Feeding the Need for Transparency

Selling pet food products that are labeled as natural isn’t enough to build a repeat clientele looking to ensure the health of their pets.




Bringing home nutritious food has become a task for pet parents, as they seek greater transparency from manufacturers. With many foods that claim to be natural, pet parents have a number of options, but not every product is true to what the label says. The challenge faced by retailers is discerning which pet food manufacturers are completely transparent regarding the ingredients and practices that go into their natural products.


For manufacturers that are devoted to producing natural pet food, the main goal is using ingredients and processes that will ease the minds of consumers. These businesses don’t simply exist to manufacture food for pets, their executives believe in gaining consumer trust and establishing relationships with customers by making the most nutritious formulas. They also advise retailers to use this strategy when making decisions regarding the food they will offer in their stores.


“In my opinion, natural foods should truly be minimally processed, non-GMO, with nothing synthetic or artificial and, of course, no hormones or antibiotics,” says Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice-president and co-founder at Radagast Pet Food, Inc. based in Portland, Ore. “Retailers selling natural foods really need to decide what that term means to them, and then vet the foods and manufacturers in order to judge what is best for their store.”


Not only do retailers stand to benefit from building strong customer relationships by offering the most nutritious products, they will also gain business of informed consumers who have conducted research and don’t want to hear a sales pitch about food they consider subpar.


“Today’s pet parents are more aware than ever before of what they’re feeding their pets. But as pet parents face a growing number of choices in pet food, many companies use the term ‘natural’ loosely,” says Brad Johnson, chief marketing officer, at the St. Louis-based Nature’s Variety. “We’re here to cut through the buzzwords and continue to fulfill our purpose—which has always been to transform the lives of pets through raw nutrition.”


Ingredient labels without fillers make it easier for retailers to help pet parents navigate through the many natural food options to find a formula to meet the needs of their animals. As consumers conduct more research regarding pet food, they will arrive at their local pet stores prepared to discuss different options. Smart retailers will be certain to know the difference between those products that feature labels claiming to be natural, and those that are made using nutritious formulas and supported by clear, transparent ingredient lists comprising wholesome foods.


Human-Grade Pet Health

The demand for natural food isn’t new in the industry, but manufacturers rely on the latest ways in which pet parents want to feed their animals to develop their newest products. As consumers discover food brands that offer the pet-health solutions they seek, retailers can rely on companies that provide a clear picture into their ingredient sources and production practices.


“Transparency is the hottest trend in the industry. This can be contained within the grain-free movement, advancements in LIDs (limited-ingredient diets) and novel protein demands, as no matter the product being developed, the brand can demonstrate transparency, which ultimately leads to safer and healthier food,” explains Tim Deares, sales manager of Atlanta-based Pureluxe Pet Food.


While consumers want to try the latest advancements and trends in pet nutrition, this can often lead to ongoing health challenges that pet parents are left to face. As the humanization of pets continues, there is one undesirable by-product of this trend—obesity. Helping pets overcome this issue has been a goal of Michael Landa, founder and chief executive officer of Nulo, based in Austin, Texas. Landa notes that the number of obese and overweight pets in the United States exceeds those who weigh in at a healthy size.


“Feeding pets less food and the right kind, and increasing activity more, are necessary to change the cycle of overfeeding, overeating and lack of exercise,” he explains. “Natural foods deliver a healthy balance all around, which helps pets to feel comfortable, have the energy they need to enjoy exercise with their owners, which helps them reach an ideal body weight to fall into place and sustain more easily.”


Though maintaining healthy pet weight is dependent on the food choices that consumers make for their animals, these decisions will be easier, as demand for and supply of natural products continues to grow. Manufacturers remain optimistic regarding the potential that exists in this corner of the market. In addition to simply advising pet parents about natural food formulas that will promote overall pet well being, retailers should listen intently to their customers’ concerns regarding specific health problems. This way, retailers can suggest more nutritious pet food that relies on natural formulas and recognize the opportunity to help customers improve health problems through a proper diet.


“Natural’ has become a catch-all term for anything derived from nature, regardless of how far removed it is from its original state or whether or not it was part of the species’ ancestral diet,” explains says Mary Helen Horn, president of Ziwi USA, based in Overland Park, Kan. “We will continue to see increased interest in raw and raw alternatives, novel proteins, and limited-ingredient diets, as well as diets that provide health benefits, such as joint mobility, improved digestion and reduction of allergy symptoms.”


The new naturals are formulated to nourish pets, but as manufacturers offer greater transparency, consumers will be able to identify products that can potentially alleviate certain health issues from which their animals suffer. Whether including sources of lean protein, or omitting unnecessary fillers, makers of natural pet foods are aligning their ingredient labels with consumer demand for real nutrition that optimizes pet health.  PB


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