Pet Age recently spoke with Julie Washington, chief marketing officer for Champion Petfoods, to find out what drives the Canadian pet food manufacturer.
Q How does Champion lead the industry in better nutrition for dogs and cats?
A Champion’s legacy of nutrition leadership is founded on our core belief that pet food should respect the physiology and dietary requirements of our four-legged family members. They’re carnivores, so they require a meat-rich diet. This explains our BAFRINO commitment, which is the foundation of our business: Biologically Appropriate foods that are made with Fresh Regional Ingredients and Never Outsourced. For this reason, we’ve invested in our own state-of-the-art kitchens in Canada (NorthStar) and the U.S. (DogStar), strategically located to access the best and freshest ingredients. We make our own pet foods to assure the highest quality from farm to bowl.
Q Are all grain-free pet foods created equal?
A As premiumization has continued to fuel the pet food industry’s growth, grain-free has received a lot of attention. The popularity of ancestral feeding has also prompted many brands to hop on the grain-free bandwagon. But are they all equal in delivering optimal nutrition? Not at all. The key question for retailers and pet lovers to ask is, what’s replacing the grain in “grain-free”? In our pet foods, it’s high levels of fresh and raw meat in WholePrey ratios of muscle, organs and cartilage. They’re cooked at low temperatures to maintain the integrity of the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s less expensive for pet food makers to replace grains with carbs, but our companion animals are meat eaters. Champion honors that by including more meat in our recipes. Using fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, cooked low and slow, leads to less synthetic supplementation.
Q What’s the fundamental difference for ORIJEN and ACANA pet foods vs. most other brands?
A Human food trends are rapidly finding a place in pet food—people want their dogs and cats to enjoy the same variety and nutrition they do. For example, our ACANA Heritage Paleo formula is made with 60 percent premium meat ingredients, including fresh wild boar, free-run turkey and fresh rabbit, and we focus on using fresh meats, not rendered meat meals. Many pet foods are made primarily with powdered meat proteins that require water to restore moisture. This requires more replacement supplements to meet AAFCO’s complete dietary requirements. Perhaps most distinctive for Champion is our commitment to fresh, regionally sourced ingredients, which means we’re eager to be transparent and share our story. Pet lovers want to know where our ingredients come from and how fresh they are—and we can tell them.
Q Why is Champion committed to the specialty retail channel?
A We are committed to specialty retail channels that share our values and mission. Independent pet stores know that every day their integrity is closely linked to the quality of the foods they provide. We share the same commitment to offering superior nutrition and an unwavering belief that dogs and cats deserve the highest quality of life possible. We see transformational stories all the time from pet lovers who testify to the direct impact they witness on pets who eat ORIJEN and ACANA. This is what gets us up in the morning, and it’s a value our retailers also hold dear. Trust is everything between our company, our retail partners and with the families who buy our products.
Q What does the future look like for the pet food business?
A People have determined that the quality of the foods they eat has a direct link to the quality of their lives. For this reason, the demand for fresh, real, locally sourced food is at an all-time high. Alongside this is the rapidly growing concern over cleaner labels and less processed foods—conditions that have elevated the requirement for transparency and disclosure in the food system. These interests are aligned with the future of pet food. With greater transparency from producers comes the opportunity to earn greater trust. The increasing use of fresh, real ingredients in pet foods is a turning point for what has been a category that traditionally operated behind closed doors. The bar on higher quality pet food diets continues to elevate and we’ll be right there leading the evolution.