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I spotted this in a magazine a while back. What in the world? You may know, I carry a fair amount of disdain for commercially made dog kibble; preferring to feed my dogs real, actual food. So, this ad cracked me up and caught my interest enough to visit Purina’s website to try to get at, what on earth are they thinking??

I was willing to take their survey, this was my favorite question:

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My heart goes out to the people in product marketing at Purina, and all other large kibble manufacturers. Do they have conversations like this in their corporate conference rooms?

Consumers don’t want crappy stuff in their dog food anymore.

But we rely on crappy stuff to remain profitable! It’s not like we could put quality ingredients in the food, then it would cost ten dollars a pound and nobody could afford it! What can we do?

Let’s break up the ingredient list, splitting apart all the grains and heavy mineral products, so it doesn’t look like the food is predominantly grain and chemical additives when measured by weight, but rather that the primary ingredient is meat.

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Consumers don’t like the fact that we destroy all the nutrients when we super-cook this mystery slop, so then we have to add them all back in in chemical form to meet the AAFCO standards. And, consumers are skittish about chemistry words that are hard to read or recognize in an ingredient list.

Let’s separate those out into a different paragraph in smaller font. And trot out the “essential nutrients” and “complete and balanced” phrases, those have worked for us for decades!! We send the message “trust us, these nutrients are essential, we know best, we must add them in because you are unaware that they occur naturally in real, unadulterated food!”

People want human-grade ingredients in their dog food, so they’re certain it’s not road kill or other weird stuff. They are also getting averse to corn and soy, because it’s in so many products. Plus, people don’t like wheat anymore- the gluten thing…

But our kibble supply chain is so huge, we can’t be sure there isn’t road kill, or euthanized horses, dogs and cats from veterinary sources in there. Who knows what’s mixed in those rendering trucks? We can never make the claim for our kibble that it’s human-grade, it would cost too much to source it. And we can certainly never depart from our gold-standards, corn, wheat and soy. How about we distract from the issue of the protein source in the kibble by making a gel, like a fancy sports gel, that you can spooge on top of the kibble? That can be made with human-grade ingredients! And we can say “no corn, wheat and soy” here! Never mind that the majority of our product line is full of meat by-products, corn, wheat and soy!

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Yes, now you’re onto something, Bob! Let’s call it a “puree” (which sounds so pure), and show marketing images that look like the leaf design on the top of an artisan café latte!

Purchasers today are often steering clear of GMO products.

Now you’ve gone too far, Bob! There is no way in hell we can make a product that doesn’t rely on GMO ingredients, and still remain profitable. Just forget you even said that out loud, Bob! I’m not putting that in the meeting minutes!

Consumers are wary of anything modern, chemical-ey, or or manufacturing-ey sounding. How can we convince them we’re none of those things?

If we make old-fashioned looking pen drawings of fish and farm animals,  juxtapositioned with photo images of fresh fruits and vegetables, it will make the product seem more retro, back to the good old days, when things were pure and wholesome. Before we learned about mass-manufacturing and processing of food that can be shelf-stable for years.

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Consumers are concerned about confinement animal feeding operations these days. Plus. they don’t like the idea of grains and other commodities being processed into their component parts.

We will name one of the products “Ranch Raised Lamb and Whole Barley”! Because people feel a lot better about a  lamb raised at a ranch rather than a feed lot! And whole barley sounds a heck of a lot better than barley waste by-products derived from the human food chain!

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Health-conscious athletes are used to “energy bars and gels” nowadays, and associate them with serious nutrition and enhanced athletic performance. They often perceive these ingredients to be superior than nature’s whole foods.

Let’s make a dog “energy gel” that leverages this consumer bias!

Consumers often apply their own palate sensibilities to their dog’s food. Though most dogs don’t mind soggy kibble a bit, humans don’t like the idea of a crunchy food becoming soggy.

We will make a gel, that promises not to make kibble soggy!image

Consumers are super busy, and they don’t want to be hassled with messy or complicated aspects of feeding their pets. They prioritize convenience, sanitation and neatness over other factors.

The gel pack solves this problem by not requiring the consumer to touch anything wet, sticky, real or otherwise messy.

LOL! A dog food puree in a foil pack! $5/day for a forty-pound dog! And this, my friends, is the state of the pet food industry today: turning on their heads to convince you that they offer something better than what’s already in your fridge. And getting more and more desperate and creative by the day.

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