A new canine nutrition brand backed by Smartpak Canine, an animal health focused catalog and web retailer, has launched a new diet category for dogs that claims it will forever change the way consumers feed their dogs. The Proportions Whole Food Nutrition Program allows dog owners to create a customized meal specifically for their dogs â€“ delivered right to their door each month.
“We’ve seen a huge shift by customers who have started paying greater attention to the quality of the ingredients that go into the kibble they feed, and the increasing use of holistic foods is an important step forward,” says Paal Gisholt, Proportions CEO. So what’s the problem with traditional dog foods? According to Proportions, no matter how high the quality of the ingredients, kibble is largely a highly processed food that consists of a high percentage of carbohydrates. Like human whole food and natural diets, the canine Proportions program touts itself as a healthy alternative to the conventional canine diet and works by:
- Reducing carbohydrates and starches by feeding a reduced portion of high quality dry food;
- Increasing healthy, natural proteins and vegetables via a “stew” portion; and
- Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in the diet with a “harvest mix” portion.
Each Proportions “whole meal” includes three different types of food: a reduced amount of high-grade kibble, a portion of human grade chicken breast in pumpkin soup (Hearty Chicken Stew) and a portion of dehydrated fruits and vegetables (Harvest Mix). The meals are manufactured by the company's LiveSmart private label line, including the holistic dry dog food available in PortionPaks.
“Unlike most of the players in this market, we have a direct relationship with the consumer. This gives us a large amount of market feedback each day,” explains Gisholt. “We try to use this feedback to pick up when trends hit a tipping point and start to go mainstream.”
The company’s direct contact with their customers also places a premium on customer satisfaction. The Proportions website is meant to be one of the few places for dog owners to get their questions answered.
“Our exceptional customer care representatives, most of whom have animal science degrees, are given the time to engage in detailed conversations with consumers who have above average interest and knowledge of their dog’s requirements and options,” says Gisholt. “We have noticed that the quality of the dialogue we are having with consumers continues to get more sophisticated. Instead of, ‘What should I feed my dog?’ we are getting questions about specific ingredients and processing methods. It suggests to us that there’s a giant shift happening in the way people care for their dogs.” The website also offers a Canine University program with topics like “Good Ingredients vs. Bad Ingredients” and “The Straight Poop About Poop.”
Smartpak Canine has taken advantage of its direct marketing channel of online retailers and catalogs, since many of the Proportions products would not be an easy sell in traditional retail environments. According to the company, the SmartPak Canine business has grown smoothly throughout the difficult economy of the last two years, thanks in part to its proprietary products. “We just launched Proportions this year, and already thousands of dogs have tried the food and many are on the program receiving regular shipments of our custom whole food meals,” Gisholt says. “The Proportions business has real legs, and we expect to soon be introducing additional varieties of Stew (lamb, salmon) and Harvest Mix (organic, super antioxidant), as well as adapting the offering in response to consumer feedback.”
It’s clear the petfood consumer’s mindset toward food is changing toward higher quality ingredients and better processing techniques. “We see innovation and growth occurring in the high end of the canine food market. It will be interesting to see how far the growing awareness regarding ingredients extends into the market for more price-sensitive consumers, and whether they decide to trade up,” concludes Gisholt. “In the end, it’s exciting to be on the leading edge of a revolution that has such a positive impact for the pets we all care so deeply about.”