Alternatives to American-Made Products
As more consumers become concerned about the origin of their pet’s food, retailers should educate themselves on countries that have safe alternatives to products sourced in the United States.
With many pet food recalls and contaminations in recent years, pet parents have become more concerned about the origins and processing of their four-legged friend’s food and treats. While this has resulted in many consumers latching onto the idea that Made in the U.S. products are superior to all others, there are actually many countries that are producing pet food and treats under equal or stricter guidelines than those set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Companies choose where to source their ingredients for a variety of reasons, but it often comes down to where they can find the best ingredients. Italy-based company Farmina sources many of their ingredients from local suppliers. However, the company understands that their country may not be the best source for certain ingredients, so they will go out of their way to find the best sources that meet their standards.
“When we are unable to source the ingredient using one of our local suppliers, we look to find the ingredient in the next closest location that will meet our high standards,” says Josh Wasserman, marketing manager at Farmina, which produces a variety of dog and cat foods.
They head to their neighbor to the west, France, for any fruits and vegetables that aren't available in Italy, due to France’s high standards of being GMO-free. For proteins, they seek the best suppliers in New Zealand for lamb and the North Sea for cod and herring. Lastly, they work with a lab in Belgium for additional vitamins and minerals.
“We work with only certified suppliers of human-grade ingredients that are GMO-, antibiotic- and hormone-free,” adds Wasserman. “Prior to raw ingredients entering our production facility, they are first tested in our own laboratory to ensure they are free from any pathogens, contaminants and have lower than legal limits of heavy metals.”
Ziwi is another company that believes New Zealand is an excellent source for ingredients.
“New Zealand is recognized worldwide for the exceptional quality of its meats, dairy, seafood and produce,” says Sharon Durham, marketing communications manager at Ziwi USA, based in Overland Park, Kan.
The country has strict biosecurity measures set in place by the New Zealand government’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), which has oversight for all farming, fishing, food production and animal welfare. These security measures have resulted in New Zealand products being certified by the MPI, Association of American Feed Control Officials, FDA, European Union, Japan and Australia.
“By sourcing from New Zealand, we can choose from farmers we know and trust—they are our friends and neighbors,” says Durham, adding that New Zealand sourcing is a foundational pillar of the brand’s identity.
“They share our passion for the land, and they share our commitment to sustainability,” says Durham. “Like us, they believe that the environment must be preserved and protected, and animals should be raised and managed ethically and humanely.”
Ziwi produces air-dried and moist food, treats, and oral care chews for dogs, and air-dried and moist food for cats.
The British Columbia, Canada-based treat company Snack 21, which manufactures snacks for dogs and cats from salmon, herring and whiting, also adheres to the idea that sourcing within your own country allows for more control over the products.
“In our case, all of our treats are single ingredient—wild Pacific fish—and the whole production process is done in-house, from the cutting of the fish to the packaging,” says Lance Yamasaki, president at Snack 21. “Therefore, there is no outsourcing and we are the actual manufacturer unlike many companies that claim to be the manufacturer but actually get their products made by someone else.”
Education is Key
When it comes to merchandising products sourced outside the U.S., retailers need to educate themselves about the ingredients used by each company, and the guidelines put in place by the country from which these ingredients are sourced.
Yamasaki notes that he doesn't believe the “Made in Canada” label is as stigmatized as other countries, “because both Canada and the U.S. have very strict guidelines for labeling and strict government regulations—FDA in the U.S., CFIA in Canada.”
Durham adds that it’s important for consumers to understand that the U.S. isn’t the only country with strict government policies and oversight.
“The European Union and the MPI in New Zealand both have standards that meet, and in some cases exceed, the requirements set by the FDA,” says Durham. “We are proud to adhere to the strict standards for all three regulatory bodies, as well as those of all other countries to which we export.”
Wasserman adds that European-sourced products may actually be at an advantage right now due to recalls of some U.S. products and the fact that the European Union requires great transparency.
“One such example is the fact that in Europe, any ingredient listed or shown on the front of the package must have the percentage of that ingredient in the product listed in the ingredient panel,” he says.
Brands like Farmina often work with retailers to make sure consumers are receiving correct, up-to-date information regarding its nutrition, sourcing and alternatives to Made in the U.S. products.
“We empower retailers through nutritional training and continuing education on how to utilize our different diets to solve the many nutritional issues that the customer’s pets are facing,” says Wasserman.
Durham suggests retailers share information through social media and in-store signage, noting how it can “help consumers understand how safe, ethical and reliable New Zealand sourcing actually is.”
Consumers are starting to realize that just because products aren't made in the U.S., it doesn't mean they are inferior.
“We believe that there is a growing concern with diets that are produced in the U.S., and people are looking for alternatives coming from countries they trust and know,” says Wasserman. “Italy, a country where people are so passionate about food, is just the perfect fit.” PB