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Pet Food Market Trends
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Cause branding is no longer about asking consumers to cut a check or ask for a donation. Look for companies to develop programs that engage pet parents as well as their pets.
On June 15, 2010

Paws with a cause

Petfood companies who promote their support of causes in their marketing campaigns are staying innovative in these uncertain times

According to a recent article in Advertising Age by Mike Swenson, throughout 2009 we saw the launch of many national cause-marketing programs despite shrinking marketing budgets. Successful cause campaigns partnering petfood companies with petfood banks, local shelters, service dogs and non-profit organizations continue to be the trend.

Swenson attests research shows that the majority of Americans care about health, education and their local community, but expects issues involving homeless pets to garner even more attention in the coming year. Another prediction: cause branding is no longer about asking consumers to cut a check or ask for a donation. Look for companies to develop programs that engage the pet parent, as well as their pets. "Smart brands have recognized that consumers expect to hear about what a company is doing to contribute to the greater good," Swenson says in the Ad Age article. "Educated consumers demand to know every facet of your business - and that includes your causes."

As evidence to the push for cause marketing in our industry, the following partnerships, grant giving and donation making all launched or occurred within the past year. These brands all did a good job of choosing partnerships that make business sense, as well as consumer sense by supporting the new programs with marketing and engaging pet parents to act.

  1. Late in April 2010, Halo Purely For Pets and the US Postal Service teamed up to unveil 44-cent stamps featuring photographs of five cats and five dogs from animal shelters. The 2010 social awareness stamps were created in hopes that they will raise awareness of the need to adopt shelter animals, according to a press release.
    The stamps were introduced to the public on The Ellen DeGeneres. The Postal Service has been working with DeGeneres and the holistic pet care company she co-owns, to promote the stamps and the Stamps to the Rescue campaign. The campaign was created by the Postal Service to provide additional information about the stamps and pet adoption and includes posters featuring DeGeneres in post offices nationwide and an internet presence .
  2. The Planet Dog Foundation is the giving arm of Planet Dog, a maker of dog toys, supplies and treats. According to the foundation, it is a non-profit, grant-making charity, making an impact through grant giving, product donations, capacity building and referral services. Each time a pet parent buys a Planet Dog product, a percentage is donated to the Foundation.
    Recently, the Foundation announced the recipients of their spring grant cycle. Grants ranging from US$2,500-US$7,500 have been awarded to Texas Hearing and Service Dogs, Thirteen/WNET TV New York, Paws & Think Inc., Therapy Dogs Inc. and HOPE - Animal Assisted Crisis Response. Planet Dog Foundation provides cash grants to programs throughout the country that train, place and support dogs helping people in need.
    "There is a great need for funding to support service dogs and the amazing ways they are helping children and adults across the country," said Kristen Smith, the executive director of the Planet Dog Foundation. "We received high caliber proposals from 85 organizations and although we cannot fund all of them, we are proud to be able to donate US$25,000 in support of five exceptional programs."
  3. Canidae Pet Foods Inc., a manufacturer of all natural holistic petfoods expanded its partnership with The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank in Portland, Oregon, USA to distribute superpremium petfood to anyone in honest need. Less than a year old, The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank began operations with a donation from Canidae of US$125,000 worth of petfood.
    "No one should have to choose between feeding their family and feeding their pets; whether two legged or four," reads one of The Pongo Fund's press releases. "And that's why The Pongo Fund exists ... to help make sure that the pets of families and individuals in crisis are not forgotten."
    As of this publication, the petfood bank has distributed over 500,000 meals for needy dogs and cats. The Pongo Fund and Canidae have also extended their support of those in need beyond the doors of The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank. The distribution of Canidae dog food and Felidae cat food now includes some two dozen non-profit community organizations in Oregon and Washington, many of which are experiencing a decline in donations and need extra assistance.
  4. Makers of gourmet pet treats and boutique retailers, the Three Dog Bakery has a charitable organization called the Gracie Foundation that provide grants to organizations, shelters and sometimes individuals whose dogs are in need.
    "People treat their pets as family members, and if there are ways they can feel good about not just the products they're buying but about the kind of companies they're doing business with and knowing those companies are focused on quality, that they do the right thing, that they're made in the US, and I think increasingly that they have charitable elements of their business just gives customers another reason to feel good about making that purchase," says company president, Scott Ragan.
  5. Del Monte's Milk-Bone brand have launched the Good To Give campaign, with a Facebook page, Twitter account, a YouTube channel and a documentary partnership with PBS. Each time a consumers makes a Milk-Bone purchase, a portion of the proceeds goes to support the Canine Assistants organization. Canine Assistants is a non-profit organization, founded in 1991, that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with special needs, free of charge.
    As part of the marketing, Milk-Bone even has a Facebook page dedicated to following the story of Noble, a Labrador puppy in training in the Canine Assistant program. Pet parents can watch video clips as Noble grows up, learns new behaviors in his training and is eventually paired with his recipient.

Get more

Read about other petfood companies making a difference in pets' and people's lives.

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Each time a pet parent buys a Planet Dog product, a percentage is donated to the Planet Dog Foundation.
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