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Petfood brands turn focus on desire to make pets' meals at home

A growing market in the petfood industry revolves around a pet parent's desire to have a hand in making their pet's meals. Companies are launching premium-priced products that require humans to refrigerate, freeze, dice, heat and/or mix in additional ingredients such as meat and vegetables.

"We're seeing it as a shift," said John Sturm, vice president of food and treats for Petco Animal Supplies Inc. "Just putting the bowl on the ground and walking away isn't the humanized experience that pet parents are looking for." Sturm said petfood ingredients became more of a focus for pet parents after a string of petfood recalls, including one in 2007 that involved chemically tainted wheat gluten and affected more than 150 brands. Some owners began cooking food themselves for their pets, but cost and time sent them back to pet store shelves. The idea, however, took hold in the petfood industry, leading some companies to create petfood brands that require partial preparation but still do much of the meal planning so owners don't have to.

Petfood retailers are also giving credence to the trend. Over the next 18 months, Whole Foods Market Inc. said it plans to expand its selection of organic and animal welfare-rated petfood. "We want people to know that the petfood they buy in our store would be something that they would be just as happy buying for themselves," said Dwight Richmond, global grocery purchasing coordinator at Whole Foods. And considering that more than 80% of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family, paying attention to this trend seems like the prudent thing to do.

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