Not Just Nutrition: Environmental and Social Causes Behind Pet Food Brands

According to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, U.S. pet parents spend an average of $307 per year on dog food and $235 on cat food. Recent estimates show that traditional kibble and wet food products still dominate the market; however, natural pet food sales comprise about 25% of the total U.S. pet food market and continue to grow. Some pet owners have shifted their food budgets to natural foods as they’ve become more educated about ingredient quality and nutrition. To further evolve the natural foods segment, several manufacturers have taken their product offerings to the next level by touting the environmental and social causes supported by their brands. Here are some of the tactics that these manufacturers are using to stand out from the crowd and gain brand loyalty:

Sustainable Sourcing: Environmentally-conscious consumers want full transparency about ingredient sourcing and foods with low environmental footprints. Numerous manufacturers focus on sustainable harvesting and farming practices to protect the land and ocean. Annamaet Petfoods cares for natural resources through its collaborations with the Pet Sustainability Coalition and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). A few of Annamaet’s dog and cat food lines contain certified sustainable line caught Alaskan Cod to help protect the oceans. Earthborn Holistic’s Venture line sources Alaska Pollock that is responsibly harvested by a MSC sustainable fishery; it also sources giant squid from coastal pacific waters of Peru and Chile that are wild-caught by established fishing communities in South America. BareItAll Petfoods works to combat the Asian Carp invasion in the Southeast U.S. and protect native fish by harvesting omega and protein-rich Asian Carp for its food and treats.

Manufacturers are also committed to sustainable sourcing land practices. Ziwi only sources ingredients from ethical, humane, and sustainably managed local farms that exceed strict New Zealand regulatory standards. Champion Petfoods focuses on regional ingredients that are locally sourced from Kentucky farmlands and grasslands, and delivered to kitchens fresh daily by trustworthy farmers. Open Farm is devoted to ethical and transparent sourcing by allowing pet parents to trace the origins of every single ingredient in their bags of food by simply entering lot codes. Additionally, Open Farm works with farmers that are dedicated to sustainable farming practices and only focus on premium proteins, fruits, and vegetables that are raised naturally.

Animal Welfare: Pet food consumers have also become concerned about animal welfare and want to make sure that their pet foods contain proteins from humanely treated animals. Tender & True is partnered with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) and uses GAP-certified meat as the first ingredient to make sure that animals are raised in an enhanced environment with outdoor access. All its organic chicken and turkey recipes are raised in reduced-stress environments to make sure that pets are eating proteins with humanely-raised ingredients. Earth Animal touts its support for pasture raised animals and believes animals need the right amount of pasture space to be happy and healthy. Similarly, Open Farm is committed to animal welfare and believes that animals require vegetarian diets free from animal byproducts, antibiotics, and growth hormones; easy access to food and fresh water; and a stress-free eating environment. To achieve its principles, Open Farm works with farmers that treat animals fairly from birth to slaughter, and partners with an independent, industry-leading farm animal welfare organization that ensures the humane treatment of animals.

Social Responsibility: Pet parents who are concerned about sound environmental practices tend to care about social causes as well. Portland Pet Food company focuses on social responsibility by donating 5% of net profits to local non-profit animal shelters and programs so that pet owners know that their purchases are making a difference. Lucy Pet Products’ mission is to reduce pet overpopulation and support animal welfare causes through donations to the Lucy Pet Foundation. Additionally, Lucy Pet Products strives to raise awareness of rescue pets through its brand ambassadors – Surfin’ Jack and Ricky the Rescue Cat – which were both adopted from local shelters and have loyal social media followers. I and Love and You focuses on social responsibility through its digital channels. Website visitors are encouraged to sign up for the company newsletter, which results in the donation of 10 meals to a featured shelter. A “rescue of the month” is also featured on its social media platforms, including Instagram, to promote rescue organizations and encourage pet food customers to adopt.

We can anticipate that manufacturers will continue to implement sound environmental practices and develop innovative social initiatives to encourage consumers to stay committed to their brands. These practices are expected to grow the natural pet foods segment as both manufacturers and consumers become even more concerned about ingredient quality and the nutritional integrity of pet food.

Fletcher/CSI has tracked trends in the CPG space since our founding in 1988. For more information about our capabilities and areas of expertise, please contact Patrick Sturgeon, CPG Sales @ or 802-448-9280.

– Holly McClelland, Director of Marketing and Senior Analyst, Fletcher/CSI

– Article was previously published in 4 Legs & a Tail, Summer 2018 Edition