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Make It a Superpremium

Manufacturers now offer foods that rival the quality of what pet owners put on their own plates, and often, getting consumers to buy these premium products is a matter of education.


In the same way parents lovingly prepare nutritious meals for their human children, today’s savvy pet owners are willing to invest more dollars in superpremium foods for their canine kids, said Bryan Nieman, brand director for Fromm Family Foods in Mequon, Wis.

“The global trends of pet parenting and humanization of companion pets are seeing pet owners looking for the same sorts of nutrition for their four-legged family members as two-legged family members,” said Andrew Simcock, global sales and marketing director for K9 Natural Food Ltd. in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Moreover, pet parents choosing superpremium foods are looking to the expertise of their independent retailer for assistance in making brand selections that focus on nutrition and quality, Nieman said.

“This priority extends from sourcing and ingredient choice to formulation and production—factors positively affecting the health of pets,” he added.

However, with the availability of online resources and social media as well as an overall awareness of the importance of diet, consumers seeking these foods are incredibly well informed, he added.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in demand for superpremium dog foods; our customers are looking for minimally processed food that will help their pet enjoy the best life possible, and decrease vet visits and health issues,” said Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets Naturally in Traverse City, Mich. “These foods smell and taste like the actual ingredients, compared to dry kibble.”

For these reasons, word-of-mouth also is contributing to a dramatic uptick in consumers seeking better nutrition that is natural, safe and convenient, Simcock said.

Pet owners choosing superpremium foods are seeing improvements in skin and coat, hip and joint issues, and the overall well-being of their pet, said Dan Schmitz, sales manager for KLN Family Brands/Tuffy’s Pet Foods in Perham, Minn.

“An increased awareness of allergies has also led to an expansion in the use of superpremium foods,” Schmitz added.

For other pet owners, it might be a sick, elderly or picky dog that leads its owner down the superpremium dog food aisle, said Sara Kuris-Morgan, founder and CEO of Frenchie’s Kitchen in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“Good nutrition is the foundation of health for both dogs and their owners,” Kuris-Morgan added. “Each cell in the body requires specific nutrients for optimal function.” 

By supporting these cells nutritionally, the body remains strong and healthy, Kuris-Morgan added. Deficiencies in the diet can result in health issues such as weak immune systems, yeast infections or even cancer, she said.

Frozen raw foods are a leader in the superpremium dog foods category.

Taking Nutrition Up a Notch
“Generally speaking, superpremium pet foods equate to a higher level of pet nutrition, especially when those foods include raw and fresh whole-food diets, which offer a higher degree of digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients,” said Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California. “The result is stronger immunity, increased energy, excellent skin and coat, clean teeth and breath, and less pet waste.”

Frenchie’s Kitchen’s foods are made in a USDA human food facility with 100 percent USDA-approved human-grade, market fresh ingredients, according to Kuris-Morgan. Recently launched at SuperZoo, Frenchie’s Kitchen Tasty Toppers For Dogs are stews available in two varieties: Turkey and Veggies Stew, which is grain-free, and Chicken and Veggies Stew.

“We developed our Tasty Toppers For Dogs for consumers with larger dogs or multiple dogs who cannot afford to feed our entrees on a daily basis, yet want to feed their dogs fresh, whole-food ingredients,” Kuris-Morgan said. “These stews offer a human-grade topper for kibble at an affordable price.”

In addition, Frenchie’s Kitchen added a new White Fish and Veggies grain- and gluten-free entree to its menu.

“Although non-GMO whole grains offer many health benefits, more and more customers prefer a grain-free diet for their dogs,” Kuris-Morgan said. “Frenchie’s Kitchen now has several grain- and gluten-free varieties to choose from.”

KLN Family Foods recently added a quail-based, multi-protein-source product to its NutriSource brand’s grain-free line, Schmitz said. The food also contains duck and turkey as animal protein sources for dogs with sensitive stomachs, Schmitz said.

Superpremium dog foods often are formulated using more exotic proteins including kangaroo, goat, bison, rabbit or wild boar instead of mainly chicken or beef, said Chelsea Cassidy, assistant manager of Anaheim Feed and Pet Supply in Anaheim, Calif.

“These more exotic proteins are great for dogs with allergies or sensitivities where the owners are not quite sure what those allergies might be,” Cassidy said.

With these issues in mind, Wild Calling! Pet Foods’ new Xotic Essentials recipes feature three single-source protein diets: Kangaroo Meal, Rabbit Meal and Bison Meal, said Jeremy Petersen, executive vice president of the Greeley, Colo., company.

“Xotic Essentials is one of the first high-meat limited-ingredient diets available with exotic proteins as the first ingredient,” Petersen said.

The GlycoEdge carbohydrate concept, developed by Wild Calling!, provides a low-glycemic diet by combining balanced levels of quick-, moderate- and slow-release carbohydrates to help limit the glucose and insulin spikes common in many grain- and gluten-free foods, Petersen said.

Moving forward with exotic protein sources, KLN’s Natural Planet Pet Foods brand recently introduced a kangaroo and venison product, which will include some select organic and non-GMO ingredients, as do other products in the Natural Planet lineup, Schmitz said.

KLN recently introduced two single-source-protein offerings to its PureVita line of foods; the new products are venison and duck based.

“Our NutriSource, PureVita and Natural Planet foods all have feeding guidelines that recommend feeding less food, as there are no fillers,” Schmitz added. “Fillers only lead to more waste with little or no benefit to the dog.”

For 2015, Fromm Family Foods expanded its Fromm Gold line with the Gold Coast Weight Management formula. The ocean fish-based, grain-free food features whitefish and salmon.

“Our Fromm Gold line is a holistic approach to complete and balanced nutrition for each life stage and lifestyle,” Nieman said. “Gold Coast offers a grain-free, life-stage-specific diet option for pet parents and continues to expand upon the variety of recipes we offer, both in our Gold and Four Star nutritional lines.”

In comparison to kibble, many superpremium foods provide the moisture that pets need to digest their food, Pets Naturally’s Margelis said. Without a sufficient amount, pets will compensate by robbing moisture from their tissue to facilitate digestion, which can stress the liver and kidneys or result in other health problems, she said.

Rolled out nationally this year, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co.’s Hi Bio SuperFood is formulated with 85 percent meat, U.S. farm-grown ingredients and no grains or glutens. In using a gentle drying process, the product offers a higher moisture level than traditional kibble, making Hi Bio easier to digest while enabling nutritional absorption, said Holly Sher, president of the Markham, Ill., company. The minimally processed ingredients are air dried at low temperatures to retain all of the nutrients, enzymes and rich, meaty flavors, Sher added.

A Well-Informed Staff
When it comes to marketing superpremium dog foods, manufacturers and retailers agree that education is crucial.

“It is extremely important to manage employee education [on an ongoing basis], as employee turnover/retention is generally always a challenge for any retailer, so you have to constantly be training and re-training your staff,” Zakrajsek said. “As pet retailers, we see the pets and hear their stories more often than the veterinarians do, and a well-informed staff goes a long way in creating lasting client relations and a knowledgeable customer base.”

Another way to familiarize staff members with the benefits of superpremium foods is at-home use, Simcock said.

“With staff feeding K9 Natural to their own pets, they quickly understand and can speak to the benefits of this food from their own experience,” Simcock said.

As a trusted resource, independent retailers have tremendous power to influence consumer pet care habits, Zakrajsek said.

“That said, how that message is delivered to clients can vary from planning in-store events that include nutrition classes, special guest/expert speakers, vendor demo days, informational newsletters or handouts, and more,” Zakrajsek said. “It’s a natural part of developing a true client relationship based on trust and getting to know the animals they care about.”  

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

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