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Dog Food: Value-Based Sales

Transparency and alternative options lead the pack in meeting dog food consumer demand.


PPN LLC at Furly's

The ever-expanding dog food market offers more choices, formats and flavors than before. As consumers become more educated about their own diets, it only follows that they would educate themselves about what they feed their pets.

Pet owners want to know what, exactly, their pets are eating, and from where that food is sourced. And they want access to that information so they can make purchasing decisions that reflect those values.

Alternative Proteins, Grain Free and Holistic
Pet owners are seeking alternatives to traditional kibble and canned foods, said Ward Johnson, owner and president of Sojos in Minneapolis.

“The demand for grain-free foods and exotic proteins are key drivers,” he said.

Some of these proteins include bison, kangaroo and wild boar, said Dr. Marc Smith, co-founder of Pet Tao in Nashville, Tenn.

“These novel protein sources are thought to aid dogs suffering from food allergies or food intolerance,” he said. “Also, freeze-dried complete meals are appearing in the market, and toppings, such as desserts, also are becoming more popular.”

Smith said that the market is leaning toward holistic, natural and grain-free choices in dog foods, reflecting pet owners’ own health consciousness.

“Limited ingredient diets are also in popular demand,” said Lucy Postins, founder and CEO of The Honest Kitchen in San Diego.

Transparency and Consumer Knowledge
“Consumers are demanding more transparency into ingredient sourcing and production,” Postins said. “They’re increasingly aware and concerned about the prevalence of genetic engineering of food supplies.”

Isaac Langleben, founder of Toronto-based Open Farm, reported seeing a trend in consumers becoming more focused on where their own meat, seafood and produce comes from and how it is produced.

“This same critical eye is being applied when choosing a food for their pets,” he said.

Smith added that not only do consumers want to trust their pet food companies, but they also are seeking Made in the USA products.

“I’m also happy to see that concerned pet parents are getting better and better at reading pet food labels,” Johnson said. “They’re demanding real ingredients—not a laundry list of byproducts, meals and synthetic vitamin supplements.”

What’s New
As consumer demands shift away from traditional proteins as well as to full disclosure of ingredients, manufacturers are meeting their needs by launching new and improved products, many of which were seen at Global Pet Expo this past March in Orlando, Fla.

Sojos launched Sojos Wild at Global Pet Expo.

“It’s a raw, grain-free diet made with freeze-dried exotic protein as the No. 1 ingredient,” Johnson said, adding that the products feature free-range venison, wild boar and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, all made with all natural, human-grade ingredients.

Already a manufacturer of FDA-approved, human-grade, dehydrated dog food, The Honest Kitchen introduced Revel, a whole grain chicken recipe, at Global Pet Expo. It is considered an entry-level product to the company’s line, with an affordable price point, Postins said. Based on consumer demand, the company also will be launching a line of three limited ingredient diets this summer that contain only six whole ingredients, with added vitamins and minerals, she added.

Like The Honest Kitchen, Open Farm is candid about the sources of its food. Open Farm is a new face in the dog food industry—it launched in 2014 and made its U.S. debut at Global Pet Expo in March. All its products are grain-free dry dog foods with limited premium proteins, and the company’s three recipes are: Homestead Turkey & Chicken, Farmer’s Market Pork & Root Vegetable, and Catch-of-the-Day Whitefish & Green Lentil, Langleben said.

The dog food produced reflects the company’s values, which is to source ethically raised farm animals, Langleben said.

“Our mission is to produce high-quality and nutritious food, while also having a positive impact on the welfare of farm animals, on independent family farms and on the environment,” Langleben said.

To that end, the company’s recipes are prepared with “100 percent Certified Humane meat, ocean-caught fish sourced in accordance with Ocean Wise standards, and locally grown vegetables,” he said.

“Certified Humane means it comes from farm animals that are fed a healthful vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and growth hormones and that are raised with space, shelter and the ability to engage in their natural behaviors,” Langleben said. “Our Catch-of-the-Day fish model is also the first of its kind. Our recipes exclusively use ocean-caught, seasonally sourced fish in collaboration with Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium.”

Pet Tao develops its dog food formulas with veterinarians. Currently, it produces six canned dog foods, including its new Harmony line consisting of Beef, Turkey and Limited Ingredient formulas. The food is produced in conjunction with the company’s traditional Chinese medicine approach of food therapy, Smith said.

“When used purposefully and correctly, the energetics of food can be used to maintain harmony and health, or return the body to harmony or ‘a state of balance,’” Smith said.  

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Pet Product News

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