Pet food industry cooperation key to consumer outreach

To better reach pet owners about pet food and pet nutrition, the industry needs to first improve communication and education within its own ranks.

Photo by Vitaly Titov,
Photo by Vitaly Titov,

“The internet runs on hate,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in an article by Lindsay Beaton focusing on the need for consumer education to fight pet obesity. Strong words, but I agree with the thoughts behind them: Online discourse is often fueled by conflicts, strong emotions and agendas. Fact and science seem to have no place.

Unfortunately, the internet is where many pet owners find information – or, more often, misinformation – about pet food and nutrition. This is at least partially the industry’s own fault. After the 2007 melamine-related recalls, when many consumers first started to become aware of how pet food is made, pet food companies had a golden opportunity to open up and educate pet owners with accurate information. A few pet food makers did just that, but many did not. My own saying about the internet is that it abhors a vacuum, so into it rushed all sorts of “experts” with their opinions, biases and myths about pet food and ingredients, stoked to this day by continuing lack of transparency from much of the industry.

What can the industry do now that this genie has been out of the bottle for so long? To start, communicate and collaborate among one another. “While you’re unlikely to find anyone involved in the industry who will say consumer communication and education is anything but an uphill battle, the point the town hall panelists were making was that communication and education among ourselves shouldn’t be,” wrote Beaton on her blog about a Petfood Forum 2017 panel discussion.

Ward echoed that theme in talking about pet food companies and veterinarians joining to tackle obesity. “As an industry, we have to start working together and realize our ultimate goal is to provide the best care, the best nutrition, for as many pets as possible.”

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