The Raw Deal
As dog owners seek species-appropriate diets for their pets, manufacturers
offer more convenient options for new and experienced raw feeders.
BY SANDY CHEBAT
As consumers become more dis- cerning about their own diets, they are also paying more attention to what they feed their pets,
which is fueling customer demand
for raw dog foods, according to industry participants.
“As consumers pay even more
attention to their own eating habits,
they’re naturally looking more close-
ly at what they’re feeding their pets,”
said Brad Johnson, CMO of St. Lou-
is-based Nature’s Variety. “They’re
taking what they’ve learned and
seen in the natural aisles of their
grocery store, and they’re looking
for those same healthy qualities in
Melissa Olson, marketing di-
rector for Vital Essentials in Green
Bay, Wis., agreed, saying that dis-
cerning customers are questioning
their own diets, as they seek more
healthful options from companies
that are transparent in their claims
and ingredient panels.
“Not surprisingly, the food we serve to our pets is coming under
the same level of scrutiny,” she said.
This growing consumer awareness is drawing pet owners to the
raw food category, Johnson added.
“Raw inherently delivers on what pet parents are seeking: pure,
real, whole-food ingredients; recipes high in protein that’s responsibly sourced and derived from animal sources and not vegetables;
minimally processed and crafted to be as close to its natural state as
possible,” he said.
Pet owners are much more knowledgeable about nutrition these
days, said Jennifer Boniface, owner of Aunt Jeni’s Home Made in
Temple Hills, Md. She credited headline-making pet food recalls for
this evolution and the move of raw food into the mainstream.
“Pet food recalls force pet owners to learn more, ask probing questions and demand accountability from manufacturers,” Boniface said.
Several pet specialty retailers reported experiencing significant
growth in sales of raw dog foods in the past few years.
“More pet owners are feeding raw food, especially those with performance dogs,” said Carol A. Lundquist, DVM, co-owner of Hungry
Like the Woof in Warrenton, Va.
As a result, more companies are providing innovative options in
the category, said Taylor Loveless-Campbell, store manager of Top
Dogs Pet Boutique, a Georgia-based retailer with stores in Roswell
“As new raw and freeze-dried brands enter the holistic pet food
market, consumers have increased access to nutrition information
and an extensive selection of biologically appropriate, minimally
processed pet foods,” she said. “With the research and support of
renowned holistic vets and nutritionists, information on the benefits
of raw feeding is more readily available to pet parents.”
Carrie Hyde, owner of The Spaw in Tustin, Calif., reported that
dog owners are finally starting to better understand nutrition and
how it affects their pets. To help further awareness, Hyde prefers to
call these foods “species-appropriate diets [instead of raw] to give
people a better understanding of what we’re talking about.”
“Customers want convenience,” said Jane Williams, outside sales
for Aunt Jeni’s Home Made in Temple Hills, Md.
Hyde agreed, adding that convenience will outweigh the cost
for many owners, making certain raw-food formats more desirable
“Freeze-dried diets and treats seem to be the latest popular
item,” said Patti Salladay, sales and marketing manager for Northwest Naturals in Portland, Ore. “This provides a convenience and
availability for consumers that feed raw to stay with their current
diet in a form that is easy to feed while they are traveling, training
or using as a topper.
“It is also a great entry product for first-time raw feeders and consumers that are interested in feeding raw,” she added.
Top picks for dog owners new to the raw arena are “preventative
food or treats that promote healthy gums and teeth,” Olson said. “We
also see many pet parents looking for alternatives to prescriptions or
medications and actively seeking out foods to help with skin issues
In her experience, Lundquist said, consumers want nutritious
foods that are effective for preventing conditions such as cancer, and
kidney and liver disease.
“Dog owners are looking for a complete diet that is easy to feed,”
she added. “They want to feed high-quality food without spending a
lot of time preparing it.”
“Raw inherently delivers on what pet parents are seeking.”
—Brad Johnson of Nature’s Variety
Convenient raw formats make some
consumers more likely to feed this
type of food to their pets.