Adventures in Pet Food

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry, shares her insights and opinions on all things pet food, addressing market trends as well as news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other hot topics for the industry.

Del Monte – er, Big Heart – takes next step in focus on petfood

What’s in a name? Perhaps a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, to paraphrase the Bard, but in the hypercompetitive petfood market, does a name like Big Heart Pet Brands have what it takes to lead and even dominate?


Last week, the transaction to divest the human foods business from the company formerly known as Del Monte Foods closed. The remaining pet products business officially became, according to its press release, the “largest standalone petfood and snacks company in North America.” That release also served to announce the company’s new name, Big Heart Pet Brands.


The official announcement described the reasoning behind this, um, heartwarming moniker: “The new name reflects the company’s singular focus on the pet products market and underscores the company’s purpose: nurturing the bond between pets and the people who love them – making every day special.”


I get the singular focus part; that was the impetus and main reason for divesting the human food products in the first place. And considering how the petfood industry can attribute a good part of its ongoing growth to the continuing humanization of pets, I also understand why the new company would want to somehow key on the strong bond that owners have with their pets.


But couldn’t a company of this size have come up with something more distinctive and original, not to mention powerful, than Big Heart Pet Brands? I mean, there’s an entire industry out there to help companies create and select new names for products and brands; you would think such a service would also be available to help with something as important as a new company name.


True, the new company will keep the marketing focus on most of its individual brands, which it rightly calls iconic – traditional petfood names such as Milk Bone, 9-Lives, Meow Mix and Kibbles ‘n Bits, plus relative newcomers like Natural Balance, acquired last year. Each brand has its own identity, website and full complement of marketing and promotions campaigns; and pet owners buy those brands, not the parent company.


Yet, I still can’t help thinking that the new company missed a golden opportunity to really make its stamp on the petfood market and announce its intentions to the rest of the industry. Perhaps the fact that it’s flush with cash – what president and CEO David West referred to as “robust business fundamentals” – is all the market really needs to know.


After all, a petfood company by any other name can still be just as hungry for acquisitions, which many in the industry believe this one definitely is.




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