Pet owners want to trust the products they purchase and to believe they are serving their four-legged family members the best food available. “One way to earn consumer trust is to go clean label,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts, Rockville, Maryland. “Clean-label strategies include offering transparency around both ingredients and processing and having a product with a short list of ingredients that are familiar to the pet owner.”
Author: Donna Berry
Clean-eating shoppers are seeking out pet food attributes that they require in their own foods. They are researching brands and their ingredient-sourcing practices. “Stroll down a pet food aisle in a grocery store, and you’ll notice many of the same label callouts you see in other parts of the store, such as contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; non-GMO; locally sourced; and limited number of simple ingredients,” says Jeannie Swedberg, director of business development, Tree Top Inc., Selah, Washington. “Pet parents apply a human lens when choosing which foods to purchase.”
“There are many parallels between pet foods and the rest of the food industry; in fact, the top trends are identical,” Swedberg says. “This means it’s no surprise that ingredients used in human foods are becoming commonplace in pet foods, including fruits and vegetables.”
John Haen, president and chief executive officer, Fiberstar Inc., River Falls, Wisconsin, says, “The recent humanization trend in pet food is one of the primary market trends driving a plethora of new products. Today, pets are not only part of the family, but in some instances, these furry beings are people’s children.” Pet owners recognize that animals do have different nutritional needs, hence the reason they buy pet food instead of serving table scraps. But, they have become more critical of what goes into the food. Many want to know the purpose of the ingredient and will no longer settle for inexpensive fillers or anything artificial.
“If a pet food does not appear to have a clean label, such as if it contains additives or preservatives, then the manufacturer should explain why those ingredients were added and how they benefit the product,” says Moira Watson, vice-president of marketing and communications, Watson Inc., West Haven, Connecticut. “Even vitamins and minerals can have long, complicated names. But they provide important health benefits and contribute to a higher quality product. Educating pet owners through transparent labeling and science is key to building trust.”
More than half (56%) of pet parents surveyed by Packaged Facts in January and February 2018 said they strongly agree or somewhat agree that they trust pet food formulations backed by scientific research. That figure jumps to 62% when the scientific basis of dietary components is communicated from a veterinarian.
The survey showed that, in general, pet owners have about the same amount of trust in all types of pet food manufacturers, whether they are small regional companies, natural and organic marketers, or mass market brands. It’s less about the brand and company and more about the communication of what’s inside.
Family meal time
“Love them like family. Feed them like family.” That’s the tagline for Blue Buffalo Co., Wilton, Connecticut, an all-natural pet food company founded by pet parents for pet parents. Minneapolis-based General Mills is set to close on the purchase of the company by the end of 2018.
Blue Buffalo is all about wholesome ingredients and the benefits those ingredients provide. The website contains a glossary of every ingredient that can be found in any of its cat and dog foods and explains its function. The brand prides itself on using human-grade ingredients, and its customers are willing to pay a premium.
In addition, all of Blue Buffalo’s foods include LifeSource Bits, a proprietary precise blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists. These include ingredients that help support a pet’s immune system and specific life stage requirement, as well as help maintain a healthy oxidative balance.
“We ‘cold form’ our LifeSource Bits to minimize the loss of potency that occurs in many vitamins and nutrients when exposed to extreme heat. This is an important difference between Blue and other brands because other brands process their food with high heat. Heat can destroy the potency of some nutrients, particularly antioxidants, by up to 75%,” according to the company……………………………….
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