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When it comes to food ingredient labels, consumers are savvier than ever, and those shelf-smarts have, over the last few years, begun extending to ingredient lists for our pets’ food, but all is not yet perfectly clear, even for the shrewdest of label readers.

As with human nutrition, pet ingredient lists, due to terminology, don’t always seem transparent. Why? For one, the FDA and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (rather than you and your neighbors and all the folks staring bleary-eyed at confusing labels in the store aisles) set the naming standards for manufacturers. So, for example, if you serve your cat or dog a canned “chicken dinner,” the dish, according to nomenclature regulations, is at least 25% chicken. If your pet is fancy, you might get “chicken ‘entrée,’ ‘platter,’ or ‘formula’” instead.

Words are an issue, for sure, but so is weight. Ingredient lists for pet foods appear in order based on weight, which can significantly skew perceived nutritional value for wet foods (due to water content).

Manufacturers are also required to display the minimum percentages of fat and protein along with the maximum percentages of fiber and moisture in pet food. No surprises there, but, somehow, manufacturers are not required to report caloric content (though some do so voluntarily).

It’s easy enough to become overwhelmed when deciphering the labels on our own foods, so it comes as no surprise that pet food shoppers feel routinely unsure about what exactly they’re getting (and, more importantly, giving their beloved pets). There’s more, of course. Learn more about the details of how pet foods are labeled.

It’s common industry knowledge that we treat our pets, increasingly, as part of our families. Which means that we care, increasingly, about the quality of the food we feed them. For pet food companies, the opportunity for brand differentiation extends to the care put into making labels clear (if not clean). That’s the type of brand behavior that fosters consumer goodwill and breeds brand loyalty.

Want to talk about differentiating your pet food (or pet products) brand? Or pet nutrition marketing in general? We’d love to do that. As marketing experts in food of all kinds, we’re ready to do that. Let’s chat!

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