Who is Buying Natural Pet Food?
Pet parents are now treating their pets as members of the family and are no longer ashamed to be spending lavishly on them by buying natural pet food.
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What is “natural” pet food? There are many definitions and we as pet parents have to carefully read the labels.
The AAFCO definition for natural pet food reads as follows:
NATURAL – A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.
The market research firm Packaged Facts reported that households earning more than $70,000 accounted for more than half of the total spending in 2010. In 2014, that changed to households earning more than $100,000 accounting for one-third of the total market.
How Is This Natural Pet Food Trend Affecting Our Buying Habits?
According to AllPoints Pet Industry Sales Solutions, the trend towards natural pet food is making the pet industry the most money with 70% of the market share. This was valued at $5.6 Billion in 2016.
Pet stores are advised to use “All Natural” themes to increase their sales of pet food. Have you noticed that the grain-free category accounts for almost 40% of the sales? You will also see a lot of green and brown colors in the merchandising around these foods.
What Drives a Company to Go Into Natural Pet Foods?
Let’s take the example of Blue Buffalo, a company that was started by the Bishop family after their Airedale Blue was diagnosed with cancer.
In 2017, Blue Buffalo reached 1.3 Billion in sales growth. That is amazing growth for a family company that was founded in 2002.
So it turns out that Mr. Bishop has had a long career in advertising and consumer products marketing. He has had connections with companies like P & G, Unilever and General Foods.
Blue Buffalo has not had a smooth road. In fact, their natural pet foods have been recalled many times. You can find a listing here. Consumers have expressed their experiences with this natural pet food here.
In 2014, Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising since Blue Buffalo claimed they only used high quality ingredients but testing revealed the presence of poultry by-product meal in some of their top selling pet foods.
A $50 million dollar annual advertising campaign could not overcome the facts and Blue Buffalo agreed to a $32 million dollar settlement. Consumers were reimbursed up to $2000 of the Blue Buffalo natural pet food if they had their receipts for purchases between May 7, 2008 and December 18, 2015 or up to $100 without a receipt. More than 100,000 customers filed a claim by the deadline.
Wow…do you save your pet food receipts for that many years…or even for the last purchase?
Mars Petcare was in the last stage of purchasing Blue Buffalo until this lawsuit with Purina interrupted that process for the public offering of stock. Mars Petcare carries 41 different pet food brands and has one chain of veterinary clinics.
When The Natural Pet Food Market Grows…
The humanization of pets has not gone unnoticed by companies like General Mills. Their sales have been lagging now that people are buying fresh foods over processed foods.
Let’s consider clear and unbiased facts about pet food company buyouts without all of the hype. There have been many recently. Nestle SA is divesting its slower-growing units like it U.S. confectionary business and opting to focus on its Purina division. Cargill agreed to buy Pro-Pet, which makes Black Gold dog food. J.M. Smucker bought out the Big Heart brands for 5.8 billion in 2015.
Why Has General Mills Entered the Natural Pet Food Sector?
According to the Wall Street Journal, Feeding Fido is Big
Business. General Mills wants a piece of the rapidly expanding premium pet-food market which is now at 32.6% of the total market. They feel that the natural pet food category can boost their slumping sales.
The deal with Blue Buffalo makes strategic sense for General Mills even though the price is steep according to a Jefferies analyst. As Americans shift away from packaged foods for themselves, they are drawn to more natural food and high-end treats for their pets in the grocery store aisles.
General Mills is betting on the Lifestyle choices of Americans who prefer natural pet foods. The acquisition of Blue Buffalo makes General Mills the leader in the U.S. Wholesome Natural pet food category.
This video by Bloomberg reveals what they feel is behind the $8 Billion deal between General Mills and Blue Buffalo.
How Should Pet Parents Respond To This Natural Pet Food Lifestyle?
You can benefit from my experience as both a pet parent and Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist by following these tips:
- Buy directly from a well-respected pet food company
- Buy from a privately-owned company that puts your pet first, not money
- Avoid buying from pet food companies that have had many recalls
- Always store the food in the original bag even if you then put that bag in a container so that you will have the lot number on hand in case of a recall.
- Be aware of any pet food recalls by signing up at at the FDA here
- Understand that natural pet foods can also be affordable when priced per cup of food fed. Pets eat less of a higher quality food.
- Learn how to prepare your own pet’s meals responsibly with a balanced approach guided by a certified pet-food nutritionist
- Supplement your pet’s diet for optimal nutrition.
What tips can you share with us? Leave your comment so that others can benefit from your insight.
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