A Changing Industry

For me, every day is a learning day, and every day is a teaching day. Some days I learn more than I teach, and those are good days.

I grew up in the pet industry, my first retail job was in a pet store, and all through my adult life I have constantly been drawn back to working with pets. My 22 years here in Winnipeg serving the fine people of St. Vital and beyond have been a pleasure, and when I look back, I cannot believe the changes that have happened, both in the industry and in my own life.

Two decades ago, pet nutrition was just becoming a thing. I remember a company coming to me with a “holistic” kibble, touting it as both the first of its kind, and the first $50 bag of dog food. Yes, those ground breaking advances happened barely 20 years ago. Sure, there may have been other “natural” foods, and even some that were more than $50/bag, but this was a major mainstream company introducing this new concept.

In the time since, pet foods and pet food companies have evolved rapidly, whole market sectors like “grain free” have exploded, and the amount we spend on pet foods has risen dramatically, with industry monitors saying the US has eclipsed $100 billion/year. In 2000, pet owners spent less than $10 billion on food for their pets, 2020 saw that eclipse $42billion. Adjusted for inflation that is still almost 3 times as much, meaning people are paying more for their pet’s food.

We are much more conscious of reading labels for ourselves, so it makes sense that we are taking a closer look at what is on the labels on pet foods. A large number of people still buy the big bags of food at big box stores without looking at the label, after all, it’s the dog/cat food they’ve been told is good, and that they’ve been using for years.

But as we hear more recalls, or warnings about certain ingredients (BHA/BHT, propylene glycol, titanium dioxide to name a few), people are reading labels and choosing to spend a little more to get a better food.

Some people are taking it further, looking for more natural products, or even getting away from processed food altogether. Which has contributed to the growth of two categories of foods, the “No Synthetics” dry foods, and “frozen raw” foods.

20 years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find either of these foods in a retail store. Now, there are stores that sell these items almost exclusively. We have been told we need to eat cleaner, fresher foods, and now people and pets are getting the opportunity to try these foods. The results have been amazing.

It took me years to overcome the industry training and bias I grew up exposed to. A lot of my personal journey was through my own pets, and the changes that food made in their lives. Sharing those stories with clients, who were having similar issues, gave them reason to give it a shot, most of the time with tremendous results. Which then spreads the news, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on.

Big companies spend millions convincing us to buy products with flashy advertising and fancy bags, that’s just the way it works. It’s the easy way to both sell and buy things. Sometimes, though, doing some research and spending a little extra can result in a better life for our pets, and for us. I think its worth it.

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