As the category expands and selections multiply, retailers remain an influential source
of dietary guidance for consumers, said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
“Proliferation at the shelf is truly overwhelming, and pet parents openly say that
choosing a dog food is like choosing shampoo—too many options and not enough
information,” Hudson said. “Whether it’s signage at the shelf, informed store associates
or educational in-store events, we have to do a better job of educating pet parents.”
For these reasons, retailers can and should rely on their brand partners for assis-
tance in providing knowledge and educational tools for staff and, ultimately, consumers,
Samantha Cohen, vendor relations manager and corporate buyer for Woof Gang Bakery, a chain of stores with headquarters in Orlando, Fla., said that education inspires trust.
“It takes an understanding of ingredients to gain this confidence when it comes to
raw, dehydrated and freeze-dried diets,” Cohen said. “We make sure, when suggesting a
new type of diet, that the customer understands why the price point may be higher and
correlate this with the added benefit of saving money on potential medical expenses.”
Natural Paws in Reno, Nev., offers a wide range of foods, including top-quality
products; however, co-owner Lori Burks noted the importance of catering to customers
who are more budget-minded.
“All of our foods are corn, wheat and byproduct free and sourced in the USA and
Canada, but not everyone can afford a superpremium brand, so we try to have something for everybody,” she said.
However, as part of the Natural Paws educational process, customers are advised
that these higher-quality foods are more nutrient dense and, therefore, less is required
“That’s a little savings if someone is worried about price,” Burks said.
“Many consumers might be feeding a low-grade grocery brand, thinking it’s the
best option, but in-store education helps them find the optimal food for their dog,
whether it is raw, dehydrated or kibble,” she added. “It’s always best to have a conver-
sation to find out what is ideal for both customer and pet.”
Staff members at Pet Things in Douglasville, Ga., take part in in-store trainings and
independent research, resulting in the ability to read and understand ingredient panels—
vital components to assisting customers in product selection, said owner Terry Brlecic.
And educational programs such as Eat Like Your Dog events are designed to
enlighten Pet Things shoppers.
“We build a lunchtime meal around the same ingredients found in the featured bag
of pet food,” Brlecic said.
Repasts have included roasted pork loins, chicken quarters, glazed butternut
squash, cranberry relish, and pea and tomato salad, he said.
Food label comprehension is crucial, said Julie-Anne Hollander, marketing/projects
for K9 Natural in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“It is very important that consumers understand what to look for on ingredient lists,
as many products are full of fillers and carbohydrates, which serve very little purpose to
the health of a pet,” she said.
Manufacturers are responding to consumer demand for super-premium nutrition with an expanding array of selections.
Cloud Star’s Wellmade line of grain-free dog food offers
a full range of complete and balanced diets, including baked
kibble, wet complete meals, and dehydrated vegetable and
meat mixes, said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
Wellmade baked kibble recipes are free of meat byproducts,
grain, corn and soy. Each recipe offers high-quality chicken, duck or
lamb, combined with pulses like lentils and chickpeas, Hudson said.
Prepared in a human-grade facility, Wellmade’s Homestyle
wet recipes feature whole, shredded meats and vegetables, with
beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, and chicken and salmon options.
“Complete and balanced in the bag, Wellmade grain-free
dehydrated mixes can be prepared at home with fresh meat, meat
included or all-vegetable options,” Hudson said. “To improve digest-
ibility, produce is dehydrated and starches precooked before drying.”
The mixes are positioned at a premium/value price point to help
transition consumers into this alternative category, Hudson said.
Caru Pet Food launched its Daily Dish line of grain-free
stews for dogs in June, said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder
of the Vero Beach, Fla.-based company.
Featured at an everyday value price, Daily Dish stews are
formulated from USA-made, 100 percent human-grade, non-GMO ingredients in a savory gravy, Pettyan said.
Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y., recently
debuted its Chicken & Brown Rice Large Bites Recipe, a highly
palatable, complete and balanced food formulated for large-breed dogs, said Brad Gruber, president and COO.
“With this product, calcium and calorie content can be
monitored through the provided feeding guidelines,” Gruber
said. “This recipe will also help lower the risk of skeletal issues
by helping a puppy to cope with problems associated with rapid
K9 Natural’s latest offering, Natural Puppy, is grain free and
contains the nutrient-rich protein of New Zealand grass-fed beef and
sustainably fished, fresh hoki oil to support the growth and develop-
ment of a young dog of any breed or size, said Julie-Anne Hollander,
marketing/projects for the Christchurch, New Zealand-based
company. DHA and EPA from hoki oil are important nutrients in
supporting healthy brain and eye development, Hollander added.
PUT SUPERPREMIUM ON DISPLAY
The ability to convey the benefits and value of superpremium food is essential to merchandising
and promotion, said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food in Vero Beach, Fla.
“It pays to display signage that will play up the nutritional or emotional advantages
of a superpremium line over other diets,” Pettyan said. “If display space is limited, prom-
inent shelf danglers or detailer cards attached to shelf fixtures may be used.”
Superpremium dog foods are a key marketing point at Woof Gang Bakery, a chain
of stores with headquarters in Orlando, Fla., said Samantha Cohen, vendor relations
manager and corporate buyer. This detail is featured on all marketing materials and ad-
vertised by many of the company’s franchisees, with an emphasis on available frequent
The power of social media is another facet not to be discounted, and it can be
utilized to educate customers regarding the benefits of raw, dehydrated and/or organic
diets, Cohen said.
Awareness of competitive methods, both within and outside of the pet industry, is
another integral element to marketing success, said Brad Gruber, president and COO for
Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y.
“Looking into how specialty grocers or other high-end establishments are merchandising products or enticing customers to shop can help make the shopping experience
exciting and profitable,” Gruber said. “Many upscale ventures have built wonderful ‘store
within a store’ concepts that really lend themselves to what can be done in a pet store.”
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