Pet Product News reported on a co-marketing promotion between two of food giant Nestle’s divisions, Jenny Craig weight loss and Purina pet foods work together to promote weight loss for both pet owners and their pets. Project Pet Slim down is marketed through veterinarians as a New Years resolution for the pet and is not mentioned on either the Jenny Craig or Purina web sites. The Project Pet Slim down site has information on assessing your pet’s condition, tips for getting your pet more active, pet weight loss reality show videos and reference to weight loss pet foods available by prescription from Purina. The Jenny Craig part of the program is optional for pet owners and offers a 30-day trial to the program (food sold separately.)
The New Year’s resolution tie in is a twist I haven’t seen in marketing diet pet foods before, and another validation of the pet humanization trend. While I doubt many pets are looking to make changes for the New Year, obesity in American pets is a growing problem, just as it is in their owners. I applaud Purina for making the effort to promote better health in both pets and their owners.
Petfood Industry reported on the pet obesity epidemic, which mirrors that found in the human population. Research conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention finds that about half of all pets are overweight and roughly 20% of those are obese. The APOP has conducted annual pet weight surveys since 2007 and has found an upward trend in the proportion of overweight pets that are obese. It appears that the culprit is not the shift to more premium brands of dog foods (low-calorie dog food sales are up) but that the dogs, like people, are snacking more often and eating more high-calorie snacks than in the past. Dog treats are one of the fastest growing pet food categories and like human foods, often very calorie dense. Owners admit to indulging their pets with treats, and use of this “affordable luxury” may be spurred by the challenging economy.
The solution, just as for human weight loss, is more attention to a balanced diet, which for dogs is easily achieved by feeding a high quality balanced dog food, avoiding snacks, and regular aerobic exercise – which can aid in keeping their owners at a healthier weight as well.
PetsMart and GNC recently announced a partnership to create a line of pet supplements available exclusively through PetsMart retailers and website. The supplement line launches in fall, 2010 according to an article on financial news site CDTV.
This is interesting development marks the convergence of several trends. Vitamin and supplement usage is increasing for humans, pet care is becoming more humanized, and people are becoming more interested in premium nutrition for their pets. This is a great opportunity for both partners; joining two strong brands in an area where there are few well-known competitors.
My concern is that pets may end up being over-supplemented as many of them already eat a nutrionally balanced commercial diet. If the worst that happens is that some dogs produce expensive urine when they excrete excess vitamins, that’s not a terrible thing. But dogs as well as people are harmed by overuse of some supplements. Owners should make sure their veterinarians are aware of the supplements as well as the food that their animals consume.
Proctor and Gamble recently announced that they had purchased holistic pet food manufacturer Natura Pet Products which describes its products as “The Healthiest Pet Food in the World.” This action gives P&G entry into the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry with a portfolio of well-respected, selectively distributed brands in that space. These brands join P&G’s mass market Iams and premium Eukanuba brands and allows the company to leverage Natura’s credibility in holistic and natural pet foods. Eukanuba has dabbled in this sector with its Naturally Wild products, but the brand does not have strong credibility in this market space.
Natura now sells six brands of pet food and treats. Their EVO brand was one of the first to offer grain-free pet food; other brands focus on simple, organic, and premium quality ingredients. One thing I appreciate about Natura is a fearless approach to their competition as they offer an online comparison tool where consumers can match their products with competitive pet foods; including other premium and holistic foods.
Some in the “good food” movement for pets seem nervous about one of the world’s biggest consumer packaged good firms acquiring Natura. I see it as a savvy business move by P&G and I suspect they fully realize the power of these vigilant consumers both to build and destroy brand equity. It will be interesting to see how branding, distribution and promotion develop after this ownership change, which is still undergoing regulatory review.
Brandweek featured an article discussing Iam’s integrated campaign for its ProActive pet foods containing prebiotics. The food has specific ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and should be distinguished from probiotic compounds like yogurt which contain beneficial bacteria, which would not live through the processing required to manufacture dry dog food.
Iams enlisted two spokes animals, one canine, one feline to promote their prebiotic foods. The dog, a Bulldog named Munch, has a Facebook page which has attracted over 1200 fans. All of the ProActive health products carry a distinctive swirled symbol on the packaging, which is carried over into point of purchase and print displays. ProActive’s marketing uses he theme line “I am beautiful inside” which was used across online, point of purchase, and television advertising.
These products show the increasing interest in nutraceuticals in human nutrition, which has spilled over into the nutritional interests for our pets. I found the Iams website very carefully worded in its description of the benefits of these products, avoiding any outright health claims.
While I can only speculate about the motives behind the launch of this product, it seems more about providing a feeding option for people sympathetic toward the HSUS’s stand against domestic animals than the nutritional needs of dogs. The group actively opposes farming of animals and the feedstuffs fed to meat animals; they feel animals are equal in status to humans and should not be owned or consumed. HSUS opposes breeding and working with dogs, which may be the reason no growth or performance formulas are offered, I suspect it’s also hard to meet those standards without using animal protein.
A veterinary study reported on dogchannel.com found that dog foods labelled low-calorie had inconsistent labeling and feeding recommendations. Content analysis showed that the food in the container did not always match package claims.
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University did an analysis of 44 different dog foods with labels indicating they would support canine weight loss. Such foods are required by federal law to show calorie counts, but unfortunately not only were these numbers inaccurate, the recommended feeding amounts would result in weight gain.
Dog obesity is a significant problem with nearly half of all dogs classified as overweight and nearly 10% obese in a 2008 study. Just as in humans, excess weight contributes to increased health problems, veterinary expenses, and decreased length and quality of life. A recent study also found a correlation between overweight owners and over weight dogs.
Owners who want their dogs to lose weight need to think of the fundamentals – diet and exercise. Unfortunately, dog food manufacturers are not always a reliable source of weight loss advice.
The business didn’t start in pet food; owner Pete Moolhuizen got an idea to breed rabbits for meat for high-end restaurants on a trip to Europe. There he saw rabbit breeders doing well in that trade, so when he got back to the US, he started raising rabbits on their farm in Western Michigan. The business was doing well, and then one day he got a call from a dog owner asking what they did with the rabbit heads and feet, the parts that weren’t used by restaurants. At that time, they were just throwing them away. The dog owner offered to buy the leftover parts, word spread, and before long the business was offering a variety of meats strictly to pet owners. They had to stop raising their own rabbits because the demands of the business didn’t allow time to properly care for the animals.
Taylor Ponds sells through a network of distributors and their foods are strictly one-species per package, something that anyone who owns a dog with multiple allergies will appreciate. They are not complete foods in and of themselves, but can be fed as part of a raw diet along with other nutrients. Except for these shows, the company relies on their distributors, word of mouth and their website for promotion.
The Taylor Ponds website lists 10 different species of animal meat available, including rabbit, deer, duck, goat and fish. All meat is from US farms, except for some venison that is hunted. Their display at the dog show included a number of dehydrated treats including chicken and rabbit feet and beef trachea. The Moolhuizens found the serious dog people at the shows contained a higher proportion of raw feeders than the more pet-centric attendees at the Pet Expo. Barb told me she was surprised by requests for liver, which they did not bring to the show. They plan to add more events to their marketing plan, next stop will be the Detroit Kennel Club show in March.
Marx Promotion Intelligence reported that overall Free Standing Insert (FSI) activity rose by 8% in 2009 to more than 272 billion coupons dropped. Pet retailers and pet products were important contributors to this increase.
PetSmart rose from 4th in 2008 to 2nd in 2009 in terms of overall FSI pages; Target continues as the #1 retailer on this measure.
Pet food and treats were in a three-way tie for sixth for the number of new products introduced via FSI in 2009 with 11, pet products rounded out the top ten with 8 new product introductions.
Pet food and treats edged out household cleaning products to claim the #2 spot in number of coupons dropped in 2009; this was a 4% increase over 2008 levels.
The decline in the number of newspapers provides a challenge to the most traditional means of FSI distribution. Retailers and manufacturers are evolving to use targeted direct marketing to keep delivering coupons to their customers.
Petfood Industry reports news from Tyson Foods fourth quarter earnings report regarding its Freshpet line of refrigerated pet foods. Freshpet is currently in test rollout with national retailers and is reportedly finding high consumer acceptance; club stores are next in their distribution plans. The Freshpet website describes the product as lightly cooked and emphasizes that it remains refrigerated from production through sale and use. Freshpet foods combine the real food appeal of raw feeding while minimizing concerns about bacteria and the yuck factor some people experience when their pets devour raw meat. The earnings report also mentions Tyson participation in the refrigerated pet treats market, but gives few details.
I’m a bit confused on the evolution and marketing of Tyson’s refrigerated dog treats. Doing a Google search, I found a section on the Freshpet website which references the Loved Dog brand treats. The treats tie in to dog trainer Tamar Geller’s dog coaching brand of the same name and they are mentioned as being introduced by Geller rather than by Tyson on the site. There are no evident links from the Freshpet homepage to the Loved Dog treats. I found a blog post referring to the Loved Dog treats being available in the summer of 2008. The only links on the Freshpet homepage that lead to treats are for products branded as dognation treats, and a reference is made that this is a new name. If any readers have insight into what’s going on with the production and marketing of these Tyson-manufactured refrigerated treats, please leave a comment.