Pet food manufacturers focus on ingredients

More pet food makers are changing their packaging, such as Purina One Natural Blends, to highlight healthful ingredients.

Still feeling the effects of last year’s massive pet food recall, manufacturers are changing the look of their pet food packaging to place more emphasis on the healthful ingredients inside.

Mars Inc. has altered the look of its The GoodLife Recipe line of dog and cat foods to highlight ingredients it said are better for pets. The new packaging features an illustration of the ingredients in the food, along with a clear, easy-to-read list.

“Fellow pet lovers are looking for fresh, quality ingredients for their pets prepared the way they would their own food,” said Margaret Mitchell, brand-marketing director for The GoodLife Recipe. “We use balanced, healthy ingredients to create our wholesome recipe, and we’re excited to share our updated product packaging that reflects this look and feel.”

Mars said its new strategy was motivated by a survey from research firm Impulse that showed more than two-thirds of dog and cat owners check the ingredients of pet foods before they even look at the price. The same survey showed that 60 percent of survey respondents said they prefer foods with natural ingredients for their pets.

Other manufacturers are taking the same approach to cater to health-conscious pet owners by making a list of healthful ingredients a prominent part of their packaging.

Purina One Natural Blends cat food features a list of key ingredients in large letters on the front of the package just under the label, highlighting such products as salmon, soy oil, brown rice and anti-oxidants. Purina also has a line of dog food called Naturally Complete that targets the same consumer and prominently displays the ingredients.

That attention to detail has become more important now that some manufacturers are considering a change in recipes to avoid products that have become too expensive. Pet food manufacturers are being hit hard as they try to strike a balance between keeping prices low and passing some of the added manufacturing costs on to consumers.

DelMonte Foods, which makes such pet foods as Meow Mix and Kibbles ‘n Bits, reflected that trend earlier this month when it reported a loss of $10.1 million for its fiscal first quarter, citing its pet food division as part of the reason. It said that pet products generated an 11 percent increase in revenue on the strength of price increases but suffered a 65 percent decline in earnings.

Menu Foods, a Canada-based distributor that was the source of the 2007 pet food recall, also is being affected by rising manufacturing costs. It initiated a price increase on wet pet food last month for its U.S, private-label customers that included mass merchant and supermarket retailers. In a release, it said that price increase would “enable Menu to recover, from private-label consumers, much of the cost increase it would otherwise be required to absorb.”

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