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Organic Dog Food Options

Posted: Aug. 24, 2012, 1:30 p.m. EDT

More dog food manufacturers are offering certified organic products as the trend moves from people to pets.
By Keith Loria

Over the years, the push toward providing nutritious dog food and dog treats has increased as pet owners become more aware that there is an alternative to feeding their pets food that contains artificial preservatives, byproducts and fillers.

“Consumer behavior has created the demand that has given rise to the natural trend,” said Heather Govea, senior vice president of independent sales and corporate marketing at Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. in Pacoima, Calif. “Because consumers are looking more closely at their own food ingredients, they have become more health conscious, and they have begun looking deeper at their pets’ food, too.”

Organic pet food
Gauge customer interest in organics. Carrie Brenner/BowTie Inc. at Pet Country
As owners have paid closer attention to what they feed their pets, manufacturers have beefed up their efforts to provide food that customers can feel confident about feeding to them.

“Customers are more interested in not just the nutrition in the bag, but what’s behind that nutrition,” noted David Everson, associate marketing manager for Natura Pet Products in Freemont, Neb., which has produced the organic dry dog food Karma since 2004. “They want to know how the ingredients were farmed, how the animals were treated and the environmental impact of the facility.”

Why Go Organic?
Daryl Abrams is often asked by retailers and consumers what organic pet food is and why they should make the switch.

“The answer is that organic pet food contains organic proteins, fruits and vegetables free of ingredients that might be harmful to pets,” said Abrams, CEO of Party Animal Inc. in West Hollywood, Calif. “These potentially harmful ingredients include pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.”

Locally sourced organic pet food
Organic foods can appeal to pet owners who want to know where a food is from.Carrie Brenner/BowTie Inc. at George
Additionally, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy must come from animals that are fed organic, pesticide-free grains, and the animals are also not allowed to be given antibiotics or growth hormones, Abrams said.

“Overall, the organic sector has increased tremendously each year and the demand has continued to grow,” Abrams stated. “We have been noticing new ingredients being marketed such as sugar beets, bananas and garbanzo beans. Another trend we have seen develop is that multiple pet food brands have been releasing potato-free lines of pet food.”

Natural Balance Organic Formulas contain ingredients that are grown without genetic engineering and are not sprayed with pesticides, Govea noted. The company recently added ingredients such as rabbit and wild boar, working closely with suppliers and drawing on nutritional expertise and consumer demands.

“We use free-roaming, humanely treated chicken raised without use of antibiotics and hormones, with a wide range of organic ingredients,” she said. “The organic market continues to have an upswing as more people become aware of the benefits of feeding natural foods.”

Wet Noses Natural Dog Treat Co. has been making organic dog treats since 2000, going from one flavor to nine in that span, including Carob & Mint, Agave & Pear, and Hemp Seed & Banana.

How to Get Certified
When manufacturers decide to release an organic product, it’s not as easy as just slipping on a label. One needs to get certification from one of the many U.S. or foreign agencies (see list below), or through state agricultural departments.

“There is a lot of paperwork that goes into getting the seal,” said David Everson, associate marketing manager for Natura Pet Products in Freemont, Neb. “It’s something that takes a lot of time and effort but in the long run ensures that a pet owner is getting what they want.”

Soo Kim, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, reported that the agency is currently working on organic pet food standards as a priority initiative for 2012.

“While certification is currently possible for organic pet foods under existing agricultural production and processing requirements, the regulations don’t yet include separate pet food standards,” Kim said. “The value of organic production, for pet food or otherwise, is that it integrates cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Production starts with the quality of soil in which food is grown, and synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering can’t be used in the process.”

Here is a list of 10 agencies with which to get certified.—KL

A Bee Organic
40707 Daily Rd.
De Luz, CA 92028

Agricultural Services Certified Organic 
P.O. Box 4871
Salinas, CA 93912

CCOF Certification Services
2155 Delaware Ave., Suite 150
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Global Organic Alliance Inc. 
P.O. Box 530
Bellefontaine, OH 43311

International Certification
Services Inc. 
(dba Farm Verified Organic and
301 5th Ave. SE
Medina, ND 58467

Midwest Organic Services
Association Inc. 
P.O. Box 821
122 W. Jefferson St.
Viroqua, WI 54665

OIA North America LLC
1135 NW 23rd Ave., Suite P
Gainesville, FL 32609

Organic Crop Improvement Association 
1340 North Cotner Blvd.
Lincoln, NE 68505

Organic National & International Certifiers
(ON & IC)
7337 N. Lincoln Ave., Suite 283
Lincolnwood, IL 60712

Scientific Certification Systems
2000 Powell St., Suite 600
Emeryville, CA 94608

“We also just launched new products within our Dogg Candy line, our specialty treat bakery items,” noted Casey DeBardi, customer service specialist for the Monroe, Wash., company. “These are made with organic ingredients and contain no corn, wheat, soy, sugar or salt. We wanted customers to be able to provide their dog with a special treat that is still wholesome and healthy.

“Consumers are realizing that the cheap and pretty colored food and treats really are bad for their dogs’ health,” DeBardi added. “We will continue seeing up-and-coming new products from different companies to fit in with this trend.”

Current Trends
Courtesy of the numerous recall scares occurring in recent years, many pet owners are looking for products with ingredients that are sourced in the United States.

Customers are asking for free-range, odorless and made-in-the-USA organic products, said Ann Shevin, president of Mickey’s Pet Supplies in Wilmington, N.C.

“Everyone wants USA and that’s the big buzzword in the industry,” she said. “People call me all the time asking about the rawhides to make sure they weren’t sourced someplace else and getting a label slapped on.”

Other requests retailers are seeing include the demand for grain-free and gluten-free products.
When customers walk in, Lori Simonds, manager of Hounds & Kitties in Maitland, Fla., is quick to point out the benefits of organic food, but the store also sends out email blasts when it learns of new products from manufacturers.

“Customers are asking for these products much more and we are carrying more,” she said. “We had two brands last year and we are up to five now.”

Pet owners may be scared off by the higher prices for organic foods, but even those on a small budget can find these products now at reasonable costs, retailers and manufacturers noted.

On Display
To help their customers really understand the benefits of organic food for their dogs, retailers can provide education on the benefits of high-quality ingredients for solid nutrition.

“Our challenge, as retailers who are concerned with providing the very best diets for dogs, is to continually educate ourselves with what is best for them,” said Chip Sammons, owner of the Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore. “And we then need to convey that information to the masses so that we can convince as many of them as possible to upgrade their companion pet’s diet so that they live a more vibrant and healthy long life.”

Retailers can also benefit from offering variety, as every pet and pet owner has different needs and wants.

“Diets that address specific needs should be sectioned off in a specific area so consumers know where to go as soon as they walk into the store,” Govea said. “There should always be signage and shelf talkers along with the product to increase understanding as well.”

These days, it’s relatively easy to drive people into a store with special promotions on store websites and in e-newsletters, as well as exclusive offers on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With the advent of social media, retailers also have the opportunity to educate their customers about these products.

Manufacturers also need to do their part in getting the word out.

“To increase consumer awareness for these products, we participate in many pet events, hand out samples, and also reach out to consumers through various social media outlets,” Party Animal’s Abrams said. “Additionally, we sample out product to retail store employees; if their pets genuinely like the sampled product, the product will be recommended to the consumers in their store.”

Wet Noses will randomly send out mailers with different samples of its treats to get customers excited about new flavors their dogs have not tried yet.

Pet owners, retailers and manufacturers all want the healthiest diet that a dog can get, which is why the organic market is only expected to grow in the years ahead. 


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