Here's some good news for our industry, courtesy of a survey
recently commissioned by
: Nearly 80% of US pet owners say they feel confident their
pets' food is healthy and nutritious.
The bad news? Only 43% of respondents say they understand
how to evaluate the nutritional value of the food by looking at
the ingredients on the label, and only 41% know which
ingredients are most nutritious.
Citing a "disconnect between pet parent confidence in the
nutritional value of their pets' food and their ability to
evaluate petfood by reading package labels," Petco is trying to
fill the gap by launching a national pet nutrition education
campaign online and through its more than 950 US retail
Petco's mid-September survey reached 527 US adults with at
least one cat or dog in their household. Other findings
That last point is one of the areas Petco attempts to
address with its education program. The key component is an
army of more than 2,000 "staff nutrition experts"-at least two
per store-who have received what the retailer calls a
comprehensive pet nutrition training and certification course
developed by "internal and external nutrition experts."
The program also includes consumer pet nutrition workshops
scheduled for all US Petco stores on November 14 and a library
of pet nutrition articles, plus other information (such as a
"food finder") online at
All the materials are based on guidelines the retailer has
developed to help pet owners make more informed decisions about
A positive step
Those guidelines seem sensible, but questions and concerns
do arise: The online articles come across as fairly simplistic
and vague, without any attribution of sources. Nor does Petco
provide any information on the background or qualifications of
the experts who developed the staff course, so it's difficult
to judge their level of understanding and expertise. But for
any of us who have walked into a pet store and encountered an
uninformed clerk cluelessly guiding consumers' petfood
purchases, any type of training and education is a positive
step. I applaud Petco for taking the initiative.
The retail giant is not the only one stepping up. In October
Veterinary News Network (
) launched a website for pet owners called
. The main features are a forum/community section for posting
questions (often with vets responding), plus an Ask a
Veterinarian service for pet owners to receive specific answers
to pet health questions for a small fee. The site also includes
articles and videos on pet health topics, including
nutrition-for example, an article on the homepage titled
"Feline Food Controversy Confounds Cat Lovers."
Opportunity to engage
While that article is well balanced and generally positive
about commercial cat food, this type of content and site seem
to present a chance for our industry to engage veterinarians
and pet owners. I would argue the Petco education program
provides a similar opportunity. Even with these admirable
efforts, consumers (and many vets) still have wide gaps in
their pet nutrition understanding-and who better to fill them
than experts who live and breathe this knowledge every day?
We need your help!
Petfood Industry is seeking input for two upcoming
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or a reference for further information to
The mid-year meeting addressed several regulatory matters affecting petfoods
Committees discussed key proposals such as a possible shift in the oversight of animal feeds
The intent was to educate regulators and industry about the Model Pet Food Regulations
Now is the time for packagers, producers, marketers and manufacturers to capitalize on the traveling with pets trend
As an industry, are we missing a huge opportunity to take advantage of another aspect of the human-pet bond?
Read more of Dr. Mukund Parthasarathy's insights on the changing petfood retail market and how it affects petfood manufacturers large and small
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