Marketing Boosts Grain Free Dog Food Sales

Grain free dog foods are the fastest growing segment of the dog food market, up 9% in the past year, while sales of foods with grains are down slightly. Over half of all new dog foods introduced in 2017 were grain free, and companies that stated earlier they would not jump on the grain free trend have joined in, according to an article in the January 2018 edition of Petfood Industry magazine. This is one of the most striking examples of how pet food trends follow human food trends, and a great example of opportunistic product development and marketing driving the trend.

The parallel trend in human food is the growth of gluten free foods, which have seen sales increase steadily over the past several years.  A look at Google searches for gluten-free food and grain-free dog food show the dog food trend is trailing the human trend, but following a similar trajectory.

 

Given the interest in grain free foods, pet food companies are more than willing to fulfill demand by offering more of these premium priced foods. Marketing for these foods emphasizes what is not in the foods rather than what is in the foods and implies that these processed foods are more like what wild canids eat than other processed foods whose carbohydrates are provided by grains rather than starchy vegetables and legumes.

While there is no question that qluten-free foods are essential for the health of humans with celiac disease, they are being sought out and consumed by a much wider group of the U.S. population who believe these products promote health in many ways that have not been scientifically confirmed.  Similarly, grain-free dog foods make sense for dogs  with known allergies to specific grains, they are also being fed to a much wider group of dogs. The veterinary community is not convinced grain-free foods are  more beneficial than other well formulated foods. 

It will be interesting to see how long grain free products continue to show above average growth, as two other human diet trends, paleolithic diets and ancient grains, are starting to emerge in commercial dog food.

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DOGTV – The First Television Channel for dogs

Dog TV logoThis week the New York Times reported on a new cable channel, Dog TV; the story was also picked up by MediaPost.  The first thought that came to my mind, was how are they monetizing this? What advertiser in their right mind would buy space targeted to the canine demographic?  Turns out it’s a pay channel, now only available in San Diego, as an online stream, and an iPhone app.  A national launch is in the plans for late this year.

The premise is that Dog TV is something for your dog to watch while you’re not home, helping to relieve dog owner guilt at leaving the dog alone, further proof people want to offer services for their dogs as they would for human family members.  The channel also purports to help dogs acclimate to a variety of sounds and encourages the dog to relax at certain times and be alert at others.  I’ve spent enough days home with my dogs to know that adult dogs spend most of the day sleeping; I’m not sure they’d go out of their way to wake up for a favorite program.

Overall, the channel is doing a  great job with PR and social media getting the word out as they work toward a the national rollout.  I’m not sure I’ll be popping for an additional premium channel for my dogs, but I’ll check it out if appears in the local cable lineup.

 

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Pets in America book review

Pets in America I just finished reading Pets in America by historian Katherine C. Grier, published in hard cover in 2006 and paperback in 2007.  Although I found it a bit dry in places, overall it is a fascinating account of the subject. The book includes a tremendous amount of information about the marketing of pets, pet products, and retailing of all things related to pets.   Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the topic, for a longer review I’ll refer you to Alida Baker’s in the New York Times.

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Packaged Facts at the Petfood Forum

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!

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Interview with Marion Nestle: Pet Food Politics

There’s a great interview with Marion Nestle, author of “Pet Food Politics” by Christie Keith on the Pet Connection blog. I loved that book and am very much looking forward to publication of her next one “What Pets Eat.”  The interview talks about the 2007 pet food recall, different ways to feed pets, and general issues with the food supply in this country.

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Dog Cloning article in New York Times

Tim O’Reilly’s twitter alerted me to a new article on cloned dogs in the New York Times. The Korean lab that first cloned an Afgan hound 3 years ago is still at it, and his article profiles 4 dogs cloned from “Missy” a border collie – husky mix.  As a dog breeder, the cloning of dogs seems like a cross between cheating and giving up. That elusive “perfect” dog is still not here, and in a way, I like to think we’ll never get there, just continuing to work on our own approximations of that dog in our own interpretation of the breed standard intermixed with our own preferences in dog personality.  Although I’ve been very attached to each of my dogs and regret they leave us so soon, I also revel in the unique personality of each one and really don’t think I’d like to have the same dog over and over again when I can see that dog in it’s offspring’s eyes, but mixed with something else that makes each animal unique.

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