Pet food companies share a common cause and commitment to produce safe pet foods and provide comfort and nutrition to pets, says Cathy Enright, president of the Pet Food Institute (PFI) since April. That makes for a compelling story to share with consumers, as well as governing bodies and the global community.
During the 2015 Feed and Pet Food Joint Conference, hosted by PFI and the National Grain & Feed Association at the end of September, Enright said that, after taking PFI through its first strategic planning process, she identified communication as a key focus for the organization. “There’s a lot of misinformation on social media,” she said. “How are we going to separate ourselves from the noise, get the facts out, get our stories told?”
Enright believes PFI and the industry recognize that “we have an opportunity here to invest in activities that bring transparency.” To a question about the industry’s traditional reluctance toward transparency, she responded, “I think it's fair to say in general that corporate America is rather private. But for companies with consumer-facing brands, or industries that have generated consumer interest, that is a luxury they know they no longer have.” It’s the cost of doing business, she added.
What should the industry be telling pet owners and others? Enright pointed to her response when she is asked—as she often is now—what the best pet food is. “I say, look for complete and balanced, and then the components in the pet food (proteins, carbs, fiber, fats and oils) can be a range. Know that the product falls within that range, and then choose what you like.
“The whole beauty of that argument is, safety is not an issue,” Enright continued. “You look for complete and balanced, then nutrition’s not an issue, regulated product’s not an issue. Then the choice is yours. So you’re starting from a pretty high level.” If consumers understood and accepted this, she believes, “they’d bring confidence into their choice.”
Another message pet food companies should be communicating is their commitment to pets. “Yes, they would like to make a profit, but the commitment—five months in, I can tell you, I’ve heard it, I’ve seen it—the principle commitment for all pet food manufacturers” is to providing healthy food to help cats and dogs live happy, long lives, Enright said. “You get into this business because you enjoy providing comfort and nutrition.”
What else should pet food industry focus on?