In the UK you can buy a 15kg bag of dog food for £ 9.99, or you could dig deeper into your wallet and pay £ 41 for another brand. So why should we pay up to 400% more for a bag of food – is it justified?
Well, I'm sure there are any number of reasons why one bag of food is more expensive than another, but I'm going to suggest a few possibilities which might make a difference to the price you pay for pet food (and this is true both for cat and dog food because the brand owners are the same)
First and foremost, and this is putting my cynical hat on, you're paying what you are because the brand owner has decided that this is what you are prepared to pay for their pet food. The marketing department have done their research, millions have been spent on advertising and creating the right image, they've built up a degree of trust in the eyes of the consumer and now you've got to pay for that!
Where's my evidence you might ask? Well, let's take a couple of examples and not from the extremes. Here's two lists of ingredients:
Cereals, meat and animal derivatives, vegetable protein extracts, oils and fats, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, yeast. Contains EEC permitted antioxidants, colourant and preservative.
Wheat, Meat Meal, Maize, Oils & Fats, Linseed, Beet Pulp, Peas, Lucerne, Vitamins & Minerals. Added Citrus, Yeast and Yucca. Contains EEC permitted antioxidants, colourant and preservative.
Not a lot of difference in the ingredients, but Product 1 comes from a multinational with a marketing budget of millions to pay for, and it costs £ 25 for a 15kg bag. Product 2 costs £ 9.99 for 17kg. The brands are Pedigree and Wagg. I rest my case!
1) Do ingredients make a difference to cost?
Obviously there's going to be a difference in ingredients used (or we would hope so!) But can this account for such a difference, and does it matter? Let's look at a couple of examples. Firstly a typical bag of Eucanuba at £ 41.99 in the UK.
Chicken: (> 20%), maize, wheat, barley, sorghum, animal fat, fish meal, dried beet pulp, poultry meal, dried whole egg, brewer's dried yeast, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, linseed, DL-methionine, glucosamine HCl, chondroitin sulphate, salt, sodiumhexametaphosphate
Now let's compare with Gilpa Kennel at £ 12.39
Wheat, poultry, maize, wheatfeed, poultry digest, poultry fat, whey powder, soya oil, yeast, mixed herbs, extract of New Zealand green-lipped mussel, yucca extract, minerals, trace elements and vitamins, including zinc chelate. With EEC permitted antioxidants.
Obviously the consumer has to make an informed opinion as to which is better for their pet, but essentially these are both wheat and maize based foods with chicken / poultry as the meat source. Both offer complete nutrition based on current scientific knowledge with broadly similar analysis.
More 'natural' and often more expensive foods will tend to use cereals other than wheat (rice typically) and perhaps a single source of meat protein (chicken, duck, fish or lamb are most common) added as meat meal, and may be naturally preserved with vitamin E or similar. These types of food, which can be broadly classified as more hypo-allergenic are important because some pets suffer from an intolerance to common pet food ingredients so that has to be taken into consideration.
It is a long forgotten fact however, that millions of pets have lived long and healthy lives on simple pet food with none of the fancy additives and supplements that manufacturers are luring us with now. Unfortunately, the trend is for manufacturers to try and get us to spend more by echoing the human food industry – with health claims and any number of ingredients which we would not normally associate with food.
2) All those fance advertisements: Some companies have amazing advertising budgets, and that spend has to be paid for in the price of the products (where else is it coming from?) 2006 saw the release of the world's most expensive television pet food advertisement coming in at £ 1 million to support the Sheba cat food brand.
A Pet food company has broken the boundaries of TV advertising in the UK by becoming the first company ever to fully fund a television program – on the terrestrial channel ITV. Content of the upcoming ITV1 factual series Dog Rescue, scheduled to air early Sunday evenings, is to be fully funded by a single advertiser, the Mars, Masterfoods pet foods brand Pedigree.
The Dog Rescue series will cover the activities of two animal re-homing centers, Manchester Dogs Home and The Dogs Trust center in Harefield, West London. Despite concerns about moving a step closer to product placement in TV programming, the Pedigree brand will not be advertised during the show but it will appear at the beginning and end of commercial breaks.
Sponsorship of premium events like Crufts cost brands such as Pedigree huge sums of money, which consumers are paying for in the price of the food.
3) Research and development: Familiar brands such as Purina, Pedigree, Iams, Hills and Eucanuba which are global brands spend $ millions worldwide on research and development, employing hundreds of scientists and veterinarians. This has to be paid for!
4) The impact of the Distribution Chain: Some brand owners are also manufacturers (ie Gilpa) so it costs less to get the food to the shops. Others (Burns, Arden Grange etc) rely on a manufacturer making food for them, so already someone else wants a snip out of the profits. As well as the brand owner, there will be wholsalers and of course the retailer wanting their percentage. So it is that a bag of food that costs just a few £ to manufacture ends up costing around £ 40 in the shops!
5) We love our substitute children! : Yes, pet food manufacturers know that you treat your pet like a child – go on, admit it!
Euromonitor's research has found that the pet food market has been experiencing a trend towards premium and super-premium products. This stems from the fact that pet owners are increasingly raising their membership as a member of the family (or even sometimes as a partner, in the case of single households) and as such, expenditure on pet food is rising. This trend towards premium products has also been the result of efficient marketing communication by manufacturers about the benefits of prepared pet food and this has contributed to the development of branded premium products first, with private label premium products following suit.
With the pet obesity rate reaching record levels, pet health and pet hygiene proved to be one of the largest concerns of pet owners in 2006. This has resolved in a raft of new health focused multi-functional foods aimed at improving pet health, with product launches aimed at boosting pet paws, claws, eyes, coats, skin, teeth and even brain power. Key terms included omega 3 and 6, macro-nutrient profile, wheat and gluten-free and hypoallergenic. As pet owners became increasingly aware of the changing nutritional needs of their pets as they age, 2006 saw a great extension to life stage and lifestyle products, once the domain of premium and super-premium products. Even value manufacturers are cashing in on this trend .
At the end of the day of course, the consumer can always vote with their feet and move to a different brand if they feel that they are being ripped off!
Source by John Birch