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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
For Buyers of Premium Pet Food, Made in the USA is A-OK
Critically acclaimed television show Modern Family, which airs on the ABC network, reveals that American families in the 21st Century are not only collages of cultures, lifestyle preferences, and generational gaps, but they are also often incomplete without their pets. Modern Family’s French bulldog Stella is so popular that when news broke announcing that Brigitte, the canine thespian portraying Stella, would be replaced by a look-alike, irate commentary set the blogosphere ablaze. Apparently Americans are as protective of the sanctity of their television families as they are of their real life households.
Over the past few years, humanization and pet parenting have become hallmarks of the pet industry. Not only do more Americans consider their pets to be full-fledged members of their families, but an increasing number are willing to spend money on premium products designed to safeguard the long-term health and comfort of their furry, feathered, and scaly companions. And so with pet food product recalls occurring on an alarmingly regular basis, pet owners and retailers are more curious than ever about where the ingredients in the foods they give their pets come from, and increasingly demanding products made with ingredients sourced as close to home as possible. As a result, “Made in the USA” themes have recently become commonplace in the world of superpremium pet food. Taking this approach to the limit, in fall 2009 Precise Pet Products ran a full-page trade ad in Pet Product News International headlined “We make our own food. Go figure.”—a claim referring to the fact that the company operates its own plants as opposed to relying on co-packers outside its immediate control. Additional copy is similarly to the point, stating that “These days, it’s hard to know exactly where the pet food you buy is actually made. Unless of course, it’s Precise. We make all of our premium, pet foods right here in America. Using only the finest all-natural ingredients.”
During 2011 and 2012, the “Made in the USA” trend continued. Now under the wing of Merrick, Castor & Pollux prominently displays a “Made in the USA” banner image on the home page of its website. A trade ad for Against the Grain, a new entrant to the pet market, flags that the company is family owned and that all of its products are U.S.-made. Also proudly “Made in the USA” is Herbsmith’s new Smiling Dog line of freeze-dried treats, whose advertising further specifies that the products are “produced in the great state of Wisconsin.”
Recalls also spurred interest in products made from ingredients that are locally grown, a trend that dovetails with such green initiatives as fostering smaller carbon footprints and reducing “food miles” (the distance a food must travel from point of origin to end user). Following the recalls, human-grade organic pet food producer Evanger’s trumpeted that it buys all of its ingredients locally, purchasing most of them within 40 miles of its plant. Similarly, Freshpet told the press that all of the ingredients in its refrigerated pet foods “are fresh, never frozen or preprocessed prior to cooking and all are locally sourced from the United States using stringent quality standards.”On its website, Paw Naturaw makes a point that it is “a small family-owned and -operated company dedicated to producing safe, pure and healthy food for your fur-family member with the highest quality organic and free range meats sourced as locally as possible and always within the continental United States from documented family farms.”
In a similar vein, some marketers are prominently stating not just where their pet food ingredients come from, but where they don’t come from. In January 2009, Natura Pet Products announced that every ingredient used in its holistic formulas would be sourced from trusted non-Chinese suppliers, including supplements which had previously been available only from China. And in 2011, The Honest Kitchen continued the trend by implementing a system of vendor pledges including that ingredients not originate from China.