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.
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 July issue of Petfood Industry magazine includes an article titled “Business is Barking” which summarizes Packaged Facts presentation from the 2009 Pet Food Forum. Although I have to call Packaged Facts out on their creative cropping of the Y axis on a few charts for dramatic effect, the overall message is positive for the pet industry’s potential.
Total pet market spending was up 1.4% in 2008 compared to the prior year with some indivdual brands up by double digits. Unfortunately, sales are forecast to see a slight (0.5%) decline in 2009, but are expected to regain momentum and continue climbing through 2013.
Packaged Facts recently released the 3rd edition of its Pet Care Services in the US report. I haven’t seen any online summaries of the report yet, but I could glean a few insights from the table of contents available online. Total expenditures on pet care services in 2008 reached $23 Billion, hitting a 10 year high. Veterinary services are the fastest growing sector within pet services, with the increase in pet obesity with its health consequences as well as increasing numbers of geriatric pets helping to fuel this growth. The number of households owning cats and dogs also continues to increase.
The report also covers changes in the structure of the pet services industry, increased corporate presence, more workers, and the growth of franchising. Details about expenditures by service type, pet owner demographics and speculation about the impact of the recession on spending are also included in the full report, which is available in a variety of formats on the Packaged Facts site.
MediaPost reports that Dogtime Media has just launched the Save A Dog Facebook application with the support of Frontline as its exclusive advertiser through September. The application allows users to check out adoptable dogs by breed and location, and then virtually foster, walk, and send dogs to their friends. Points are earned for downloading the app and all virtual interactions with the rescue dogs.
For every 2500 points earned, DogTime will donate the equivalent of one cup of food to rescuegroups.org, a technology provider which creates online solutions for rescue groups and will use the funds to lower the costs of their services to those groups. This is the first time I’ve seen an organization looking for volunteers to provide technical services rather than the traditional food, toys and pet supplies for rescue.
A comprehensive campaign is planned utilizing DogTime’s network of advertisers, bloggers, and newsletter subscribers as well as its Twitter stream. Partners Frontline and rescuegroups.org will also participate in campaign extensions.
A personal criticism of the application’s functionality: The breed selection tool could be better, as my search for Bull Terriers near my zip code yielded hundreds of pit bulls, but I saw no actual “English” type Bull Terriers such as I own. Which reflects the balance of those breeds in rescue, I’m sure, – I just wish the listing “Bull Terrier” was better targeted to match the dogs. This problem may be limited to breeds with similar names, but it reduces the attractiveness of the app for people who can’t find dogs like the ones they own to send to people who also own those dogs (who happen to make up the majority of my Facebook friends.)
The animal feed industry website All About Feed reports on research published by IBISworld which confirms the continued growth of the pet industry; several of these trends have been noted in the Dog Marketing blog previously. Veterinary services are growing fastest, with a trend toward continued specialization; increased owner awareness of these specialties further drives utilization.
Pet food sales are expected to reach $15.2 billion in 2009 and show steady growth over the next five years. The migration to more expensive specialty and organic foods which was fueled by the 2007 tainted pet food scandal is creating a richer mix. Pet stores are forecast to reach $11.45 billion in sales this year. It is interesting to note that income from the sale of pets is the smallest category and declining as concerns about the origins of pet store pets grow, leading to partnerships between pet stores and rescue organizations.
Fueling all this growth is the increased population of pet dogs and cats, estimated to reach 169 million in 2009.
Pet Food Industry News reports that Mars’ Pedigree brand will launch vegetarian dog food in India. These products are meant to appeal to vegetarian owners, and according to an article in MyDigitalLifeFC, more than half of all Indian dog owners would prefer to feed vegetarian. Although we tend to think of dogs as carnivores, they actually are scavengers and can survive on vegetarian fare if protein and other nutrient levels are sufficient. Vegetarian dog food is availabe in the US from AvoDerm, Natural Balance and Nature’s Recipe as well as some smaller manufacturers. Although this is a Dog Marketing Blog, I would like to note that cats truly are carnivorous and may not thrive on a meat-free diet.
I got an email today from Packaged Facts announcing that one of their analysts, David Lummis, will be presenting at the Petfood Forum next week in Chicago. His topics will include the increased involvement of celebrities in pet food marketing (Rachel Ray, Cesar Milan), the influence of online marketing, and the trend toward organic/natural pet foods. The forum runs from April 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and covers a wide spectrum of topics including manufacturing, ingredient approval, marketing and the impact of petfood on behavior. Sounds like a fascinating program!