What key traits do dog owners want in high-protein diets?
KNOW THE ESSENTIALS
Across the board, experts familiar with high-protein diets for
dogs said educating staff and customers plays a crucial part
in selling these products.
“Much like our brand manifesto, we encourage store
associates to ‘keep sniffing,’” said James Crouch, founder
and CEO of Bixbi Pet in Boulder, Colo. “We want them to
ask questions and do research. The more educated stores
become, the better off their shoppers will be.”
In his experience, Michael Levy, president and founder of
Pet Food Express, a multistore chain in California, said that
customer education is key in the food category in general.
And because consumers seek more knowledge about these
products, he said retailers must as well.
Leasa Greer, manager of nutrition for Solid Gold Pet in
Chesterfield, Mo., agreed that education is important across
all segments of pet food, but she said it is particularly relevant
when it comes to high-protein diets.
“It is extremely important for pet parents to feed their
dogs the appropriate food for their size and activity level,” she
said. “There are so many products with innumerable qualities
that choosing the right food for a specific dog might seem
intimidating, especially for the new dog owner.”
Two ways Greer recommended that pet specialty retailers
educate their shoppers about specific diets are “face-to-
face conversations with pet parents who seek retailers
as knowledgeable experts and point-of-sale educational
materials to aid in the shopping experience.”
“Nothing beats a one-on-one conversation with a pet store
associate that knows her stuff,” he said.
At Petzlove in Lone Tree, Colo., owner Aidan Gannon said
most of his customer education happens in-store.
“We might put up a Facebook post, but really we talk
to customers face to face on an individual basis,” he said.
“We’ll spend as much time as we need to—often 10 to 20
minutes—explaining the pros and cons of a particular food.”
Because Gannon finds that well-made diets can be
quite expensive, it is important to talk with and educate the
customer on why they should believe in these diets and that
they’re worth the cost, he said.
“For the customer, the overall cost of ownership goes
down when a dog is healthy,” Gannon said. “We explain how it
works and what [the food] does in the body. Customers must
see the result and believe in what it’s doing in the body.”
Several manufacturers said they offer a variety of
resources to help educate pet specialty retailers and their
“Independent retailers play an integral role in how
we educate our consumers—especially when it comes
to specialty diets and high-protein recipes,” said Elaine
Obergfell, director of brand marketing for WellPet in
Tewksbury, Mass. “To help, we arm our independent retail
partners with plenty of resources and educational materials,
from in-store displays to literature and more, so that they are
fully equipped to pass their knowledge along to consumers.”
To aid in-store education, she recommended offering trial
options as a way for consumers to see what works best for
their pet before fully committing to a high-protein diet.
Giving out samples is one way Healthy Tails, which has
two stores in Reno, Nev., educates customers. Owner Lori
Johnson also recommended one-on-one conversations.
“Talk to them,” she said. “Ask questions and make
suggestions. Find out what the issue is and what they’ve
Because high-protein diets benefit dogs with active
and healthy lifestyles, Christina Wang, Wild Frontier brand
manager at Mars Petcare U.S. in Franklin, Tenn., said, “Pet
specialty retailers can continue to help consumers match their
pet’s lifestyle with a diet that helps fuel that lifestyle and help
find recipes with the ingredients and nutrition the dog enjoys.”
UNIQUE PROTEINS ARE TRENDING
In this segment of canine diets, the newest ingredient trends
settle on unique proteins, insiders reported.
“As pet parents look to add variety to their dog’s mealtime
routine—and ensure they get the best nutrition out of each
bowl—we’re seeing a thirst for more unique protein sources,”
said Elaine Obergfell, director of brand marketing for WellPet in
Leasa Greer, manager of nutrition for Solid Gold Pet in
Chesterfield, Mo., agreed, adding, “The protein source chosen for
high-protein dog foods is of utmost importance.”
Quality proteins are those such as duck from France, lamb
from New Zealand and beef from the U.S., she said.
Ingredients deemed more natural also are on-trend in this
segment, according to industry insiders.
“We see a push away from chicken fat or adding seed-based
oils instead,” said Aidan Gannon, owner of Petzlove in Lone Tree,
Colo. “We’ve seen a big push away from grain and potato to peas
and lentil, as customers want a lower glycemic point and more
At Healthy Tails, which has two stores in Reno, Nev., owner
Lori Johnson said in addition to better-quality protein sources,
“manufacturers are using other protein options like eggs, lentils
James Crouch, founder and CEO of Bixbi Pet in Boulder, Colo.,
reported similar trends in peas and plant-based ingredients.
“While we are seeing the addition of ingredients such
as pea protein to increase protein levels, some of the more
exciting new food ingredients include coconut products,
pumpkin, agar-agar, which is replacing carrageenan and other
types of gums, and dandelions, which provide exceptional
prebiotic power,” he said.
Prebiotics, probiotics and superfoods such as pumpkin,
broccoli, blueberries, salmon oil and carrots are increasingly
included in dog foods, Greer said.
“Pet parents want a brand they can trust. They also want visible results
in both the condition of their pet and, ultimately, stool quality. And third,
they want a holistic nutrition solution they can feed for a long, healthy
and happy life.”—JAMES CROUCH, founder and CEOof Bixbi Petin
“Typically, [they] ask for a dehydrated or raw diet, or for
a high-meat product with no fillers.”—AIDANGANNON,
owner of Petzlove in Lone Tree, Colo.
“As with our own diets, high protein can translate to more calories and
higher fat if dogs aren’t eating the right kind of protein as part of an overall
balanced diet. We wouldn’t eat only steak all the time—we also eat vegetables, grains, and sources of lean protein like chicken and fish. When pet
parents evaluate high-protein recipes for their dogs, they look for similar
qualities.”—ELAINE OBERGFELL, director of brand marketing for WellPet in
“Customers desire that these products are all from the U.S., New
Zealand or Canada. The higher the quality the better, and ideally
human grade.”—MICHAEL LEVY, presidentandfounder of Pet
Food Express, a multistore chain in California