SOURCE: Pet360


January 27, 2015 09:00 ET

Nutritional Value Is Pet Owners' Top Consideration When Choosing Pet Food, petMD Survey Finds

PHILADELPHIA, PA--(Marketwired - January 27, 2015) - When shopping for food for your dog or cat, the wide number of options can be overwhelming. Pet parents have a number of important decisions to make in the face of an avalanche of competing product claims.

To better understand the consumer mindset, petMD conducted a survey to determine what factors people consider most when choosing a pet food. The survey revealed that a majority of pet owners are highly concerned about the nutritional value of their pet's food. When asked what factor is the most important in selecting a pet food, only 4% of respondents said price. And while 10% said their primary consideration is palatability, nearly 80% said they choose their pet's food based on how nutritious or healthy they believe it will be for their pet.

Finding the healthiest choice for your pet is not always as easy as it sounds. According to petMD spokesperson Dr. Ashley Gallagher, "pet food ingredient labels provide little guidance in determining the quality of those ingredients and their nutritional value." While 60% of pet food buyers claim to read ingredient labels, most are unfamiliar with the official terms used in ingredient lists. And many labels do not provide important qualifiers that would tell consumers whether an ingredient is of low or high quality.

Dr. Gallagher suggests that pet parents consider the following factors when searching for the right food:

  1. Veterinary Recommendations: More than 75% of pet parents say they always take their veterinarian's nutritional advice into consideration. According to Dr. Gallagher, the best information for choosing a quality pet food is the advice of a veterinary professional who knows the specific health needs of your pet.
  1. Brand Reputation: Dr. Gallagher also agrees with the 72%of pet parents who say they rely on the reputation of the brand or manufacturer when choosing a nutritious food. "Many of the new start-up brands actually do not have veterinary nutritionists on staff, nor do they have facilities to test the nutritional quality of their food through feeding trials with real pets," explains Dr. Gallagher. "The established, trusted brands are far more likely to have strong quality assurance programs in place to ensure the quality and safety of their products."
  1. Regulatory Statement: Only 1 out of 3 consumers says they look for the AAFCO Statement on the bag of pet food. The statement is required by pet food regulators to inform consumers if the product provides at least the minimum nutritional level necessary for your pet's particular life stage. "Make sure the statement lists your pet's correct life stage, such as puppy or adult," says Dr. Gallagher. She also cautions that the term "all life stages" is not appropriate for adult and senior pets and -- like "one size fits all" -- is not a mark of a quality pet food. Dr. Gallagher also recommends checking the AAFCO Statement to determine whether the nutritional requirements were met based on the formula alone ("as formulated") or through feeding studies with actual pets ("feeding trials"). She says the latter is the best method for assuring that the food delivers the promised nutrition and is a mark of a quality pet food.
  1. Manufactured "by" the Brand: While only a third of consumers say they look for this statement on the bag or label, Dr. Gallagher recommends selecting a product that is manufactured "by" the company or brand and not manufactured "for" them. When a product says it was manufactured "for" the company, it means it was not produced in a facility owned by the company but was actually made under a contract with an unnamed manufacturer. "I recommend purchasing your pet's food from a company that makes its own food under the watchful eyes of its own employees to make sure the food meets the company's quality standards, rather than trusting the safety procedures of an unknown manufacturer."
  1. Toll Free Consumer Line: While it was the least considered factor in the survey (28%), Dr. Gallagher encourages pet owners to look for a toll-free number on the bag or label that consumers can call with questions about pet food quality. "If they don't provide an 800 number, chances are they don't want your questions because they don't have very good answers," warns Dr. Gallagher. She recommends choosing a brand that stands behind its products and is happy to answer your questions.

About petMD is the leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians.

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