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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.
Pet Food Market Trends
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Charity toward pets, entrepreneurs and pet food innovation are thriving in the pet food industry. l photo by Andrea Gantz

Pet food to the rescue: spotlighting the industry’s good

November 11, 2016

This is a blog about the pet food market and industry, so you’ll find no political statements here. But I think we can agree that nearly everyone in the world is facing some level of turmoil and uncertainty, from various causes and situations, and we could all use some positive, feel-good messages. After all, if even Purina and Blue Buffalo can settle their differences, there’s always hope!

So, please enjoy this somewhat random list of elements thriving in our industry:

Compromise and conciliation. As mentioned, after two years of legal battles, rancor and PR wars, Purina and Blue Buffalo reached a mutually agreeable settlement of their pending lawsuits against each other. Terms of the settlement are confidential, so we don’t know any specific outcomes, but suffice it to say that to this point, the entire sordid saga had not cast our industry in a positive light in the eyes of pet owners (or anyone else). I have always taken heart at how warm and friendly most people in the industry are, even toward competitors; perhaps this settlement helps restore some of that comity.

Charity and compassion. Almost every pet food or treat company worldwide gives back to the greater pet community, and/or their actual communities, in some way. (Just follow the news on this site for nearly weekly examples.) Now we’re seeing the creation of more companies with that specific mission in mind. Even the company names – GivePet, K9 Salute, ResQ Naturals, for example – shout for all to hear that our industry, at its core, is all about the pets.

Entrepreneurship and passion. Such new brands and companies entering the pet food market have long been one of the key factors in its ongoing success, as they bring in new people, ideas, perspectives and passions. These infusions continue, with business strategies springing from a program to give jobs to homeless youth and teach them how to work (Lindy and Co.); a desire to support local farmers and businesses in Michigan (Great Lakes Pet Food); an idea for doggie ice cream from a 10-year-old girl in Sweden (Hugo & Celine); to a long-held drive to make dog food that led to a man building his own pet food plant, even driving the crane himself (Mid America Pet Food). Just a few examples of the passion that defines the pet food industry.

Innovation and expansion. I and others in the industry have often lamented that we’ve seen no true pet food innovations – as in, new products that create entirely new formats or categories – for some time now. Yet that doesn’t mean pet food companies and brands are standing pat, not by any means. In the US pet specialty retail channel alone, 3,278 new pet food products were launched from 2014 to 2015, GfK reported; and we know from attending pet trade shows and pet food conferences that this level of new product development extends globally and to all distribution channels. Further, I know of several pet food companies hinting at research and development projects that they promise will indeed be “game changers” if proven viable.

Obviously, we can’t bank on that yet; but meanwhile, we can quietly celebrate that our industry is alive and well, ever interesting and growing.

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dphillips@wattglobal.com

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