In the UK you can buy a 15kg bag of dog food for £9.99, or you could dig deeper into your wallet and pay £41 for another brand. So why should we pay up to 400% more for a bag of food – is it justified?
Well, I’m sure there are any number of reasons why one bag of food is more expensive than another, but I’m going to suggest a few possibilities which might make a difference to the price you pay for pet food (and this is true both for cat and dog food because the brand owners are the same)
First and foremost, and this is putting my cynical hat on, you’re paying what you are because the brand owner has decided that this is what you are prepared to pay for their pet food. The marketing department have done their research, millions have been spent on advertising and creating the right image, they’ve built up a degree of trust in the eyes of the consumer and now you’ve got to pay for that!
Where’s my evidence you might ask? Well, let’s take a couple of examples and not from the extremes. Here’s two lists of ingredients:
Cereals, meat and animal derivatives, vegetable protein extracts, oils and fats, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, yeasts. Contains EEC permitted antioxidants, colourant and preservative.
Wheat, Meat Meal, Maize, Oils & Fats, Linseed, Beet Pulp, Peas, Lucerne, Vitamins & Minerals. Added Citrus, Yeast and Yucca. Contains EEC permitted antioxidants, colourant and preservative.
Not a lot of difference in the ingredients, but Product 1 comes from a multinational with a marketing budget of millions to pay for, and it costs £25 for a 15kg bag. Product 2 costs £9.99 for 17kg. The brands are Pedigree and Wagg. I rest my case!
1) Do ingredients make a difference to cost?
Obviously there’s going to be a difference in ingredients used (or we would hope so!) but can this account for such a difference, and does it matter? Let’s look at a couple of examples. Firstly a typical bag of Eucanuba at £41.99 in the UK.
Chicken: (>20%), maize, wheat, barley, sorghum, animal fat, fish meal, dried beet pulp, poultry meal, dried whole egg, brewer’s dried yeast, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, linseed, DL-methionine, glucosamine HCl, chondroitin sulphate, salt, sodiumhexametaphosphate
Now let’s compare with Gilpa Kennel at £12.39
Wheat, poultry, maize, wheatfeed, poultry digest, poultry fat, whey powder, soya oil, yeast, mixed herbs, extract of New Zealand green-lipped mussel, yucca extract, minerals, trace elements and vitamins, including zinc chelate. With EEC permitted antioxidants.
Obviously the consumer has to make an informed opinion as to which is better for their pet, but essentially these are both wheat and maize based foods with chicken/poultry as the meat source. Both offer complete nutrition based upon current scientific knowledge with broadly similar analysis.
More ‘natural’ and often more expensive foods will tend to use cereals other than wheat (rice typically) and maybe a single source of meat protein (chicken, duck, fish or lamb are most common) added as meat meal, and may be naturally preserved with vitamin E or similar. These types of food, which can be broadly classified as more hypo-allergenic are important because some pets suffer from an intolerance to common pet food ingredientsso that has to be taken into consideration.
It is a long forgotten fact however, that millions of pets have lived long and healthy lives on simple pet food with none of the fancy additives and supplements that manufacturers are luring us with now. Unfortunately, the trend is for manufacturers to try and get us to spend more by echoing the human food industry – with health claims and any number of ingredients which we wouldn’t normally associate with food.
2) All those fance advertisements: Some companies have amazing advertising budgets, and that spend has to be paid for in the price of the products (where else is it coming from?) 2006 saw the release of the world’s most expensive television pet food advertisement coming in at £1 million to support the Sheba cat food brand.