BY SANDY CHEBAT
With more than 40 years in the industry, Bob and Susan Goldstein, co-CEOs of Earth Animal in Westport, Conn., have watched pet foods evolve
from kibble, canned and semimoist foods to raw-frozen,
freeze-dried and air-dried varieties that use high-quality
human-grade and organic ingredients.
Consumer education and demand is pushing the pet
food market “toward better and human-grade ingredients,
and organic ingredients when possible, toward higher protein, moderate fat and low carbohydrates that come from
whole, human-grade sources,” said Bob Goldstein, VMD.
These days, people are also increasingly wary of scientifically formulated products with synthetic ingredients
they’ve never heard of, said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and
co-founder of Caru Pet Food in Vero Beach, Fla.
“For similar reasons, diets containing minimally processed, whole-food ingredients are in high demand, as well
as products bearing a ‘made in the USA’ claim,” he said.
The result is a burgeoning natural pet food category that
boasts “a lot more products entering the all-natural space
that are USA-made, grain-free, with meat and poultry ‘first,’
that are made using clean, wholesome ingredients,” said
Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn.
Customers are reading labels and researching what the
ingredients mean and how they interact with their pets. For
example, Audree Berg, owner of Auggie’s Doggies Pet Sup-
plies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said when customers see there
is pumpkin in a product, they want to know, “What is the
benefit of pumpkin?”
At PetSage Inc. in Alexandria, Va., president and found-
er Terri Grow has witnessed two trends: “We’re seeing cau-
tion with costs and budgets, and people making conscious
decisions based on food ingredients, sustainability and en-
Taking a page from human natural food trends, demand
in natural pet foods includes premium ingredients, local
sourcing, customized recipes and variety.
“Canned food will continue to grow faster than dry food,
and innovation will continue to drive pet owners to pet spe-
cialty,” said Brad Gruber, president and COO at Health Ex-
tension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y. “Minimally processed
and human-grade ingredients are driving this growth and
are outpacing the overall category.”
Ward Johnson, co-founder of Sojos in Minneapolis, re-
ported that raw food, in particular, has become important
for pet owners looking for safe, convenient ways to feed
their pets the freshest ingredients possible.
And Rashell Cooper, marketing director at Redbarn Pet
Products in Long Beach, Calif., predicts the trend toward
natural foods will not abate any time soon.
“Our research suggests that choosing natural products
with easily understood, whole-food ingredients will continue to be a huge selling point for customers,” she said.
Natural Grows Wild
COVERING THE ESSENTIALS
Industry participants agree that consumer education is critical in the natural pet food
“Today’s consumers spend a great amount of time gathering information and
educating themselves about a food before they actually purchase it,” said Brad
Gruber, president and COO at Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y. “They look
specifically at their pet’s needs and look to fill those needs by feeding a food they
deem to be safe and healthful.”
Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of Bravo Pet Foods in
Manchester, Conn., agreed, adding that “education becomes especially important if
you have customers who are using food to help solve a medical issue.”
Gruber encouraged companies to post “relevant information on their websites
that is easy to access, highly interactive and easily understood. That information has
to be continually updated to keep pace with the changing consumer and their desire
for specific information about their pets.”
Frances Schroeder, co-creator of Dogology, which has two locations in Connecti-
cut, finds educating her customers incredibly rewarding.
“When you show them how their beloved pet can truly thrive, they make even
better choices concerning their pet’s diet,” she said. “The ultimate way to educate
your customers is to support and empower them to do research, ask questions and
be the advocate for their pet.”
According to Schubert, retailers that train their staff to guide customers to the
appropriate product for their pets create loyalty, earn repeat customers and experi-
ence the most success.
And providing associates with appropriate questions gives them an edge. Rashell
Cooper, marketing director at Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif., recommended questions such as: “Does your pet have any food allergies or sensitivities?
What is your biggest concern about your pet’s health? Do they have a favorite
USA-made diets that have limited ingredients, contain exotic proteins, and are free from
grains and synthetic ingredients meet customer demand in the natural marketplace.