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Market research proposal for friskies go cat

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Looking For The Safest, Healthiest Pet Food? Good Luck With That.

Good Luck With That. Thousands of pets died in 2007. The pet food industry still has plenty of problems. The world's biggest pet food companies pulled more than 100 different products from store shelves. There's still no official death toll from the Great Pet Food Recall, because the government doesn't track animal deaths.

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But experts estimate at least 8,000 pets died. For Blue Buffalo, the carnage was an opportunity. In just five years, the company, which boasted of its "natural, healthy" products, had become one of the pet food industry's most powerful players. Its rise was no small feat in a heavily concentrated industry -- Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina together control about half of global sales, according to data from the trade publication Petfood Industry.

Blue Buffalo deployed a robust advertising budget to portray its products as more nutritious than those of its shoddy "big name" competitors -- a term it has used frequently in commercials.

  1. It represents almost everything wrong with the pet food business, and just how little the industry and the government agencies that oversee it have changed since the most catastrophic pet food safety event in modern history.
  2. The bill expanded the FDA's power over pet food, granting the agency the ability to implement mandatory recalls the 2007 recalls were all technically "voluntary" actions taken by private companies. As long as a company's boasts are limited to "structure-function" assertions, the Food and Drug Administration will leave it alone.
  3. Purina claimed an independent analysis showed the presence of high amounts of poultry byproducts in Blue Buffalo food. Department of Agriculture agreed to allow chicken processed in China to be imported to the United States, even though, as with pet food, China's human food safety oversight is deeply problematic.
  4. Its rise was no small feat in a heavily concentrated industry -- Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina together control about half of global sales, according to data from the trade publication Petfood Industry. But experts estimate at least 8,000 pets died.
  5. It represents almost everything wrong with the pet food business, and just how little the industry and the government agencies that oversee it have changed since the most catastrophic pet food safety event in modern history. Like many similar names that consumers trust, the company isn't primarily a pet food manufacturer.

As the recalls dominated headlines, Blue Buffalo ran a new ad campaign online and in newspapers, informing concerned consumers its products were a safe alternative to those that had been taken off the shelves.

For a while, the ads appeared to bolster the company's image. But in late April -- more than a month after its competitors had faced the music -- Blue Buffalo acknowledged similar problems with one production run of its kitten food. A week later, the company expanded its recall to include all of its canned dog food, an entire line of canned cat food and treats it had marketed as "health bars.

It represents almost everything wrong with the pet food business, and just how little the industry and the government agencies that oversee it have changed since the most catastrophic pet food safety event in modern history. It's a story with clear implications for human food safety, and serves as a warning for other sectors of the American economy where outgunned regulators are struggling to keep pace with global supply chains that grow more complex by the day.

The vast majority of pet food is safe. But recalls remain routine. As the pet food industry slow-walks reforms, health- and safety-conscious consumers market research proposal for friskies go cat been turning to pricey alternatives in an often-futile pursuit that at times actually puts their pets and even human family members in jeopardy.

The market for pet food is up over 75 percent since 2000, with almost all of that growth in the high-end "premium" sector, according to data from Euromonitor International. And it appears to be a very resilient market. Even in the deepest doldrums of the Great Recession, overall pet food spending actually increased.

The Great Pet Food Recall of 2007 didn't cause this shift in pet spending. The trend had already been in place for years. But the growth of the luxury pet food market suggests there's still plenty of room for hucksters to make their fortune in a lightly regulated industry.

America now has more families with dogs than families with children. As market research proposal for friskies go cat couples delay child-rearing, or simply reject it altogether, pets frequently serve as an emotional focus for households, and an opportunity for loving couples to display their commitments to each other.

There's a reason Blue Buffalo trademarked the phrase: Feed them like Family. The market for premium pet food is dominated by a handful of large companies. It's also the parent company for a host of high-end brands most consumers don't associate with its flagship Pedigree label. For the tripled price, the Blue Buffalo bag promises a "holistic" formula complete with "wholesome whole grains," "healthy fruits and veggies," trademarked "LifeSource Bits" and "active nutrients and antioxidants for your dog's health and well-being.

Dozens of companies advertise specialty "skin and coat" or "healthy joint" offerings that suggest they will help prevent or treat itchy skin or arthritis -- common, painful issues for many dogs.

PetSmart, a major retailer, has an entire sales category for "skin and coat" dog foods. There is typically very little scientific evidence to back up these alleged health benefits.

And the regulatory review process for medicine -- even animal medicine -- is far more extensive and costly than that for food.

Leading cat food brands in Canada 2010, by retail value share

Pet food companies get away with their health claims by keeping them vague. As long as a company's boasts are limited to "structure-function" assertions, the Food and Drug Administration will leave it alone.

In practice, that means marketers might say a product "supports healthy joints" rather than bragging it "prevents arthritis. The existing scientific evidence suggests that it is extremely rare for dogs to suffer from gluten allergies.

There is no data suggesting that raw food diets -- popular with people who incorrectly imagine dogs to be wild carnivores -- offer any nutritional benefits superior to those of cheap brand names. Whatever theoretical therapeutic value specialized pet foods offer can be nullified by food safety issues. A two-year FDA study concluded in 2012 found that over 16 percent of commercial raw pet food was contaminated with listeria, a bacteria that can be fatal to humans. Healthy dogs are relatively resilient to both pathogens, but many dogs are not in tip-top shape.

And as any pet caretaker knows, somebody has to feed the animal. If pet food is contaminated, it's very easy for human family members to get sick, even if the animal doesn't.

Touch the food and forget to wash your hands, or experience a misfire on pet clean-up, and boom! You're laid out in the hospital. Pursuing nontraditional dog food in the name of nutrition, in other words, can be be dangerous. But sticking to standard-fare dog foods doesn't guarantee you or your pet will stay safe, either.

The top lobbying group representing the biggest pet food companies is the Pet Food Institute. According to a comment letter filed with the FDA, the rate of salmonella contamination for these firms has fallen since the 2007 mess.

This improvement, PFI says, should discourage the FDA from imposing rigorous new testing standards for pet food safety. The PFI comment letter doesn't break out the salmonella contamination by price range.

Thus far in 2015 -- eight years after the Great Pet Food Recall -- the FDA has documented 13 distinct recalls of pet foods and treats10 due to salmonella or listeria contamination. This does not count an additional recall for plastic Nylabone chew toys over salmonella. Pedigree issued a recall in 2014 over the "presence of foreign material" -- metal fragments that could be harmful if swallowed.

California Naturals, Evo, Innova and other brands were recalled the year before over salmonella problems. In 2012, Diamond Pet Foods had its own salmonella recall, which included its standard fare brands as well its higher-end Taste of the Wild label. Our quality and food safety program meets and exceeds industry standards; however, we are always learning and identifying ways to better ensure pet food safety.

In May 2014, it sued Blue Buffalo, alleging persistent false advertising in which the smaller company claimed to be nutritionally superior to "big name" dog foods and free of gross-sounding ingredients like "animal byproducts" -- animal parts that humans don't generally like to eat, including chicken feet, necks and intestines. Purina claimed an independent analysis showed the presence of high amounts of poultry byproducts in Blue Buffalo food. Blue Buffalo wouldn't be facing down Purina in court if it had fixed its supply market research proposal for friskies go cat management after the 2007 debacle.

  1. California Naturals, Evo, Innova and other brands were recalled the year before over salmonella problems. You're laid out in the hospital.
  2. Good Luck With That. For a while, the ads appeared to bolster the company's image.
  3. Pet food companies get away with their health claims by keeping them vague.

But Blue Buffalo couldn't change. Like many similar names that consumers trust, the company isn't primarily a pet food manufacturer. It's a marketing firm with limited control over what goes into the food it wraps its packaging around. Its founder, Bill Bishop, is a career advertising guru who cut copy for a tobacco company before eventually founding the SoBe energy drink empire. But its main business is manufacturing pet food for other brands.

According to Blue Buffalo, ANI had received a batch of rice protein from Wilbur-Ellis that had been tainted with a chemical known as melamine. When ANI assembled all of its ingredients for Blue Buffalo foods and began stamping out cans of cat and dog food, this melamine ended up in the mixture. Melamine was the deadly ingredient at the heart of the 2007 recalls. Protein is the most expensive nutrient in any pet food, and melamine is not only cheaper than actual protein -- it can trick laboratory tests by giving off nitrogen the same way that protein does, fooling inspectors into thinking poison is actually health food.

That appears to be exactly what two suppliers tried to get away with in the 2007 debacle. The melamine that Wilbur-Ellis had supplied to ANI was ultimately traced to a Chinese supplier, as was melamine that had been substituted for wheat protein that contaminated other brands.

To this day, pet food consumers are extremely wary about any product that includes any ingredient from China. When Blue Buffalo finally responded to Purina's allegations of relying on poultry byproducts in October 2014, founder Bishop again pinned the blame on market research proposal for friskies go cat supplier: Blue Buffalo had spent years attacking its competitors for including poultry byproducts in their pet food.

But his customers had nothing to fear, Bishop promised: Such byproducts posed no "health, safety or nutrition" consequences in Blue Buffalo's own food. Wilbur-Ellis spokeswoman Sandra Gharib acknowledged that products it had sold to Blue Buffalo had been "mislabeled," but said they were "all commonly used in pet food and perfectly safe for pets to consume.

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It is also countersuing Purina, alleging that the bigger firm engaged in "a carefully orchestrated smear campaign" against Blue Buffalo. With so many dead pets in so many congressional districts, the federal government couldn't ignore the Great Pet Food Recall.

Moving with typical legislative efficiency, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010, three years after the mass dog and cat die-off. The bill expanded the FDA's power over pet food, granting the agency the ability to implement mandatory recalls the 2007 recalls were all technically "voluntary" actions taken by private companies. The legislation also instructed the FDA to craft a rule ensuring the integrity of pet food manufacturing supply chains, with basic standards for sanitation.

The idea was to prevent brand name companies from looking the other way while their suppliers flouted basic safety standards. The new regulation was due in July 2012. It has not yet been finalized, nor have other FSMA rules governing human food safety.

The agency is currently operating under a court order that requires the rule to be implemented by the end of 2015. Consumer advocates expect the final rule to be a strong one, but many doubt that the FDA will be able to solve the problems bedeviling the industry. The agency inspects only a tiny percentage of human food producers in the United States, and even fewer abroad. Pet food inspections are even rarer. And even with its expanded recall powers, the FDA's enforcement record is patchy at best.

Although the FDA eventually began issuing warning notices to consumers, it didn't take action against specific brands.

After years of FDA inaction, the New York State Department of Agriculture in 2013 found unauthorized antibiotics in a host of pet treats again connected with poor standards in Chinaand triggered recalls by Purina and Del Monte.

  • But recalls remain routine;
  • Department of Agriculture agreed to allow chicken processed in China to be imported to the United States, even though, as with pet food, China's human food safety oversight is deeply problematic;
  • There is typically very little scientific evidence to back up these alleged health benefits;
  • They were initially popular on the west coast of the United States, but not in the east;
  • The world's biggest pet food companies pulled more than 100 different products from store shelves;
  • As long as a company's boasts are limited to "structure-function" assertions, the Food and Drug Administration will leave it alone.

Purina spokesman Keith Schopp characterized the illegal antibiotic snafu as a case of "regulatory inconsistences between countries" that did not pose "a pet health or safety risk. The House recently passed an appropriations bill requiring the FDA to provide lawmakers with semi-annual reports on its tainted treat investigation. Food safety advocates are concerned that problems in the pet food market may augur problems for human food, too.