I get a lot of flak from manufacturers when I suggest rotational feeding to my clients. I get it—manufacturers want consumers to be brand loyal. This, however, is exactly what I want to avoid. I think it’s best for dogs to be on a rotational diet, but from a business perspective, encouraging my customers to rotate their dogs’ diets also allows me the flexibility to discontinue a brand and not lose customers.
My latest disgruntled reader email said I am causing unnecessary gastrointestinal (GI) distress on dogs by suggesting rotational feeding. This is far from the truth. Dogs fed a rotational diet have no problems making changes, as they are accustomed to it. On the other hand, dogs receiving one type of food their entire lives are the ones who have issues when they are given a new diet, because they have been conditioned to only one food. To me, only exposing a dog to one food is a big problem. No wet food, no freeze-dried, no fresh and one protein only—how can people think that is appropriate? Don’t we want to give our pets a wide array of nutrients?
Levels of amino acids, minerals, fats and vitamins in a diet all vary by manufacturer and brand. By rotating foods, a dog will receive a nice average of these nutrients across its lifetime. It also reduces the risk of dogs developing intolerances because the food isn’t in the dog’s system long enough. An added bonus is that dogs fed a rotational diet do not become “picky eaters,” because they are given different foods all the time.
There definitely is an art to helping customers make changes to their pets’ diet without causing any type of GI distress. A pet owner who is used to just feeding one brand might indeed see some dietary upset if the pet is unaccustomed to having dietary variety, possibly leading to customer dissatisfaction in the new food. So, the first couple of changes are the most important. The key to avoiding GI distress is to make sure you are choosing a food with similar proteins and fat levels as the pet’s current diet. I believe most micro independents are already recommending rotational diets, but if you are not, check out Dr. Karen Becker’s “Control Your Pet’s Food Allergies” video on YouTube.
Because most micro independents are already suggesting rotational diets, I want to expand upon why manufacturers should support our rotational diet philosophies beyond the nutritional benefits. Micro independents suggesting rotational diets can help increase sales for a manufacturer. For example, brands with a high-end price point may sell well in a rotational store because even people who are feeding a more cost-conscious diet may splurge from time to time to include a bag of the high-end food in the rotation. I also usually suggest trying one of the top-end foods for the dog’s birthday, which is better than just buying a biscuit for a special treat because the pet gets to enjoy the food as a treat for a good month!
Another benefit to rotational feeding for the manufacturer is that retailers can simply rotate a customer to another bag when a product is out of stock. With a non-rotational diet, if the manufacturer has an out-of-stock because of an ingredient shortage or manufacturing issue, the consumer is going to be upset and looking for a new brand. With rotational feeding, we simply suggest a different food, and neither the pet nor the customer is upset.
Additionally, manufacturers need not be concerned about brand loyalty in a rotational store. We are loyal to every food in our store and recommend them to every single customer. In the big-box stores, the recommended brand is usually dependent on whatever current sale has been negotiated between the manufacturer and the store. On the other hand, the micro independent is going to look for the option that is best for the pet and that will make for an easy transition from their current food. If it’s your brand, great, but if it isn’t, it will be eventually once the customer gets into rotational feeding. Another advantage for manufacturers is that when they release a new formula, they are immediately going to get sales because rotational customers are excited to have a new formula added into the rotation.
Again, brand loyalty shouldn’t be a concern. Micro independents have hand-selected every brand that’s on their shelves, so if your brand is in their stores, it is going to be promoted and sold just as much as the brand that’s sitting right next to yours on the shelf. That’s simply not the case in the bigger stores.
B.C. Henschen is a well-known champion for pet owners who want the best in their pet’s food. He is the Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) consumer advocate, and is a past director with the World Pet Association (WPA). Henschen is a popular speaker at industry events and meetings. A certified pet care technician and an accredited pet trainer, he is a partner in Platinum Paws, a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.