Tuned In To Transparency
Dog owners seek natural foods that are made using top-notch
ingredients, and they want manufacturers to share the sourcing
information of these products.
THIS ARTICLE IS BROUGHT
BY LINDSE Y GE TZ
TO YOU IN PART BY
As dog foods that are marketed as natural become ubiquitous across all retail chan- nels, including grocery and mass, manufacturers that are supplying independent pet retailers are focusing on beating the competition through complete transparency and superior ingredients.
According to market research firm Packaged Facts’ new Natural, Organic, and
Eco-Friendly Pet Products in the U.S. report, for the first time in years, during 2018, mass
channels surpassed the pet specialty channel in pet food sales growth—a development
Packaged Facts’ market analyst David Lummis attributes to mass premiumization and
pet specialty channel losses to e-commerce.
“This is a far cry from the heady advances of previous years but understandable
now that natural accounts for the bulk of pet food sales in pet specialty stores and is
widely available in mass channels and online, often at considerably lower price points,”
While healthful options are aplenty in the marketplace, research and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate that the natural category is becoming oversaturated. These days,
to say a food is “natural” is not even enough, according to industry insiders. What really
seems to matter to pet owners are the ingredients—and, more important, their sourcing.
“We never use the word ‘natural’ to describe our food—it’s just too wishy washy,”
said Susan Goldstein, co-founder and co-CEO of Earth Animal in Westport, Conn.
“There is no set definition of what natural means. What really matters is the sourcing
of ingredients, manufacturing principles, sustainability—and so much more. We’re not
alone in the effort as other companies are moving in this same direction.”
Mark Dunn, owner of Nature’s Pet Market in Eugene, Ore., agreed.
“The meaning of the word ‘natural’—and even the word ‘holistic’—have gotten
muddled,” Dunn said. “As more and more pet food companies make claims on their
bags, it’s gotten increasingly confusing for the pet owner to determine what’s real and
what’s just a marketing ploy. When you can see the word ‘natural’ appear on a bag of
food from the grocery store, then you know it’s not as meaningful as it once was. These
days, there’s a lot more involved in making smart food choices than just looking at the
Dan Schmitz, national sales manager for Tuffy’s Pet Foods, a brand of Perham,
Minn.-based KLN Family Brands, said that “it’s truly about the ingredients used in
making pet food,” which is why, Schmitz said, it’s so important that manufacturers trust
the sources they’re working with.
As far as the reasons why pet owners continue to make more healthful choices, insiders stressed that the answer is manifold. But there’s no question that it is largely to
do with pets being more a “part of the family” than ever before.
“It’s the humanization of our pets,” said Dr. Bob Goldstein, co-founder and co-CEO
of Earth Animal. “When your pets are part of the family, you want the best for them,
and that means making the best food choices.”
Dan Schmitz, national sales manager
for KLN Family Brands/Tuffy’s Pet
Food in Perham, Minn.
What are the key attributes that dog
owners look for when seeking natural
or organic pet foods? And how are
manufacturers both responding to
those demands and driving innovation in the category?
I believe ingredient sourcing and
credibility of the manufacturer are
key factors when dog owners look at
these types of food. Sourcing quality ingredients with proper certification and manufacturing processes
is essential in producing natural and
organic pet foods. Today, there are
many unique ingredients that are
appealing to pet parents and claim
to add benefits to pet food. When
you talk about natural or organic
foods, these trendy ingredients are
not found in the ingredient statements, as these ingredients are typically not considered natural and are
typically genetically modified. This
is what sets a superpremium food
apart from a national grocery brand.
At Tuffy’s, we hold our ingredient
suppliers to strict guidelines and
require proper certification that allows us to manufacture the most
natural, safest food available today.
On the organic side, our plant and
organic foods are certified by the
Oregon Tilth agency. This certification requires our facility to follow
very strict guidelines for both our
manufacturing process and also our