Sustainability consumer

Decoding Pet Food: Because Dogs Can't Read Nutrition Labels (And Many Humans Struggle, Too)

April 15, 2024 Michael Johnson

Hey, Pet Food Industry Insiders: Time to Simplify and Stop the Head-Scratching

In an industry fueled by cutting-edge nutrition science and an ever-expanding array of product formulations, the pet food market continues to evolve for the betterment of pets and their owners. Yet, this scientific progress brings forth a glaring issue—the complex jargon and intricate ingredient claims that confuse and confound the very consumers they aim to serve. This complexity can leave consumers feeling bewildered and unsure when making purchasing decisions for their furry companions – and consumers are hesitant to try products they do not understand. This article is a rallying cry for pet food producers to adopt a simpler, more relatable marketing strategy.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap

The average pet consumer did not earn a graduate degree in nutrition and doesn’t have extensive pet food experience. Therefore, what is common knowledge to pet industry professionals is not always common knowledge to consumers. Today's pet food aisles are overflowing with options that boast high-tech ingredients, specialized formulas, and claims ranging from grain-free and high-protein to probiotic enriched to gut microbiome support.

Consumers want to do what’s best for their pets in what has increasingly become a scientifically competitive industry. So, how can consumers feel confident about their choices when the basis for their decisions is shrouded in technical jargon and science-y stuff they don't understand?

The crux of the matter lies not in innovation itself, but in its presentation. The industry's increasing forays into complex terminologies as marketing communications inadvertently widen the gap between products' scientific bases and the consumer's understanding. The result? A shopper's journey marred by confusion, skepticism, and a sense of inadequacy, undermines the very essence of informed pet care.

Pet owners have a trust gap with our industry due to contradictory claims between various brands and products. For example, grain-free vs. grain-inclusive, raw diets vs. cooked, limited ingredient vs. added superfoods, specialized diets like breed or age-specific vs. one-size-fits-all, no by-products vs. ancestral diets, and meat as the first ingredient vs. plant protein formulas. It can be overwhelming for the layperson to navigate, so it is imperative that we, as the pet industry, simplify things. When consumers understand what they are buying and why it benefits their pets, they feel more confident in their purchasing decisions. This confidence fosters trust and brand loyalty, making it easier to guide consumers towards specific brands or products.

The Case for Simplification

Simplification is not a critique of scientific advancements; it is about how they are communicated to the consumer. By adopting a consumer-centric approach, the pet food industry can ensure pet owners are active participants in their pets' well-being.

Simplification is not about compromising on quality or scientific rigor; it is about empowering consumers to feel confident about their choices and to make the benefits of advancements more accessible. In doing so, the industry fosters trust and loyalty and ultimately champions pet health more inclusively. 

So, what can the pet industry do to make that happen?

Demystifying Pet Nutrition: Breaking down complex nutritional information into clear, concise language empowers pet owners to make informed decisions aligned with their pets' needs.

Storytelling for Connection: Consumers connect with brand stories better than product specifications. Brands can use storytelling to convey the research and care that goes into formulating their products, making the science relatable and engaging for pet owners.

Benefits, Not Buzzwords: Marketing efforts should highlight the tangible benefits that ingredients offer pets rather than focusing on technical specifications. For example, “includes mannan-oligosaccharides to promote a healthy microbiome” can be translated to “keeps your furball’s tummy happy.”

Embrace Transparency: Prioritize clear, honest communication about ingredients and their sources. 

Encourage Consumer Education: Use every touchpoint as an opportunity to educate. Simple, engaging content that demystifies pet nutrition can transform uncertainty into confidence, fostering a community of informed pet owners.

Feedback Loops for Improvement: Actively engage with consumers to understand what aspects of pet food marketing are most confusing. Use this feedback to continually refine messaging and make it more consumer-friendly.

A Win-Win for Industry and Consumers

The evolution of pet food marketing from robustly technical towards simplicity and transparency isn't just beneficial—it's necessary. By aligning the complexities of the science of pet nutrition with pet owners' everyday understanding, the industry can foster a more informed, confident consumer base. This shift promises a better shopping experience and a deeper, more trusting relationship between pet owners, their pets, and the brands they choose to invite into their lives – that is great for consumers and our bottom lines.

Call To Action: Let’s Get Real

Do you want to know what pet owners really understand about your products? It might be less than you think. Don't worry; we at BSM Partners are here to help translate your exciting innovations into human-speak for more effective sales and marketing. Let’s chat and make pet food labels less like a science exam and more like a love letter to pet health.

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