Iams ProActive dog food with prebiotics

Iams ProActive dog food
Iams ProActive dog food

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.

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HSUS launches Humane Choice dog food

Humane Choice Dog FoodThe Humane Society of the United States has entered the pet food  business with the launch of Humane Choice, a vegetarian dog food made from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic-certified ingredients. Manufactured in Uruguay,  this product is  sold through select PETCO and Whole Foods stores.  A kibble which meets the American Association of Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) standards for adult maintenance is the only product available. Humane Choice’s marketing arm is the G&B Marketing company, which sends 6% of the wholesale price of each bag to the HSUS.

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.

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Low calorie dog food study reveals problems

Overweight Dog 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.

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The Future of Immunity Claims for Dog Food?

Cocoa Krispies with Immunity Claim
Cocoa Krispies with Immunity Claim

This article isn’t directly about dog food, but may give the industry some food for thought. USATODAY recently reported on comments critical of Kellogg’s for labelling  Cocoa Krispies cereal with a claim that the cereal boosts immunity.   If you do a Google search on dog food and immunity, over 150,00 results appear, including links to specific dog foods, supplements, and sites discussing canine nutrition.  Although I can certainly believe that a complete and balanced dog food is a more credible source of immunity boosting ingredients than a chocolate flavored breakfast cereal, this uproar does raise the question of what magnitude of proof might be required to make these claims in the future.

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Blue Buffalo vs Hill’s Pet Nutrition: By-Product Battle

Carefully worded True Blue Buffalo Promise
Carefully worded True Blue Buffalo Promise

As premium dog food brands which claim to use higher quality and more appealing ingredients grow in market share, some traditional market leaders are pushing back in court. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which produces Science Diet brand pet foods, has been aggressively pursuing manufacturers which it feels have used deceptive advertising for their products.  Blue Buffalo is their most recent target; Hills objected to their use of the phrase “Contains no by-products” when promoting Blue Buffalo products which contain fish meal, lamb meal, and liver.  Hills claims that guidelines for the meal ingredients do allow parts of the fish and sheep in the meal that most consumers would consider by-products; they also consider liver a  by-product.  Based on the NAD’s ruling Blue Buffalo altered  its advertising and web site (note carefully worded promises in sidebar) to conform to Hill’s demands, but has not altered its packaging, claiming the agency to which Hills complained, the National Advertising Division (NAD)  did not have jurisdiction over packaging claims. Blue Buffalo has said it intends to appeal this decision which was announced in May, 2009.

Pet food nutrition standards and labeling requirements were developed well before the current surge in interest in “human grade”, “organic”, and “natural” foods. As a matter of fact, none of these terms has a regulated meaning for pet foods so manufacturers can use them at will, with consumers having to decide for themselves whether the description is accurate.

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Nutro dog food plans Meetups

Nutro dog food logo
Nutro dog food logo

Petfood Industry reports that Nutro has partnered with Meetup.com to sponsor 60 Meetup groups. The sponsored groups include a variety of  existing dog Meetup groups across across North America, including specific breed groups, rescue groups and the Denver Yappy Hour all-dogs social group.  Nutro is hosting a kick-off Meetup on September 16, in New York City which features an appearance by celebrity veterinarian Dr Marty Becker. It’s not clear how the groups were selected for this promotion, although I do see that groups can signify that they are seeking sponsors and Meetup will facilitate the process for sponsors wishing to sponsor 50 or more Meetup groups.  On the promotional webpage for its Meetups, Nutro also mentions its Facebook fan page however, I see no mention of the Meetup there.

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Dog Food Dayparting: Grrr-nola Breakfast Bars

Grr-nola package
Grr-nola package

Further evidence of the humanization of pet foods is provided by the launch of All American Pet Company’s Grrr-nola bars.  An article on All About Feed notes that the manufacturer makes a number of health claims for the product and has it endorsed by a veterinary cardiologist.

This seems like a natural extension of the humanization of pet foods and this is the second product I’ve blogged about targeted specifically as a breakfast product for pets.  Of course dog biscuits, which have burgeoned into an entire snack food category have been around from the early days of manufactured pet food. I would think targeted dinner meals might be up next; doggie lunch buckets for dogs going to daycare seems like more of a leap and one likely to trigger guilt feelings in the working owners of stay at home dogs.

The press releases on the All American Pet Company’s website make some interesting statements.  They make some carefully worded statements of about the healthful ingredients in the food in a side bar attributed to their veterinary endorser, Kathy Williams DVM. The site also emphasizes that their products contains no wheat gluten, the ingredient involved in the massive 2007 pet food recall.

A couple things regarding their distribution plans seem unusual; the food is referred to as super-premium, yet they aspire to distribute it in big box stores, a strategy that is divergent from that of other foods in this category.  Veterinarian’s offices are also mentioned as retailers; it is unusual to see non-prescription foods available in these locations, so I’ll be interested to see  how this plan succeeds.

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Pedigree’s German adoption drive

German Adoption Drive poster
Pedigree Adoption Drive poster

CMD Global profiles a campaign by Pedigree in Germany which launched in 2008 to raise brand awareness and sales when Pedigree found its products trapped in a stagnant mid-market position.  Growth areas in the industry were in value priced store brands and at the premium end of the market.   Pedigree’s strategy leveraged the dog-owning public’s love of dogs and sympathy for homeless animals to improve brand imagery and preference rather than focusing on a product-centric message.

The Pedigree Adoption Drive campaign encouraged consumers to adopt shelter dogs and donate to the drive that benefited local shelters. Photos and stories about shelter dogs were featured in the campaign which included television, newspaper, outdoor and point of sale media.

The campaign exceeded its donation target, increased shelter adoptions, and helped Pedigree register an increase in both sales and share during the Adoption Drive period.

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MRM creates Unforgettable Tail for Chef Michael’s

MediaPost reports that Purina is launching an interactive screen saver application called the Unforgettable Tail to promote its Chef Michael’s brand of dog food. The food is described as both mass market and upscale, which I interpret as available in mass retailers at a high price point.  I did see Chef Michael’s in online and big box pet store e-store listings earlier this year when the agency selection was announced, prior to the brand showing up on Purina’s own site.   I also see it’s  now available at Wegmans grocery stores for $.79 for a 3 oz container.

The article says the application will be available by “month’s end” on the www.chef-michaels.com website; since it’s only the 24th of June as I write this entry, I could find no trace of it online other than a note on the Chef Michael’s site that something cool was coming “in May.”  Chef Michaels has purchased a sponsored link on Google for its name but I couldn’t get the link to work today (the site does exist.)   The application will evidently allow dog owners to link their online photos, such as anything uploaded via TwitPic, to  a personalized dynamic screen saver that, of course, promotes Chef Michael’s products. I’m very curious to see this when it’s up and running; I’ll check back on this story in July!

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Pet Industry Resilience

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.

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