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As dog owners become more educated about the connection between diet and health, there has been a greater interest in holistic diets. These days, dog owners are looking for foods
that do more than fill their pets’ stomachs, favoring products that
give their pets as much nutritional benefits as possible.
Melissa Hoover, owner of Nature Dog in Omaha, Neb., said the
demand for holistic diets has grown because people are more aware
of their own health—and how food affects it. As people begin to see a
difference in how they feel, thanks to a better diet, they’re more aware
of the difference it can make in their dog’s life.
“With a lot of conditions, such as allergies, you can see a drastic
change in the dog’s quality of life, and that only supports the trend
even more,” Hoover said. “As the dog’s health improves, and the dog
parent starts to share this information with others, you can see how
the trend grows.”
Steve Ball, co-founder and CMO of I and Love and You in Boulder,
Colo., said that the humanization trend is another a catalyst behind
the growing consumer interest in holistic diets.
“As the ‘humanization of pets’ movement continues to grow, so
does the rise in natural and healthy choices,” he said. “As long as
pet parents are making natural and healthy choices for themselves,
they are also going to make those choices for their pets and their
Joey Herrick, president of Lucy Pet Products in Westlake Village,
Calif., cited people’s growing skepticism about commercial pet diets
combined with their desire to extend their pets’ lives as two more
significant drivers behind the demand for holistic foods.
“First, since pets’ lifespans are short to begin with, people want
to help their pets avoid disease and do everything they can to help
their pets live longer,” Herrick said. “Second, consumers are hearing
about products contaminated with lead, excessive levels of vitamin D,
euthanized meat or supposedly ‘byproduct-free’ foods that actually
contain low-quality byproducts. This raises concerns among consum-
ers and makes them question what they are feeding their pets.”
While the definition of holistic can get hairy—as can the meaning
of other terms such as “natural” or “wholesome,” which are used a
lot—the key is to pay attention to the ingredients, said Pattie Boden,
owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va. It’s something
that she said a lot of pet owners are already doing.
“You see those terms thrown around a lot, and it can be confusing,” Boden said. “But what we’re really looking at is the ingredients.
Are they human grade? Are they locally sourced? We’re a lot more
interested in that kind of information. We believe that a holistic food
is one that benefits the body and the overall physical well-being of
the pet. The answer to that is in the ingredients and their sourcing.”
“Formulas need to be based on what is truly best for the animal, and not only bottom-line profits. Some consumers might be
surprised to learn what some brands actually put into their pet
foods,” he said. “Companies should be transparent as to where
their ingredients come from.”
C K Pet owners are becoming more cognizant about the connection
between diet and health. Therefore, they seek pet foods that are
more holistic and have better nutritional benefits.
While there are a variety of ways to display and attract
attention to particular foods, nothing quite does it
like sampling, said Pattie Boden, owner of Animal
Connection in Charlottesville, Va. She said that it helps
pet owners commit to a new food when they have the
opportunity to try it first.
“We really believe in samples,” Boden said. “Even
if the company doesn’t provide samples, we’ll break
open a bag and let people see it and sample it.”
Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of consumer
experience for WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass., agreed.
She said that in-store sampling opportunities can be
a great way to attract interest. In addition, she said
that innovative, in-store display units, such as off-shelf
secondary placements of product displays, also help
capture shoppers’ attention.
Bob Rubin, CEO and president of Solid Gold Pet in
Greenville, S.C., added that having a digital and social
media presence is also foundational—particularly
with millennial pet owners. Recent research shows
that last year, 62 percent of millennials were pet own-
ers, said Rubin—and that number is expected to grow.
“Beyond having a mere presence, it is critical to
present a message that will resonate with millennials’ interests and lifestyle preferences to help break
through the clutter,” Rubin said.
Taking steps to separate its stores from the
“average retailer” is always top of mind when The
Natural Dog Pet Food Market creates displays and
spotlights products, said Amanda Casper, assistant
store manager for the company, which has locations in
“We spotlight new foods as they become available
but also like to draw attention to holistic diets and
why they matter,” Casper said. “We’ll break down the
dietary needs of the dog and what they would actually
be getting from their diet in nature were they in the
wild. We take time to talk to customers and create
displays that explain why that’s important.”
FOR THE FOODIES
Solid Gold Pet in Greenville, S.C., has unveiled several innovations
this year, including grain- and gluten-free dog food, said Bob Rubin,
president and CEO. Several new dry and wet foods hit retail shelves in
August. The launch features foods for many lifestages—from puppies
to seniors—as well as small to large breeds. Among the new foods,
Love at First Bark starts puppies out with a grain-free diet and optimal
protein. Young at Heart, on the other hand, is focused on dogs in their
senior years. Fit and Fabulous is a grain-free weight-control recipe
that aims to provide optimal protein while remaining low in fat and
calories, Rubin said.
Solid Gold also added new flavors to its Mighty Mini grain-free
line for toy and small-breed dogs. And the popular grain-free Green
Cow Green Beef Tripe Recipe is now available in an easy-to-serve
WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass., has also debuted recipes. Wellness
Core RawRev is a combination of high-protein kibble with 100 percent
raw meat. In addition, an improved lineup of Holistic Select recipes
will continue to deliver complete digestive support with high levels of
probiotics and digestive enzymes, according to the company.