Mars Petcare announced that two superpremium brands it acquired through its 2014 purchase of Procter & Gamble’s pet food business, California Natural and Evo, will now be sold exclusively through independent pet specialty retailers in the US. Mars made the announcement during Global Pet Expo 2016, March 16-18 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

In this case for Mars, independent pet specialty means no “big box” pet stores (such as PetSmart and Petco) and no ecommerce, said Brad Locke, marketing director. “We are hoping this becomes a model for the entire industry, because we think it’s essential to the industry’s long-term health for the independent pet channel to be strong,” he added.

Essentially a relaunch of the brands, the new positioning included a luncheon meeting with more than 150 independent pet retailers during Global Pet Expo. Locke acknowledged that some of the retailers expressed concerns and skepticism about Mars’ intentions, considering that the brands had originally been developed and market by Natura Pet Care as independent pet channel exclusives, but after Procter & Gamble’s acquisition of Natura in 2010, the exclusivity was inconsistent. The brands also suffered a series of recalls in 2013.

Locke commented that the way Mars will address the concerns is by its actions, including offering significant support to retailers, such as point of sale and other promotional materials, education of store employees and tours of the Fremont, Nebraska, plant where the brands’ products are made.

Evo was one of the first “ancestral” pet diets on the market and includes grain-, gluten- and potato-free dry and wet formulas for dogs and cats. California Natural features limited ingredient diets for dogs and cats.