good quality, balanced, species-appropriate nutrition has not, and will not change.

While pet product companies and marketers try to find ever more unique and creative ways to lure you, their human consumer, your carnivorous cat or dog maintains the same basic requirement for whole, fresh, unprocessed food as her wild ancestors. In fact, your pet’s health, vitality and quality of life have little to do with how many nifty new pet products you purchase.

In addition to the right diet, your pet’s other most basic needs include:

  • Plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation
  • Minimal exposure to toxins including vaccines, veterinary drugs, and pest preventives
  • Regular (preferably twice yearly) wellness exams with an integrative or holistic vet
  • Routine at-home dental care, bathing and grooming

When it comes to caring for your dog or cat, it’s not about finding the latest new invention in pet food or products … it’s about providing your furry companion with a simple, natural diet and lifestyle that creates abundant health and a long life.