Those of us who love, live with and/or work with pets know intuitively the many benefits they bring to people. But can those benefits be quantified and backed by sound, scientific research?
More and more experts and entities seem to think so. About this time last year, global petfood giant Mars Petcare announced that its Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition was teaming up with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study whether animals have a tangible effect on children’s well-being.
In fact, this August NIH issued a “funding opportunity announcement”—government-speak for a grant application—for the study of the impact of human-animal interaction on child health and development. So if your company works with any universities or other organizations doing research in this area, you can direct them there.
At the end of September, Mars unveiled its latest initiative in this area. Power of Pets is a collaboration with YMCAs in five US cities to promote the benefits of pet ownership to human health.
At the same time, Mars released results of a study of 1,000 US pet owners on exercising with pets and other aspects of human health they believe their pets confer. Some highlights:
You might be thinking right about now: Of course a huge company like Mars can throw its vast resources behind research like this. But it’s not alone.
Recently the American Pet Products Association (APPA), which represents hundreds of petfood (and other pet) companies of varying sizes, announced a similar initiative. APPA is partnering with Dr. Alan Beck at Purdue University to launch the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) with the main goals of creating a central database for all research on the topic and encouraging the US Congress to provide resources to NIH so it can allocate money toward such research.
What does this mean for petfood? It may seem like preaching to the choir. Yet in the September issue of Pet Business magazine, Bob Vetere, president of APPA, made this case: ... “The fastest growing demographic in the US population (Hispanic, Black, Asian and children) represent some of the lower incidences of pet ownership. Left unchecked, this does not bode well for such a vibrant industry.”
If that’s true, then it may make sense for all of us to start making the case for the benefits of pet ownership in our marketing, promotions and communications.
Access more results from Mars’ pet owner survey here, as well as a fact sheet on human-animal interaction.
For more about sustainability in petfood, watch Jan Hoijtink's Petfood Forum 2010 PowerPoint, "Corporate social responsibility: from whim to a matter of strategy."
See the full results of the survey sent to the Petfood Industry audience on sustainability.
US trade data show petfood faring relatively
Public meetings invited comments and provided updates
Committees discussed key proposals such as a possible shift in the oversight of animal feeds
The mid-year meeting addressed several regulatory matters affecting petfoods
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