Recalls spur growth of healthy options

9/24/2007

It’s been six months since the massive pet food recall in March that was traced back to tainted wheat from China. But the recall is having a lasting impact that’s raised concern among pet owners about what goes into the food and treats they feed their pets.

That concern was reflected in a survey conducted in August by Purina that showed 82 percent of pet owners now try to purchase the healthiest foods they can find for their pets, a percentage on par with the 90 percent who said they try to buy the healthiest products they can find for themselves.

“As people are becoming more knowledgeable about nutrition and what goes into their own food, they’re becoming more selective about what is and is not in their pets’ food,” said Ken Wilhelm, brand director for Purina Pro Plan Selects.

So it’s no surprise pet food suppliers are rolling out new products that contain all-natural ingredients, along with things like antioxidants. Purina expanded its Pro Plan line of healthy foods for dogs and cats this summer as part of its move into the all-natural food category. Purina says its new Pro Plan Selects and Selects Canned Entrees are made with lean protein and natural ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, wild rice and oatmeal.

In addition to carrying healthy foods from Purina and Iams, Walgreens now sells Sunshine Natural Way Adult Dog Food. Its Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe sells for $5.99 and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives. It is made up of all-natural lamb meal and farm-harvested rice.

CVS is targeting the pet treat category with its Nutri-Vet line of products for older dogs. Its Nutri-Vet Hip and Joint Wafers contain high-quality ingredients along with glucosamine to help dogs troubled with arthritis and other joint ailments.

Organic foods also are becoming more popular, though high prices—often three-times higher than regular pet foods—make them less attractive. Nevertheless, sales of organic pet foods are expected to generate $800 million in sales this year and increase 20 percent annually over the next few years. Some all-natural and organic foods that contain human-grade products have started appearing in stores that typically don’t carry higher-end food and include pet foods from Newman’s Own, Pet Promise and LifeSpan.

Despite the high prices, organic foods and treats are likely to attract more attention this fall thanks to a second round of recalls in late August that raised another red flag.

Wal-Mart pulled two brands of dog treats made in China from its shelves on fears they contained trace amounts of melanin, the same chemical that was found in 100 brands of pet food recalled in March. And Mars Pet Care recalled two brands of dog food in New York and Pennsylvania that may have been contaminated with a strain of salmonella.

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