US Food Safety Site – What about Pets?

I read a MediaPost article today about consumer package goods (CPG) company recalls which mentioned the US Food Safety website dedicated to food safety and recalls for human foods in the US.  The Pet Connection website was the leader in chronicling the 2007 melamine-related pet food recall, but I don’t think there are any consumer facing sites doing what the  US Food Safety site is doing on the pet side.  If I was more of a “pet foodie” I think I’d be investigating that space.

UPDATE: I’ve since learned about Susan Thixton’s The Truth About Pet Food site which examines pet food safety.  Susan takes a more activist perspective than US Food Safety, but she does cover pet food recalls, which often parallel recalls of similar ingredients in human foods.  Susan offers a newsletter and uses Twitter to announce news items.

AdWords Success Story: Happy Hound Day Care

While I was tooling around through Google’s product offerings I checked out AdWords and found an intriguing video on the Success Stories page.  After Happy Hound launched, the owner found herself with a great facility and only a few clients. By optimizing her website and using AdWords to promote it, she got more traffic, more clients, and has now expanded her business to multiple locations.  I’ve got some free offers for AdWords that came with my web hosting account, but I think I’ve got enough traffic for the things I’m offering now on my site.  As I work on the small business side of my life, I’ll have more to promote and I’ll give it a whirl myself.

Natural Products for Pets Report

I just got notice from Packaged Facts about a report on the pet departments of natural food supermarkets.  There’s been strong growth in natural pet foods and this has carried over into expanded pet departments at natural food stores as well. I have noticed that my local favorite health food store, Zerbo’s, has greatly increased the amount of space allocated to pet foods over the past few years. From about a third of an aisle with a few supplements and two brands of food, to an entire side of one aisle with multiple food brands including a frozen raw food freezer, skin care products and treats. The report apparently contains deep dives into the pet departments at Trader Joes and Whole Foods as well as compiling industry statistics from a variety of respected sources.

Web Analytics for Pet Businesses

One of my goals during this period of unemployment is to develop a “Plan B” income stream, so I’m working on developing my web analytics skills. I’ve talked a couple friends into letting me code and analyze their sites with Google Analytics and so far I’m working on the Key-Lore Kennels and Plaza Veterinary Hospital sites, I’ve got a few more I can add as well.  I never thought of my own dog site Nuance Bull Terriers had that much traffic, but it actually compares favorably to these two businesses. At least for now, if I nail this analytics stuff and give them some good SEO (search engine optimization) tips hopefully they’ll leave my site full of judge lists, brags and dog photos in the dust.   It’s good to have something concrete to work on as I read and re-read Web Analytics An Hour a Day  and work through the examples with real data.

Now this one is DISGUSTING!

Today’s Adrants newsletter included a story about what I think is a grossly inappropriate ad for the Columbian dog food brand Nutrecan Senior.  From a marketing standpoint, I think it’s telling that most of the items on the first page of a Google search for the brand were about this ad, which featured a blow-up doll adult toy in the shape of a dog.  The message “for adults only” is not even accurate, senior dog food is generally recommended for dogs over 7 years of age, while any dog over 12 months is considered a candidate for adult formula foods.

Pet Food Politics

I finally finished reading Pet Food Politics by Marion Nestle I delayed starting the book to read one of her earlier books, Food Politics which details the forces behind US food agencies and policies. Pet Food Politics details the the story behind the pet food recall of 2007 which was ultimately traced to deliberate melamine contamination of ingredients sold as wheat gluten to North American animal feed manufacturers. It’s a very scary tale with many many players in a not so well regulated or inspected world of international food supply.  The recent Chinese tainted baby formula scandal involves the same ingredient, added I’m sure for exactly the same reason, to inflate apparent  protein levels for a cost less than using the correct ingredients.  The book is fairly short and an easy read, but when you realize how inadequate the safeguards are for food in this country, not to mention the world, it’s an unsettling tale. My dog Marley has quite a few food allergies and one of the few meats she can eat is duck. I’ve been using duck jerky imported from China as a treat and just wonder how safe and how accurate the label is on that product.

Dog Time Media

Hard to believe I hadn’t heard of this vertical ad network until I read this article in MediaPost today.  The DogTime Media site claims they have 180 high quality pet site partners; the MediaPost article mentions another 130 bloggers.  The network claims to reach more than 10 million visitors a month and enables content sharing across the sites. The advertisers mentioned in the article about a new chat application include the usual suspects: pet food, big box and cleaning machine manufacturers.

Dog – Marketing Metaphor?

This weekend I’ve decided to update my personal website, dog website and this blog. I thought I’d set up some Google Alerts to help me find content. Of course it’s always wise to start with a search to make sure one’s Alert pulls up the right sort of content, so I started with the obvious search term – Dog Marketing.

I was amazed by the number of marketing companies which include “Dog” in their name. The list started with Two Dog Marketing, followed by One Dog Marketing and included Brown, Black, and Red Dog Marketing, Mad Dog, Alpha Dog, and Lead dogsTop Dog, Mountain Dog, and even Media Dog made it onto the top two results pages. I might add that only one of these companies, the highest ranking of several Black Dog sites, had anything to do with actual canines.

Bottom line, these terms aren’t going to yield what I’m looking for as blog fodder, but they illustrate the power of the dog as metaphor. Loyal, trustworthy, always there for you, your best friend; who wouldn’t want a dog for a business partner?

Retailing Tips for the Pet Department

I’m taking advantage of an unexpected break in employment to get back to posting. Yeah! (for the posting opportunity, not the renewed task of job-seeking)

This summer Retailwire published a series of pet department retailing tips from Nestle Purina. I’ll start with the one talking about allocation of space within the pet department.  They recommended a 60/40 dog/cat split, which at first I found surprising, as I’d always heard there were more pet cats than dogs in the US. Well, upon further research I found this was true, but there are actually more dog-owning HOUSEHOLDS, as cat owning households in general own more cats (2.2) than dog owning households have dogs (1.7) according to a 2007 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and there are actually more dog than cat owning households in the U.S. overall (37% vs 32%.) Since dogs are generally bigger, they eat more, play with bigger toys and are generally more tolerant of wearing silly clothes, I can see where the 60/40 rule makes sense.

Veterinarian Survey

I found a report online from the financial analysis company William Blair on veterinarian attitudes regarding the future of their business and how that impacts the outlook for major pharmaceutical companies. In general, they found that spending on pets is less affected by fluctuations in the economy than other categories and veterinarians were cautiously optimistic about pet owner spending for 2008. They expect revenue to increase most from increased diagnostic testing, which the report points out is due to increased availability of testing, need to monitor pet’s vital signs when they are on some prescription drugs, and increased interest in specialty practices which typically do more testing. They also noted a trend toward larger veterinary practices which is expected to continue. The report is almost 60 pages long and they’ll send you a copy in pdf format at no charge if you ask.