The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

October 28, 2013

Pet owners buy organic for Fido

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Organic kibble? All-natural chow? Fido and Fluffy don’t know it, but their owners want them to eat better — and they are forking over big bucks to make it happen.

Marketed as a healthier, more nutritious alternative, some premium dog and cat cuisine has gone the Whole Foods route.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the new $25 million eastern Pennsylvania factory of upstart pet food maker Freshpet, where thousands of pounds of fresh meat and poultry are pasteurized, mixed with vegetables and then immediately chilled, packaged and sent to branded, refrigerated display cases in more than 10,000 stores across America.

The 7-year-old company, founded by former Purina executives, is trying to establish a new category in an industry long dominated by kibbles and cans: fresh, preservative-free food that requires refrigeration. With sales exceeding $100 million, executives say they’re on their way.

“People are trying to eat healthier, less processed, simpler foods, and I think they are applying that logic when they’re making pet food decisions,” said Scott Morris, Freshpet’s president and co-founder.

Major manufacturers like Nestle Purina and Del Monte Foods are also capitalizing on consumers’ willingness to spend more on food they perceive to be better for their furry friends.

Even through the Great Recession, premium dog and cat food — the latest iteration of which is advertised as “natural” and “organic” — has been claiming an ever-bigger share of the market. Sales of the more expensive brands jumped 68 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared with 19 percent for mid-priced brands and just 8 percent for economy brands, according to Euromonitor International.

Marketing experts say manufacturers are tapping into a number of powerful trends and emotions: Americans’ interest in healthy eating, the rising popularity of organic food, the tendency to humanize pets.

“People think of their pets not as pets, but as members of their family, and they want to treat the members of their family with the same respect as they treat themselves,” said Molly Maier, senior analyst at market research firm Mintel Group Ltd.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Rebels release train with bodies from jet

    HRABOVE, Ukraine — Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Gaza death toll passes 560

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A high-level attempt by the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state to end deadly Israel-Hamas fighting was off to a rough start Monday: Gaza’s Hamas rulers signaled they won’t agree to an unconditional ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Perry sending Guard troops to border

    AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the next month to combat what he said Monday were criminals exploiting a surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally. ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Better weather to aid in fire fight

    SPOKANE, Wash. — Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington State and is the largest in ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Gay, transgender workers gain U.S. bias protection

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts, telling advocates he embraced the “irrefutable ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Senate race zeroes in on metro Atlanta, north Ga.

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Neither Republican running in Georgia’s closely watched Senate race has a natural advantage in metro Atlanta, where the state’s most populous area and a ring of northern exurbs are serving as the key battleground ...

    July 21, 2014

  • How a flood of kids upset immigration debate

    WASHINGTON — The nation’s yearlong deliberation over immigration has taken a head-snapping detour....

    July 21, 2014

  • Kerry makes bid for cease-fire

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East as the Obama administration attempts to bolster regional efforts to reach a ceasefire and sharpens its criticism of Hamas in its conflict with Israel....

    July 21, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    WASHINGTON — Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site....

    July 21, 2014

  • Top school may benefit health

    CHICAGO — Disadvantaged teens may get more than an academic boost by attending top-notch high schools — their health may also benefit, a study suggests. Risky health behavior including binge-drinking, unsafe sex and use of hard drugs was ...

    July 21, 2014