Posted: June 6, 2014, 1:50 p.m. EDT
Natura has told pet retailers in Quebec that it will stop supplying them with its natural and organic pet foods because of bilingual packaging requirements.
"Natura Pet Products has decided to discontinue the sale of their products in Quebec, for now, because it was not able to support the bilingual packaging requirements for its products,” said Manon Lapierre, Montreal-based communications manager for Proctor & Gamble Canada, Petcare.
It would have been costly for Natura, a Fremont, Neb.-based pet food subsidiary of Cincinnati-based P&G, to comply.
"We cannot divulge numbers,” Lapierre said, "but as you can imagine, this is a huge and expensive undertaking.”
The brands affected are Innova, Evo, California Natural, HealthWise and Mother Nature.
"These are highly specialized products, which cater to animals with severe allergy problems,” said Sylvie Brunet of Yazoo Pet Food and Supplies in Pointe Claire’s Valois Village, Quebec, toThe Suburban, an English-language weekly newspaper in Montreal.
"We’ve been looking for an alternative,” Brunet said, at the time, "but so far we have come up with nothing.”
Proctor & Gamble
In the early stages, brand loyalty might have been tested as Natura customers had to travel across the border to Hawkesbury, Ontario, which is the nearest place offering Natura products, according to Brunet.
But just as pet stores have adjusted, Quebecers with pets may have shifted their loyalties elsewhere by now.
Pet stores in Quebec can keep selling Natura inventory they have in stock but when they run out that’s that.
"It was just a necessity of business,” Jason Taylor, a Natura spokesman, toldThe Suburban
. "We were not in a position to get bilingual labeling for all these products.”
Louis McCann, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada in Ottawa, doesn’t recall another company pulling out of Quebec because of labeling issues.
McCann laid out the labeling requirements as they currently stand:
"In Canada, under the Product Labeling Act, all products being offered must have both official languages – French and English – on the packaging. In Quebec, there is added provision in their Act that the French language be prevalent.”
McCann says there is some flexibility and Quebec is OK if both languages have co-billing on labels.
McCann hasn’t heard any other rumblings from other pet-related companies about labeling issues and doesn’t foresee other pet companies leaving Quebec.
Quebec’s pet stores seem to have weathered the initial storm and appear to have adapted to life without Natura.
"We have lots of other products and have found other products,” said Lu Baoquan, owner of Canin-Felin Express in Montreal.
"It [Natura] was not one of my main brands, said Jean-Guy Bernier, owner of Pattes A Poil, another Montreal pet store.
Bernier recalls there being bilingual stickers on Natura’s dry food bags and believes the problem came down to the labels on their canned foods, which have less room on them.
Bernier jokingly says, "You want French on a can of cat food so a human doesn’t eat it.”
Lapierre credits the easy transition, in part, to P&G’s communication with its customers.
"Pet stores are helping transition existing customers to other offerings with similar benefits,” Lapierre said, "and are grateful of the lead time to offer current users a proper transition.”
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