Sunday, March 14, 2010

Will Packaged RMB Be the Pet Food of the Future?

Reading around in the bible of raw pet-feeding, Tom Lonsdale’s Raw Meaty Bones, I found the following quote that set off a chain of half-humorous ideas:
Artificial pet foods are sold as branded products and thus define
and create control of their niche of the market. While there are
many candy bars there is only one Snickers. Why do companies
fight fiercely to create brand recognition and then fight fiercely to
defend that brand against imitation? The reason is simple —
access to super-profits. In contrast, raw food must always remain
a generic product. The producers will always find their market
crowded with other producers. No brand name cushion for them (RMB, p. 248).

Aha! Of course, that's why the pet-food market has seen a recent rush of BRANDED raw-minced pet foods! Manufacturers are competing to get their brands of packaged raw mince recognized as THE brand to buy. It's already happening.

Dr. Lonsdale thought that raw food must always remain a generic product, but he underestimated the ingenuity of advertisers and marketers.  Mixtures of raw minced meats and bones have already found markets, and brand names are emerging. Oma's Pride and Nature's Variety are just two brands that are gaining recognition in the pet-food market.

Possibilities for branding raw pet food are endless.  My Aloha Lab brand has just the right mix of organ meats, ground bone, and red-blooded meat to make your pet strong and healthy!  Better than any other brand (and twice the price of the real stuff at the meat counter).

Now, how can we brand and package whole chickens, whole rabbits, and slabs of beef and lamb? It can be done, I am sure. Tyson, bless their black hearts, could easily package and brand chickens for pets. Perhaps, they will be allowed to get rid of dead chickens as pet food, an unsavory thought.  Can whole-birds-for-pets be far down the road?  What about the big lamb producers in Australia and NZ? Bozo's Lamb Parts for Pets could be a winner.

Kibbles and canned mush come packaged for specific breeds and life stages (a nutritional absurdity in the extreme), so let's not pass up the opportunity to sell more differentiated products in niche markets.  Best Beef Parts for Bully contains meaty bones, red meat, liver, and heart in the perfect balance for your bulldog. Oh, you have a Pekinese? We have Best Beef Parts for Pekes in just the right assortment for a small dog's optimal health. I can see it now.  Best RMB for Nursing Poodles; Best RMB for Aging Afgans.  Consumers don't have to think about how to balance an rmb diet for their pets. It comes pre-assorted for them.

This travesty of packaged rmb is just a continuation of consumers' (advertising-guided) preference for branded products over generics. Why should their purchases of pet foods be guided any differently? One reason would be their pocketbooks. Consumers pay enormous amounts extra to get branded products that are no different from their generic counterparts – usually manufactured at the same plants from the same ingredients and merely labeled with a store brand. But consumers keep buying branded, packaged foods for themselves, and they will buy them for their pets.

Look on the bright side of this grim picture. Pets will get a better diet; Science Diet will have to change its formulations, and vets will have to promote raw mince, at the least. Vets will always be behind the curve on these shifts in consumer practices, poor dupes. Their mentors, the giant pet-food companies, will have to catch them up on what to feed pets this year.

I really think the pet-food world is beginning to wake up to raw feeding, even though it may be awhile until assortments of raw-meaty-bones are packaged and branded. Think about where pet food is going, and you may feel just a tiny bit of optimism. Meanwhile, keep shopping at the meat counter, or better still at your local raw-meaty-bones pet food co-op.

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