A Matter of Trust
BY LINDSEY GETZ
Increasingly discerning pet owners are demanding
assurances of safety and quality from made in the USA
brands they can trust.
The pressure is on for manufacturers of domestically produced and sourced pet foods, as pet specialty re- tailers, acting on behalf of their trusting customers,
seek higher-quality products from brands that can back
up their made-in-USA claims. In response, savvy pet food
companies are indeed heeding the call by offering a transparent view of their sourcing and production processes.
Trust is key, emphasized Michael Levy, founder of Pet
Food Express, a multistore chain in California.
“It’s not just about being USA-made, it’s about trust,”
Levy said. “Our customers shop with us because they trust
us to carry the safest and best foods and treats.”
The fact is, that in the eyes of the consumer, the onus
lies on pet specialty stores to perform their due diligence
in creating a product assortment that pet owners can trust.
Working with manufacturers that are fully transparent
has been a key to retailers’ research process. But it’s not
always that easy.
Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Ca-
lif., has found that when it comes to transparency, the
degree to which companies are willing to open up can
vary dramatically. While some companies will be very
forthcoming in terms of answering questions, others are
more likely to be guarded about their responses. Grow
said that asking the right questions is key as nondetailed
questions are likely to receive
B.C. Henschen, a partner at
Platinum Paws, a full-service
pet salon and premium pet
food store in Carmel, Ind., said
that if he cannot get answers to
his questions, then he simply
won’t carry that brand in his store.
“Unfortunately, it’s up to the retailer to dig this infor-
mation out,” he said.
And that’s not very easy when a “marketing spin” can
make any food sound better than it really is, he added.
“You really have to dig deeper to find out the truth,”
Henschen said. “One manufacturer talks about the use of
free-range poultry in their food but when you dig into it,
you stumble across the fact that they’re only using a small
percentage of free-range poultry and the rest is coming
out of a factory.”
Beyond asking questions, participating in facility tours
that allow retailers to observe manufacturers’ processes
can also be beneficial.
Henschen said he has participated in various tours, but
added that even they can be misleading.
“Some of those can come off like an open house
where everything is staged and structured—whereas
others have been a lot less official,” Henschen said. “The
latter has given me a better view of their operation.
“Recently, Answers Pet Food not only had a group of
retailers out to the manufacturing facility, but they also
took us to the farms that raise the animals that they pur-
chase and that grow the produce that they use. It was re-
ally a unique look and one that I don’t think other compa-
nies would be able to attempt.”
William Hoekman, nutrition science director for An-
swers Pet Food in Fleetwood, Pa., said that the company
believes that “transparency is everything” in the pet food
industry, and it assumes a great responsibility when it
comes to helping retailers get answers about where their
food is made and the ingredients used.
“We expect complete transparency of the companies
whose products we use—so why wouldn’t we anticipate
that our customers expect the same of us?” he asked.
“When we hosted a recent facility tour, nothing was off
limits. The only thing we won’t answer is the exact per-
centage of the amounts used in our formula.”
Pet owners are counting on pet stores and
food manufacturers for products that are
safe and nutritious for their loved ones.