Petco to Stop Selling Food With Artificial Coloring, Flavors and Preservatives



Petco will stop selling food and treats containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives for dogs and cats by May 2019.


“Since our first store opened in 1965, Petco has been dedicated to ensuring the well-being of pets,” said Ron Coughlin, Petco CEO. “That commitment continues today with our decision to eliminate food and treats for dogs and cats containing artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from our shelves. Some may question whether this makes good business sense, but putting pets’ health first has always been the right thing to do for Petco. This is both a major step forward for pets and a natural next step on our journey to become a complete partner in total pet wellness. We hope the rest of the pet industry will join us on this path to better health for the pets we love.”


In 2014, Petco became the first national specialty retailer to discontinue the sale of China-made treats following consumer concerns about the safety of such products.


In January 2019, Petco will begin removing dog and cat food and treats with artificial ingredients from store shelves and e-commerce, with a commitment to complete the process by May 2019. Some of the more than 40 artificial ingredients Petco is eliminating include FD&C Red No. 3, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hytroxytoluene BHT), Glycerol tributyrate and benzaldehyde. 


“We’re inviting pet food companies to join us on this journey, even working hand-in-hand with some to pursue potential ingredient changes to meet our new ingredient standards,” said Nick Konat, co-chief merchandising officer for Petco. “In cases where an existing brand is unable to update some or all of their products to meet our criteria by May of 2019, we will stop carrying either specific products or the brand entirely, and we’ll help pet parents affected by such a change to safely transition to a new food or brand that we believe is healthier for their pet.”


The change also reflects one of the top concerns pet parents have today: nutrition. It’s no coincidence that pet food trends follow closely behind human food trends. According to a recent survey, 87 percent of pet parents say feeding their pet food made with no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no artificial preservatives is important to pet’s health and well-being, with 59 percent of vets agreeing that pet owners should actively seek out foods without those ingredients. Furthermore, 95 percent of pet parents believe their pet’s diet and nutrition is essential to their pet’s overall health and wellness, yet more than half (56 percent) say finding healthy products for their pets is confusing, with another 47 percent reporting that finding healthy products for their pet is difficult.


“Pet parents are seeking answers that help assure them they are making the right choices,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, Diplomate ACVPM and director of veterinary medicine at Petco. “We’re stepping out ahead of the industry here because we believe it’s the right thing to do. With Petco’s new nutrition standards, we will only offer food that we believe supports overall pet health and wellness, making the decision process much easier for pet parents.”


Petco has worked closely with in-house and consultant veterinarians, nutritionists and wellness experts to inform its decision and its new standards for pet nutrition.


As part of this initiative, Petco will launch the Petco Pet Wellness Institute in 2019, a coalition of experts from all spectrums of pet health and wellness. Together, veterinarians, nutritionists, pet psychologists, academic researchers and other credentialed leaders will ensure Petco is offering the best information, education and services not only for nutrition, but for a wide array of topics and issues impacting pets’ overall health and well-being. Part of the Institute’s mandate will be funding evidence-based research to help further understand and define industry-wide issues, including the impact of food and ingredients on pet health. While data around pet wellness is currently limited, the institute will help provide clarity and inform Petco’s initiatives, ensuring the brand is continuing to meet the demands of modern pet parents.


While Petco’s transformation will affect certain brands, and ideally motivate companies to change ingredients, the company already carries plenty of high-quality, specially formulated foods that already meet and even exceed its new standards. In addition, Petco currently offers a variety of products, services and advice to help pet parents care for the complete health of their pets at every stage of life. Pet parents looking for guidance on what to feed their pets can find information available in-store by consulting with Petco’s knowledgeable employees, including Petco-certified pet food specialists.


“The goal here is superior health and well-being for the pets that bring so much love and joy to our lives,” said Coughlin. “Our bold nutrition stance combined with our continued expansion of veterinary services in our stores, are great examples of the many ways we’re evolving to meet the needs of modern pet parents.”


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