BY: FRANK BURDZY
Of all the product categories you can think of where transparency might be an important consumer purchase consideration, pet food should make the top 10 list. We know pet lovers are increasingly, actively concerned about how pet foods are made and where ingredients are sourced.
To underscore the point, a groundbreaking 2016 consumer trends research study by the Food Marketing Institute in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting revealed a tectonic shift in human food purchase habits away from legacy motivators of taste, price and convenience. The lower price purchase motivation is now being eclipsed by consumer interest in meatier concerns, including transparency, health and wellness, food safety and visibility to the supply chain. We believe these evolving consumer preferences apply as much to pet food as they do to human food.
The root cause of this shift has come over the last 10 years with consumers favoring higher-quality, fresh and locally sourced food choices, pushed along by an equally powerful decline in brand trust—a big concern for both human and pet food businesses. At Champion, we see increasing importance placed on the source and nutritional quality of ingredients that end up in the bowl.
For more than 20 years now, Champion has devoted time and resources to building a trusted network of direct relationships with regional farms, ranches and fisheries. We are working to elevate awareness of them in an effort to convey the link between sourcing fresh ingredients and higher-quality pet food.
Quest for fish quality
One such regional relationship is Champion’s primary fish supplier for our DogStar kitchens facility located near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Norpel—Northern Pelagic Group—opened their doors in 2002, when owner Brady Schofield, a 30-year veteran of the seafood industry, and his brother partnered with a group from the West Coast. They acquired two Alaskan trawlers and built a processing facility on Fish Island in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
It’s very important to us that Norpel’s plant is a registered food facility with the FDA and operates under the USDC Seafood inspection program. Norpel is an excellent trusted supply partner for Champion based on their commitment to sustainable fishing practices and exceptional food safety track record. Norpel supplies Champion with whole, fresh fish, including herring, mackerel, silver hake and redfish species—ingredients listed on our ORIJEN and ACANA product packaging. The whole fish we source are processed within hours of the catch and sent on their way directly to our kitchens in Kentucky.
Champion’s Biologically Appropriate pet food mission requires we use an abundance of real fish and meat ingredients rather than industrial type protein powders and meat meals. To do that credibly puts added emphasis on talking about the source—the farmer and fish supplier.
A global report on trust in corporations and brands published by management consultant AT Kearney charts the reason why earning brand trust is so important. In 2013, 36 percent of consumers had little to no trust in corporations and brands. Today, lack of trust in brands has advanced to 55 percent in the U.S. and 57 percent in the U.K.
It’s interesting to note that a recent Center for Food Integrity Study on consumer trust in food information reveals the top three most credible voices of trusted information are the family doctor, the immediate family and, yes, the farmer—an important stakeholder audience in the pet food business.
Consumers want assurance that the fresh, real-meat ingredients they know their pet needs are actually, truly in the food they provide. This is why Champion is committed to sourcing our fresh ingredients directly from regional farms, ranches and fisheries.
Food Marketing Institute’s 2017 Shopper Trends study states consumers believe transparency means open, honest, clear and visible. The pet food industry may be entering a new era of courting consumer trust—where the source of the ingredient is as important as the ingredient itself.