In part 1 of this series we started looking at and comparing various types of food, mainly dry, canned and raw food and did so by concentrating on the advantages and disadvantages of the various processing methods applied during the manufacture of these types of food. Today we are going to expand upon this topic by taking a look at the pet food industry overall and how developments are influencing innovation for the pet food market.
According to the stats, the pet food industry, despite the overall major down turn lingering over our overall economy is still enjoying strong growth. Some call it even spectacular, like Euromonitor International, an international market intelligence provider who claims that US pet food sales rose from $12 in 2002 to $15 billion in 2007. As I found on PetFoodIndustry.com, an industry publication for pet food retailers, MediaPost Communications claims: “The recalls of contaminated pet food in the spring of 2007 encouraged owners to convert to higher-priced foods that were perceived to be safer. This trend to premium helped boost dollar sales for the category not only in 2007, but to a smaller extent last year, despite the dramatic downturn in the economy.” “US pet food sales grew 5.5% to an e in 2008 and grew by a cumulative 20.9% (compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 4.9%) between 2004 and 2008”, Packaged Facts estimates in the latest edition of its Pet Food in the US report. IRI InfoScan data showed category sales in tracked retail outlets up 6.4% to US$5.9 billion for the 52 weeks ending November 2, 2008, including a 7% gain in dog food sales (to US$227 million), a 6% gain for cat food (to US$125 million) and a 3% gain for other pet food (to US$6 million). Dollar sales reflected consumer trading up and higher ingredient costs, not volume gains. Overall pound sales were down 2% and unit sales were down 6% last year, continuing the pattern seen in previous years, according to the article. The analysts project that the economy will slow the category's sales to 4.5% in 2009 and 2010, followed by more tapering off through 2013. CAGR for 2008 through 2013 is projected at 4.1%, with premium demographics and products accounting for an even larger part of the overall market going forward.
With this pretty rosy perspective of the future in mind, I was wondering, how does the industry do it? It is actually simple. Whole Dog Journal noticed in its November 2008 issue: “The pet food industry, like the human food industry, has become increasingly savvy about marketing” (no kidding, what do I always tell you?) “- essentially selling more pet food than is actually needed.” (as supposed to make the existing better, which is what I would like to welcome as a quantum leap forward) WDJ continues: “And empires are being built from the innovation of products that fill previously unnecessary “needs”. How did our dogs survive before they had special diets for seniors, large breeds, small breeds, dogs of specific breeds? Really? A food just for a Yorkshire Terrier?”
Better yet, I noticed kibble formulas for indoor and outdoor cats. Not that this in itself would be exciting, but how about 3 different formulations for the less active, the more active and the very active indoor cat? Talk about stretching creativity to the absolute limit. I can’t wait to do the analysis on this one.
An additional category comes to my mind: How about all the foods addressing specific health conditions? How many scientific formulations can we find in our vet’s office displays or lately even in the shelves of pet supermarkets? Good questions with actually a very simple answer. Dr. R.L. Wysong in his “The Truth about Pet Foods”, while talking about “a host of foods targeting specific diseases” says: “In fact you would be hard pressed to find any controlled study published in a peer reviewed journal that has ever proven the value of any such diets over just good, varied home cooking. This is not to suggest that such publications are the only place to find good evidence. But if the promoters of such foods are going to start throwing around “science”, then they should be able to cite the medium of science – scientific journals. “Put up or shut up” comes to mind. Aside from this, do specific diets even make sense? Well, let’s go to the great teacher and mother of us all, nature. Do puppies in the wild eat differently than adults or seniors? Do different kinds of canines or felines eat different foods? Do big dogs or cats eat anything fundamentally different from what kittens or puppies eat after weaning? Are carnivores in the wild who get sick (a very rare thing in terms of the degenerative conditions we see plaguing modern pets) doomed if they can’t find a diet to match their condition? The answer to all is an emphatic “no”. Creatures in the wild eat what they were designed to eat: Raw, natural, whole foods exactly as found in nature. No fancy, fabricated, fortified, “complete and balanced” concoctions. Just the best science of all: Nature. True, some designed diets may help some animals in special situations much like some drugs will also help in special situations. But the problem is, such allopathic approaches are symptom based, temporary band aids fraught with contraindications and potential dangers in themselves, and do nothing to cure or address underlying causes. It is like turning the fore alarm off while letting the fire continue to smolder in the closet. Much better in these special situations is to use diets with concentrated natural nutrition, augmented with fresh foods and supplements. This can stimulate the healing forces within, rather than drug like attempts to force the body into submission. The cause of most illness in modern pets (and humans) is modern living and processed diets. So can more similarly designed exclusively fed processed diets (the cause) be the cure? Not likely.”
So much for this kind of innovative pet food. In my mind I actually don’t consider them an “innovation”.
However, credit where credit is due. It also has to be said that there are indeed a number of various forms of pet food out there, which in my opinion are making their marks and are here to stay. They are coming from a growing number of business owners in the pet food industry who were and are thinking outside the conventional bag of kibble and canned and wet food. They have developed entirely new ways to deliver high quality nutrition to our pets. Notice that I said “pets”. Yes, these types of foods are available for cats and dogs, granted though the number of products for canines by far outnumbers the feline products. And there are still some types of food which made their debut quite some time ago, back then were in a similar position as today’s highly innovative products, but just now seem to reach a better position in the market. While much of this change had to do with the 2007 recall, it just goes to show, people including pet owners are very reluctant to change. Unfortunately for many pets way too reluctant. Procrastination to the very end unfortunately often results in that all the sudden their pets are on the bad side of the scale, which includes the 50 +% of pets affected by disease. Fortunately, better late than never, these pet owners do have many alternatives to the food, which they were feeding previously and which most likely was the cause for their companion’s misery. In the forthcoming parts of this series I am going to address the individual alternatives available to pet owners, from raw to food mixes, from food rolls to fresh chilled, from freeze dried to TNT™ processed to dehydrated. Even hybrid types of foods are on the horizon, combining the good of natural raw with the necessary (being economical limitations) evil of kibble. And I also will discuss to some degree why these food types too need to be subjected to your very critical review and analysis. No worry, you don’t have to start learning all over again, the basics are the same as the ones applied to dry and canned food. Stay tuned.