Friday, December 31, 2010

US food safety legislation passes -- finally

It's been quite a roller coaster ride for S. 510, the new Food Safety Modernization Act, but it finally passed the US Congress on December 21, 2010, and is headed for President Obama's desk to be signed into law before the end of the year.
Among other provisions, the new law expands the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over about 80% of the US food supply -- not including meat and poultry products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture but including most petfood products -- with mandatory recall powers and expanded access to producers' records. (Currently FDA can only recommend recalls, not mandate them.)
 S. 510 also requires foreign manufacturers importing food into the US to meet the same standards as US growers and facilities, which includes implementing food safety plans and being able to prove they're being followed.
 This provision regarding food safety programs has perhaps the most implications for petfood. I've talked recently with people in the industry, including an executive with a major supplier, who are concerned some smaller petfood manufacturers have no clue how to go about setting up a safety or sanitation program (or how to prove if they already have and follow one).
 This person also relayed anecdotally that inspectors don't necessarily understand petfood processing and how it relates to ensuring and proving safety. For example, he cited a story about an inspector telling a petfood processor that its extruder was a source of contamination -- when in fact, the high heat of extrusion usually kills pathogens and toxins.
 So, a good deal of education and information is needed, and Petfood Industry will try to supply as much as we can. Meanwhile, don't hesitate to start reaching out to people you know in the industry -- suppliers, consultants, peers at other manufacturers, university experts -- to ask for advice or helpful sources of information.
 It will take a while for FDA and other agencies involved to write and implement the regulations coming out of S. 510, but rest assured, those are coming.

Burns Pet Nutrition saves UK pet shop from closing

When Jim Burns, owner of Burns Pet Nutrition, took over the lease of Pets Corner in early December, he saved the only pet shop in the town of Carmarthen, UK.
The shop's previous owner, Grace Jones, ran the pet shop for 22 years before announcing her retirement and the closing of Pets Corner.
"When I heard that Carmarthen was about to lose its only independent pet shop I knew that I had to do something. Taking over the shop seemed the logical answer,” Burns said. “Burns has always encouraged its customers to support local traders. Small local shops are a vital part of the community especially for older customers and those without their own transport."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eagle Pack sponsors sweepstakes to Alaska for 2011 Iditarod

WellPet LLC's Eagle Pack, named "official dog food" of the 2011 Iditarod, is sponsoring a sweepstakes to send one winner and their guest to Alaska, USA, to watch the dog sled race.
The "Win a Trip for 2 to Alaska for the 2011 Iditarod" contest can be entered online and will accept entries until Jan. 21, 2011. The Iditarod  is scheduled to begin March 5, 2011 in Big Lake, Alaska, USA.

PackTV offers petfood manufacturers new packaging ideas

PackTV is a recently-launched webTV channel targeting manufacturers and retailers, including those in the petfood industry, looking for new product packaging ideas.
PackTV broadcasts new packaging options and its "10 of the Best" weekly, as well as interviews with industry leaders.
"Busy people want to see what’s new, quickly, in a fun way,” said Simon Twilley, managing director of PackTV. “That’s why we have launched PackTV. Also video is a great way to hear not only what industry experts say, but also how they say it.”
To watch, visit the PackTV website or e-mail info@PackTV.co.uk to receive weekly “10 of the Best” updates.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

AFIA commends Congress on enacting landmark food safety legislation

The American Feed Industry Association is commending Congress for its diligence in enacting the sweeping changes in FDA oversight of American food safety in more than 70 years. The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 carries several firewalls to ensure human food regulations are not inappropriately applied to animal feed and petfoods and gives FDA first-time mandatory recall authority, but with administrative protections for regulated industry.
“We congratulate and thank Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for not letting up in their effort to get the Senate food safety bill (S. 510) passed – and passed again," said Joel Newman, AFIA president and CEO.
“The end result of the Senate’s hard work is an even-handed set of new authorities, supported by agriculture, the food industry and consumer groups, allowing FDA to increase food safety protection without unduly burdening the industry."
Newman said the new law carries several additional requirements for FDA to recognize sourcing and production practices unique to the feed industry, including the need to buy ingredients from elevators and others who commingle grains and oilseeds from several farms, and to ensure FDA can exempt the feed and petfood industries from certain regulations when appropriate. Also in the law is new FDA authority to recognize and officially approve the use of third-party compliance, inspection and testing organizations as part of compliance regimens.
The new law does not impose registration fees on companies as the House-passed bill authorized, and does authorize user fees to pay the government’s cost of a mandatory recall, facility re-inspections, export certification and the voluntary importer inspection program.
The bill saw bipartisan support and support from a variety of consumer groups and associations. Critics said the law will stretch the federal government's reach without improving food safety.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Appeals court rules in class-action petfood lawsuit

A 3rd District US Court of Appeals ruled that a US$24 million class-action lawsuit settlement over melamine-contaminated petfood was a "fair, reasonable and adequate" deal, but sent the case back to a New Jersey district court judge for more information.
The appeals court sent the case back to New Jersey US District Court Judge Noel Hillman, who originally approved the deal in November 2008, for more information supporting the purchase-claim limit of US$250,000. According to the appellate court decision, 20,550 of the 24,344 claims submitted in the suit were deemed payable for a total estimated amount of US26.4 million, which exceeds the settlement fund by more than US$2 million. Appeals filed by two separate parties previously blocked disbursements from this settlement fund. Lisa Rodriguez, liaison counsel for the multiple class-action suits covered by the settlement, described the appeals court’s concern as minor and said that claimants may seek reimbursement in a number of categories, including purchases, but that the decision generally favors the claimants.
The petfood scandal originated with Chinese suppliers that tried to boost the protein contents of their products by spiking wheat gluten and rice protein with nitrogen-rich melamine, a substance not approved for human consumption. The tainted product was imported by ChemNutra and sold to Menu Foods, a private label petfood manufacturer. It also affected several other petfood makers, including Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Mars Inc., Nestle Purina PetCare Co., The Iams Co., and Procter & Gamble. More information on the settlement and associated legal documents can be found here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Purina sponsors 'Project: Pet Slim Down' to fight pet obesity

In an effort to fight pet obesity, Purina Veterinary Diets has put together "Project: Pet Slim Down," a nationwide program that unites veterinarians and pet owners in helping pets lose weight. 
The online program, which allows owners to get advice for and track their pet's weight loss, focuses on shrinking the growing number of overweight cats and dogs in the US. According to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese. "Pet owners might mistakenly think that a pudgy dog or cat is cute, without realizing this extra weight puts the pet at a greater risk for developing serious health problems, including arthritis and diabetes," said Dr. Grace Long, a veterinarian with Nestle Purina. "But the good news is that with proper nutrition and exercise, pet obesity can be reversed." 

For better or worse, recalls still bring intense scrutiny to the industry

Late last week a US appellate court ruled that a settlement in a class action-lawsuit stemming from the 2007 petfood recalls was "fair, reasonable and adequate" -- except for one area regarding the amount of money due to each claimant. So back goes the case again to a New Jersey district court judge for more information and clarification.
 Claimants who saw their pets become ill or, worse, die from eating contaminated products may be wondering if they will ever see closure on this (not to mention whether any judge or other person can put a price on the value of a beloved pet). And many petfood manufacturers whose products were involved may be thinking that they had moved on from that incident long ago.
 But I don't think true closure is even possible, because those massive recalls were such a game-changer for pet owners and the petfood industry.
 Pet owners, most of whom had been unaware of how their pets' food was made or what it was made of, suddenly started learning and wanting to know much more about petfood ingredients, processing, regulation and testing. And that created a paradigm shift in how our industry communicated with consumers -- or at least in how we should communicate and the kind of information consumers now expect.
 In addition, the 2007 petfood recalls led to new legislation, such as the Food and Drug Admendment Act passed later that year, that created new regulatory mechanisms like the Reportable Food Registry that all petfood (and human food) producers must now use. The newly passed Food Safety Modernization Act will bring further changes and regulations.
 Perhaps the most significant reason there will never be closure on the 2007 recalls is that petfood recalls still happen fairly frequently; Kroger just announced one this past week. In fact, recalls seem to be more frequent than ever, partially because of the increased reporting requirements under the Registry.
 Of course, petfood recalls happened before 2007. It's just that the scope of the recalls that spring -- in terms of the number of products, companies, pets and owners affected -- was unprecedented, ensuring that no one will ever be able to look at petfood recalls the same again. Which means no one will ever look at the industry the same, either. For better or worse.

Zuke's doubles December contributions to Dog, Cat Cancer Fund

Zuke's is increasing its annual contribution to the Dog and Cat Cancer Fund (DCCF) by doubling December's donations.
Each year, the company donates a portion of the sales from its natural pet treats and chews to DCCF in honor of the company's canine namesake, Zuke, who was a victim of cancer. "My dog, Zuke, inspired the idea behind the company and is also the inspiration for our commitment to the Dog and Cat Cancer Fund," said founder and CEO Patrick Meiering. "We are hopeful that our contributions will help fund research to treat the disease, as well as help fund treatment for those pets who are fighting cancer." 
According to Pet Care TV, 60% of all dogs will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and cancer is the leading natural cause of canine death.

UK charity study: one in five dogs overweight

UK veterinary charity the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) conducted a four-year study on the weight and overall health of 25,000 pet dogs, coming to the conclusion that one in five dogs is now overweight.
To bring awareness to and help combat pet obesity, PDSA holds an annual Pet Fit Club competition. The 11 finalists for the 2010 competition, five dogs and six cats, have nearly 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of excess weight among them. They will be put on a strict regime of diet and exercise to help them reach their ideal weights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Veterinary Practice Insurance releases 'Top 60 Most Unusual Ingested Objects' list

Veterinary Practice Insurance has released its "Top 60 Most Unusual Ingested Objects" list for 2010.
The list, which includes such items as jellyfish, a bikini, eye glasses and a TV remote control, represents a portion of the US$3 million VPI policyholders spent to treat pets that ingested foreign objects. According to the company, nearly 2,000 foreign body ingestion claims were made to VPI in 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cat returns to shelters increased 16% in November

Owner returns of cats to animal shelters in November increased 16% year over year, while adoption prices for cats over 1 year of age decreased by 11%, according to the PetPoint November Report. The two primary reasons for the spike in returns were owners moving and unanticipated allergic reactions.
Conversely, surrenders of cats to shelters in November decreased by 5% year over year and adoptions increased 3%. The definition of a surrender is when an owner relinquishes ownership of their pet to an animal shelter, while a return is when a pet previously adopted from an animal shelter is returned.
The November report aggregates data from nearly 873 animal welfare organizations and data on 119,266 intakes and 122,094 outcomes for dogs and cats which entered or left animal welfare organizations during the month. The aggregated data used to develop the report comes via PetPoint the most widely used animal management application in animal welfare.
For the November report, which used data from only those organizations that were using PetPoint in November 2009 and November 2010, the following can be summarized:
- Returns of cats increased by 16%.
- Adoption prices declined 11% for cats older than one year, but increased by 2% for dogs older than one year.
- Adoption prices increased for cats and dogs less than one year by 4% and 5% respectively.
- Owner surrender of cats and dogs decreased by 5%.
- Adoptions of cats increased by 3%, while adoptions of dogs remained flat for November.
- Euthanasia of cats and dogs declined by 3% and 9%, respectively.
- Seizures of cats increased by 42%; however, this was caused by events at 4 of the larger animal welfare organizations using PetPoint.
Interested organizations can subscribe to receive more detailed reports including regional and state data for a monthly fee. The full report can be seen by visiting http://www.petpoint.com/petpoint-report-12- 20-2010.asp. PetPoint reports are issued on the third Monday of each month.

Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation to provide petfood to those in need

The Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation is expanding its services to pet owners in need by making petfood available to those who are struggling to provide for their animals.
The Federation's petfood program will begin on January 1; pet owners will be able to acquire petfood through the distribution channels already in place for the organization's other services. "The organization is working to develop an additional network throughout the city and suburbs to provide petfood to those in need," said Executive Director Dan Gibbons. The hope is that such assistance will reduce the number of pets being given up due to their owners' situations in the current economic climate.

Pedigree Innovation Grants awarded to animal shelters, rescue groups

The Pedigree Foundation awarded more than US$200,000 in Innovation Grants to 10 animal shelters and rescue groups for their ideas and efforts to help find dogs new homes.
The one-time grants will fund creative projects aimed at increasing dog adoptions and will assist homeless dogs with behavior training, feeding, housing and medical support. The winning organizations are:
Central Missouri Humane Society - Columbia, Missouri
Charleston Animal Society - North Charleston, South Carolina
Dubuque Regional Humane Society - Dubuque, Iowa
Houston Humane Society - Houston, Texas
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles - Los Angeles, California
Leon County Humane Society - Tallahassee, Florida
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue - San Francisco, California
North Shore Animal League America - Port Washington, New York
Washington Animal Rescue League - Washington, D.C.
West Suburban Humane Society - Downers Grove, Illinois

Monday, December 20, 2010

RECALL: Kroger recalls dog, cat petfood due to aflatoxin

The Kroger Co. is recalling select packages of pet food sold in some of its retail stores because the products may contain aflatoxin, which poses a health risk to pets.
Kroger stores in the following states are included in this recall: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The recall also includes Dillons and Gerbes stores in Kansas and Missouri; Baker’s stores in Nebraska; Food 4 Less stores in Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana (Chicago area); and Jay C, Hilander, Owen’s, Pay Less and Scott’s stores in Illinois and Indiana.
Stores the company operates under the following names are not included in this recall: Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Smith’s, QFC, City Market, Foods Co., and Food 4 Less stores in California and Nevada.
Kroger is recalling the following items:
  • Pet Pride Cat Food sold in 3.5 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111088128
  • Pet Pride Cat Food sold in 18 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111071357
  • Pet Pride Tasty Blend Poultry & Seafood Cat Food sold in 3.5 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111088152
  • Pet Pride Tasty Blend Poultry & Seafood Cat Food sold in 18 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111074580
  • Pet Pride Kitten Formula Food sold in 3.5 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111071903
  • Old Yeller Chunk Dog Food sold in 22 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111074566
  • Old Yeller Chunk Dog Food sold in 50 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111074563
  • Kroger Value Cat Food sold in 3 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111000018
  • Kroger Value Chunk Dog Food sold in 15 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code: 1111071559
  • Kroger Value Chunk Dog Food sold in 50 lb. packages with a sell by date of OCT 23 11 DP and OCT 24 11 DP under the following UPC code:1111000108
Aflatoxin is a naturally-occurring toxic chemical by-product from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops. If your pet shows any symptoms of illness, including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, yellowish tint to the eyes and/or gums, and severe or bloody diarrhea, please consult your veterinarian immediately.
The safety of our customers and their pets is important to Kroger. The company is using its Customer Recall Notification system to alert customers who may have purchased these recalled products through register receipt tape messages and automated phone calls. Customers who have purchased a recalled item should not use it and should return it to a store for a full refund or replacement.
Customers who have questions about this recall may contact Kroger toll-free at (800) 632-6900. For more information, please visit www.kroger.com/recalls.

Americans spend more money on pets than children

Beware what you read on the Internet. I know, that should go without saying. But even supposedly seasoned journalists like those of us at Petfood Industry/Petfood-Connection.com have to relearn this lesson from time to time.
Yesterday we posted a news item with a headline that is definitely a grabber: "Americans spend more money on pets than children." The source, a blog on the website for The Telegraph in the UK, seems solid at first glance; the blogger, Pete Wedderburn, is trained as a veterinarian and has been writing a column about pets for 25 years.
However, nowhere in his post does Wedderburn attribute his source for the claims he's making: "... in the USA, where all worldwide trends seem to start, children's toys have been overtaken by another, rapidly growing market: pet products. Astonishingly, people are now spending more on their pets than they are on their children."
Wedderburn does acknowledge that the "statistic" he's referring to (but never actually reveals) encompasses the entire pet market, including petfood, and he's comparing it mainly to children's toys. Perhaps he never makes the direct comparison because he doesn't have exact data for pet toy sales vs. children's toys sales -- and because his headline and main claim are a lot more provocative and guaranteed to grab attention?
 Americans now spend US$21 billion a year on children's toys and games, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. (Full attribution: I found that statistic in an online article about US toy purchasing, not on the NPD site, though I looked there.)
 The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates US pet owners will have spent a total of US$47.7 billion on their pets by the end of this year. So yes, $47.7 billion is more than the $21 billion spent on children's toys -- but it's not a very exact comparison, is it?
Unfortunately, APPA does not break out sales of pet toys, so I couldn't make the direct comparison, either. Now I'm curious! If someone knows the annual US sales of pet toys, please share.
(By the way, APPA's estimate for total 2010 petfood spending is US$18.28 billion. We should know soon if that holds up.)
In trying to find data to back up Wedderburn's claims, I did find some interesting information -- on, yes, another blog! -- that could possibly explain them. At first glance, a table with data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis on where Americans have increased spending since the recession began seems to support the claims. The table shows pets as the second category, ahead of education and child care. And the amounts spent from the last quarter of 2007 through the second quarter of 2010 (this blog was posted in August) show pet spending at US$5.7 billion versus US$3.6 billion for child care.
But you have to figure that at least some portion of the US$36.9 billion spent on education included for children (even public schools charge various fees), as did spending on healthcare, food and drink, personal care products, telephone equipment, etc. That child care figure is probably just money spent on having a child watched by someone other than the parents. (Children's toys aren't mentioned.)
Anyway, I updated our news item to reflect that the information is solely according to Wedderburn, and I included a link to the blog on American spending habits. Lesson learned!

Pet Food Industry Association of South Africa vows to eliminate petfood fraud

The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) has vowed to eliminate petfood fraud in 2011 and protect South African pet owners from "rogue petfood manufacturers."
PFI "will put all its forces and energy behind cleaning up any illegal practices in the petfood industry that harm the image of the industry and may possibly place pets at risk," according to an association statement. Consumers can do their part by only buying commercial petfood that has a "V" number followed by "Act 36 of 1947" on its packaging. This indicates that the food has been registered by its manufacturer or distributor. “It is absolutely critical for pet owners to ensure that the food they purchase is registered with the department, as this is the only way to ensure that the minimum nutritional standards are met and that the food has been examined to ensure this, and, further, that your pet is getting the best possible and safe food for them,” said PFI Executive Director Barry Hundley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HSUS spends 50% of funds on fundraising, overhead costs, says watchdog

According to a 2010 "Watchdog Report on Animal Charities" from Animal People News, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) spends roughly 50% of its raised funds on continued fundraising and additional overhead costs, including paying lobbyists and HSUS's pension plan.
This number, which Animal People News said it calculated based on HSUS's 2009 federal tax return, is in opposition with the 29% HSUS said it spends on overhead. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, this information, along with the "D" rating HSUS received from the American Institute of Philanthropy and the one star out of four it received for efficiency from Charity Navigator, paints a picture of factory-fundraising practices and incompetent nonprofit management. “Animal lovers need to know the difference between HSUS and real humane societies," said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. "The only way to be sure your donations will help homeless dogs and cats is to give to organizations in your own community.”

Sugar in pet treats may be contributing to obesity

Roughly 90 million pets in the US are considered obese, and part of the problem may be the sugar companies add to pet treats, say experts.
Whether it's corn syrup used as a thickener or dextrose used to evenly distribute moisture, sugar can add calories to a pet's diet that tip the scales, according to veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California's School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis. "Sugar has a role in the physical and taste characteristics of many products, helping to mask bitter flavors imparted by acidifying agents or changing the texture of specific treat types," she said.
Limiting treats to 10% of a pet's caloric intake can help, as can swapping commercial pet treats for fresh human foods. "Owners forget that human foods, especially fruits and vegetables, make excellent and healthy treats, which are more cost-effective than commercial pet treats," said Larsen. Apples, berries and carrots, for example, are good for dogs, while salmon or tuna flakes make good healthy cat treats.

Food safety legislation rides on US government funding bill

The US House of Representatives has tied major food safety legislation to a government funding bill for the Senate's consideration before Congress concludes its final session of 2010.
The legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order a food recall and increase the frequency of its inspections. It would also require individual foodmakers to write a preventative plan regarding plant contamination. The food safety bill covers processed foods (including petfood), fruit and vegetables, but not meat.
Both chambers of Congress have approved a slightly different version of the bill but must agree on a single version before it can pass.

Petfood pantries help needy families provide for and keep pets

In today's poor economy, many pet owners who can no longer afford to provide for their pets are forced to find them new homes, which is why petfood pantries around the country are becoming popular new ways to assist needy families in feeding and keeping their furry friends.
Randi Helpinstill, recently featured in the Daytona Beach News Journal, founded the Peninsula Pet Pantry with neighbor Geralyn Nelson, after her search to adopt a kitten overwhelmed her with the large number of pets displaced due to the financial hardships of their owners.
"We could not imagine the heartbreak of people having to abandon their pets due to bad economic times, and the shelters were full, the rescues had waiting lists," said Helpinstill.
Pantries like Helpinstill's and the Pikes Peak Pet Pantry of Colorado, USA, which helped her get started, are popping up in high-demand across the country. The mission of these petfood pantries is to provide temporary assistance with petfood and supplies to owners who still want to keep their pets, but currently cannot afford to care for them. Most of these pantries rely on year-round donations from others to provide petfoods and supplies. Donations to Peninsula Pet Pantry can be made by visiting the pantry's website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nestle Purina deserves kudos for Baldrige Award

Just before Thanksgiving each year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the US Commerce Department, announces the annual winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This year's recipients include Nestle Purina Petcare Co., which won in the category of manufacturing.
Despite its rather torturous and obscure name, which comes from a Commerce secretary who served under President Ronald Reagan, this is no obscure or bureaucratic award. To earn it, organizations must demonstrate high levels of continuous improvement and achievement in seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, process management and results.
The judges (called examiners) of each organization's application must undergo hours of training; and the judging process even includes an on-site visit (for each applicant that makes it that far) so the examiners can verify the organization "walks the talk" of its application.
The entire point of the program -- and some organizations use it without even submitting an award application -- is to continuously improve and deliver better results to the organization's stakeholders: owners, investors, customers, employees and relevant communities. Many states have similar award programs that often feed into the national program.
Following the Baldrige process for improvement -- let alone doing it well enough to earn an award -- is not for the faint-hearted or under-resourced; it's a huge commitment of time, manpower and often money. But what I like about the Baldrige program is that it includes categories for small business, educational entities and healthcare providers. In fact, this year's recipients also include three small businesses, one education and one healthcare winner.
I'm familiar with the award and process from my days as editor of Quality Progress, the membership magazine of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), which serves as the administrator of the Baldrige program (processing applications, facilitating the judging, etc.). That's why I'm excited that a petfood manufacturer has earned the Baldrige. I've read the applications and stories behind previous winners, as well as heard about following the process in their own words* -- so I know what a tremendous achievement it is to earn the award.
Congratulations to Nestle! We hope to bring you further information about their award and how they earned it soon in Petfood Industry.

* If you ever have the opportunity to attend the annual Baldrige award conference, called the Quest for Excellence, I highly recommend it in terms of hearing companies share -- quite openly -- how they make their businesses better. The 2011 conference is scheduled for April 4-6 in Washington, DC, USA.

BarkingDeals.com offers group pet product discounts to consumers

BarkingDeals.com was recently launched to provide pet industry companies an outlet for social media marketing and consumer product discounts, functioning like the popular site, Groupon.
BarkingDeals.com offers products from pet manufacturers and distributors at discounts of 50% to 90% for members, including free shipping. Members can share the site's daily deals with friends via Facebook, Twitter and email.
“When we noticed the popularity of economical, group-buying sites increase, we wanted to offer the same type of service to the pet owner community,” said Steve Watters, chief executive of BarkingDeals.com. “By offering new deals daily, members can try products that they might not have tried otherwise. It’s a great way for manufacturers to launch or expand their social media programs to committed buyers and a great way for consumers to see what else is out there for their furry friends. It’s a win-win for all!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Petfood maker Sunshine Mills awarded $61 million in software lawsuit

Sunshine Mills was awarded US$61 million by an Alabama, USA, jury in a lawsuit alleging fraudulent sale and implementation of Ross Systems' enterprise resource planning beta software in 2005.
The lawsuit was filed in 2008 after the beta software demonstrated by Ross was supposed to work out-of-the-box but failed to do so when it went live, according to Daniel McDowell, one of the attorneys representing Sunshine Mills. Of the US$61 million in damages awarded by the jury, US$16 million were compensatory and US$45 million were punitive.
Ross Systems claims that the petfood maker "knowingly purchased a beta version of the software," which is still in use by Sunshine, and plans to appeal the verdict.

Lobbyists influence FDA's food safety overhaul

More than 221 organizations hired 77 lobbying firms to fight over details in the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act recently passed by the US Senate, according to The Washington Post.
Nearly all of Washington, DC,USA's largest lobbying firms registered to lobby on the overhaul, but it was smaller firms that represented clients' interests most often, The Post reported. The Bockorny Group registered to work on the bill for 11 clients, more than any other lobbying group. Another frequently employed firm, Policy Directions Inc., was hired by nine clients. Other lobbying firms involved, each representing eight clients, were the Alpine Group, Meyers & Associates, and Tarplin, Downs & Young. The exact price paid for this lobbying work is difficult to measure as disclosure forms filed with the Senate do not break down payments by issue.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Del Monte reports second quarter gains for pet products division

Del Monte Foods Co. reported second quarter gains for its pet product division, while overall sales declined and overall profits rose.
Del Monte's pet division reported an increase in operating income from US$84.8 million to US$92.7 million for the second quarter of fiscal year 2011, ended October 31. The company's net sales rose from US$422.1 million to US$433.2 million for the second quarter. The company attributed the increase in pet division net sales primarily to strong unit volume growth in dry petfood and pet snacks as well as new product growth. Higher trade spend, which supported dry petfood and new products, negatively impacted sales, according to the company.
Overall, Del Monte Foods reported net income of US$81.1 million on net sales of $940.9 million for the second quarter, a decline from previous net income of US$62.6 million on net sales of US$958.9 million. Del Monte, which recently agreed to a US$4 billion buyout by a group of investors, expects net sales growth for fiscal 2011 of -1% to 1% over fiscal 2010, lower than its previous expectations of 1% to 3%.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Petco launches mobile site for on-the-go shopping

Petco launched a customized mobile website for shopping and pet care information online and on-the-go.
Powered by Digby's Mobile Software Platform, the new site offers 24-hour mobile access to Petco's products with photographs, customer reviews, a store locator and online purchasing capabilities.
“Whether in one of our more than 1,000 PETCO stores nationwide or online at PETCO.com, we’re committed to providing our customers with everything they need to be great pet parents in a fun and enjoyable shopping environment,” said Katie Grisko, Petco's web strategy manager. “We’re thrilled to provide a whole new level of convenience for our online customers with mobile access to PETCO.com – from anywhere, at anytime.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prepare for new food safety regulations: learn from experts at Petfood Workshop: Safety First

Though S. 510, the new US Food Safety Modernization Act, is not yet law because of a procedural snafu in the Senate version passed last week, it's likely that the US Congress will work out the problems soon and pass it for President Obama's signature. That means most food producers, including petfood manufacturers, will need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and prove they are using written, risk-based hazard control programs such as HACCP or cGMPs.If you're concerned your company might not be ready, or you just want a better idea of what to expect with the new regulations, you might want to consider attending Petfood Workshop: Safety First April 13-14 at the Renaissance Schaumburg near Chicago's O'Hare airport. (It happens just after Petfood Forum 2011 at the same venue.)Petfood Workshop: Safety First will bring you face-to-face with experts on:
* The Global Food Safety Initiative, a consortium of companies and organizations from around the world, led by retailers such as Walmart, that strives to continuously improve food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of food to consumers;
* The quickly changing regulatory landscape, especially in the US (speaker is Judi Lazaro, director of customer relations for AIB International);
* How to prepare for -- and survive -- an FDA inspection (presented by Bob McDonald of Food Safety Validation); 
* Creating and improving a HACCP program (by David Rosenblatt, DVM, of Sher Consulting and Training);
* Testing and controlling for toxins and other contaminants.Be sure to register for Petfood Workshop by February 15, 2011, to save up to 15%. If you also register for Petfood Forum, you'll save even more on your Petfood Workshop registration!

Purina launches new petfood line, will donate to animal shelters for every video viewed on Purina One Beyond website

Purina is launching a new line of petfood in January 2011 called Purina One Beyond
Purina One Beyond is designed to be an all-natural, high quality, flavorful kibble that is free of fillers and artificial preservatives, the company says. Purina says the first ingredient in the food is real meat; other ingredients include carrots, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Purina One Beyond's website has several videos that share more about the new product. Each time one of the videos on the website is viewed, Purina One Beyond will donate US$1 to homeless pets in the company's network of animal shelters. So far, Purina has donated over US$162,000 and will continue to make donations up to US$300,000 through December 10.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

GA Pet Food Partners wins 'Environmental Best Practice' green Oscar

GA Pet Food Partners won "Environmental Best Practice" in the Lancashire Business Environment Awards 2010.
This "green Oscar" was awarded to the petfood manufacturer for investing in and installing a recycling station for its hard waste. This took GA from 100% landfill to 95% recycling in 12 months. The landfill site’s dedicated wastewater treatment works, which is able to recycle 100% of its wastewater, was also praised as part of the award.
“This award is recognition for just one part of the integrated environmental plan that GA is using as its blueprint for ongoing developments throughout the whole business,” said GA Chairman Roger Bracewell.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Canidae Pet Food to redesign grain-free product packaging

Canidae Pet Foods will redesign the packaging for its grain-free line of petfood in the first quarter of 2011 to better reflect the quality of the company's products and its position in the marketplace, according to Canidae.
As part of the new packaging, Canidae will change the name of two of its dog food products: the Grain Free All Life Stages formula will become Grain Free Pure Elements and the Grain Free Salmon formula will become Grain Free Pure Sea. The ingredients and the products themselves will remain unchanged. Following the initial distribution of new packaging for the Grain Free Pure Elements and Grain Free Pure Sea dry formulas for dogs, the company will introduce new packaging for its grain-free canned formulations as well as both the dry and canned versions of its Felidae Grain Free formulas for cats.
"As the leading brand exclusive to the independent pet food retailer, we continue to innovate and grow," said Jim Mantych, director of marketing for Canidae. "Part of this growth is an expansion of our product lines. It is important for us to differentiate these lines to help customers choose what's best for their dog or cat. The grain-free repackaging will allow us to better communicate with pet owners that in fact Canidae now offers three distinct lines of natural and holistic pet food. This includes our renowned line of meat-based diets formulated with a hand-picked selection of diversified carbohydrates, our recently announced single grain solution featuring rice, fresh chicken and 29% total protein, and finally our repackaged grain-free diets."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Aller Petfood to donate cat food to Estonia animal shelters

Aller Petfood will donate 4,000 kg of cat food to charities in Estonia for the Christmas holiday.
Caramira, Aller's partner in Estonia, and the Estonian Animal Care Society will work with Aller to distribute the food between animal shelters and volunteer organizations that help cats in Estonia.
“For us, petfood is not just a business, it is about improving the lives of cats and dogs. Not all cats and dogs are lucky enough to have a loving owner who feeds them well, so we have chosen to support homeless cats in Estonia,” said Henriette Bylling, Aller Petfood managing director.

Dynamite reports 112% increase in Ultimate Dog Food sales in 2010

Sales of Dynamite Ultimate Dog Food have increased 112% in 2010 compared to the first three quarters of 2009, claims Dynamite, the parent company.
Dynamite, based in Meridian, Idaho, USA, says it has also seen a 43% increase in the number of customers ordering the raw dog food. Ultimate Dog Food was introduced in 2007 as part of Dynamite’s efforts to find a natural dog food that does not trigger allergies and is suitable for dogs with diabetes, according to the company.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Food safety legislation: what's next

Food safety in the US seems to have taken a big step yesterday with US Senate passage of S. 510, also called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010. (Whether that step is forward or backward depends on your point of view regarding the bill and, possibly, legislation in general.)
But it's not law yet. Just this morning brought
news of a snafu holding up approval by the US House of Representatives. (It passed its own version of the bill, way back in July 2009, but because the Senate made changes, the House now has to vote again.) Apparently the Senate version includes a section that "violates a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House," according to John Stanton of Roll Call.
That's a big oops, and considering this is a lame duck Congress trying to tackle many other pressing issues before the end of the year and end of this Congressional session, working out the problem in a timely manner is not guaranteed. (Even with what constitutes "timely" by US Congressional standards.)
The legislation is likely to pass eventually, and that fact is generating quite a bit of
praise and criticism. Even proponents are expressing concern about what the nitty-gritty details will look like once regulators start working with it.
This is possibly cause for concern for petfood manufacturers, too. But the good news for our industry is that most players -- manufacturers, suppliers and regulators -- have been anticipating, discussing and preparing for the impending new regulations for well over a year. Dan McChesney
, PhD, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance for the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine, and others have been giving industry talks predicting what is likely to happen.So what is that? For one, the bill will require that companies currently registered as food producers under the Bioterrorism Act -- and that includes petfood producers -- register with FDA and create written, risk-based hazard control programs. If you already have, use and thoroughly document within a HACCP program or current GMPs (good manufacturing practices), you're probably in good shape.If not, you would do well to start creating such a program soon. The folks at Extru-Tech Inc. have some good tips and suggestions in the latest issue of their e-newsletter.

Stella & Chewy's sponsors 'My Dog Tulip' film screenings in Los Angeles, NY

Stella & Chewy’s will sponsor a series of movie screenings in Los Angeles, USA, and New York, USA, to promote the animated feature length film, "My Dog Tulip."
This series of private screenings will be held during the first two weeks of December for members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to help the film get nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. The film is based on J.R. Ackerley’s best-selling memoir of the same name and features the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini. More than 60,000 watercolor-like drawings tell the tale of the relationship between Ackerley and his adopted dog, Tulip.
“Being an independent, underdog film producer – like a small, independent petfood maker – isn’t easy. When you’re running with the big dogs, you need all the help you can get. So we’re doing our part to help ‘Tulip’ succeed against the larger studio campaigns. It was a natural fit,” said Marie Moody, founder and president of Stella & Chewy's. “We hope that our unprecedented support will help propel this wonderful story to an Oscar nomination. I just love the film and I’m sure all passionate animal lovers, including Academy members, will feel the same way.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Animal obesity on the rise

The rise of obesity is no longer confined to humans, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
Data gathered from over 20,000 animals of eight different species indicated that increasing body weight is a unanimous problem. Domestic cats and domestic dogs were included in the study, which also focused on laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, marmosets, mice and both domestic and feral rats. Female cats, according to the research, grew by 13.6% per decade, while male cats grew by 5.7%. Dogs' body weight increased by 2% to 3% per decade. "It just highlights how little we understand about what's happening in terms of why we see this rise in body weight in our population," said Jennifer Kuk, an obesity researcher at York University in Toronto. "Perhaps this problem isn't as simple as just energy intake and energy expenditure, which has been the prevailing message over the last 10 years."
Pathogens, artificial environments, air conditioning and central heat—they all present themselves as possible causes for the obesity trend in both humans and animals, said lead study researcher David Allison of the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "In the winter, you're not expending as much energy, because the room is kept warmer," said Allison. "In the summer, it doesn't get so hot, and we know that heat drives food intake down." However, he said, more research is needed to bring all the factors that might be causing domestic animals to grow obese alongside their humans out of the realm of speculation.

Nature's Variety begins Facebook campaign to donate to North American shelters

Nature’s Variety began a Facebook photo initiative to donate boxes of Instinct Grain-Free Biscuits to shelters throughout North America, now through December 31.
For every photo posted to the Nature’s Variety Facebook page of pets enjoying Instinct Biscuits or other Nature’s Variety treats, the company will donate a box of its Instinct Grain-Free Biscuits to four shelters across North America, as well as a randomly chosen shelter submitted by Nature's Variety's Facebook friends. Nature's Variety will evenly allocate its donations to the following shelters: Red Door Animal Shelter in Chicago, USA; Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas, USA; The Toronto Humane Society in Toronto, Canada; and Pet Food Bank in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“This initiative helps bring our Facebook friends closer to our brand and to what Nature’s Variety is all about,” said Jill Gainer, Nature’s Variety Instinct brand director. “Not every pet has a loving family during the holidays, so in our own way, we can share a bit of holiday cheer with a small indulgence that they will really love.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nestle Purina named as 2010 Baldrige Award recipient

Nestle Purina was named a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award by the US Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Nestle was given the award in the category of manufacturing. From a field of 83 applicants, seven award recipients were chosen based on evaluations by an independent board of examiners in the following areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. The 2010 Baldrige Award winners are expected to be presented with their awards at a 2011 ceremony in Washington, DC, USA.

Halo, Purely for Pets wins 22 Tails Magazine's 2010 Readers' Choice Awards

Halo, Purely for Pets won a total of 22 awards in Tails Magazine's 2010 Readers' Choice Awards.
Readers voted for their favorite animal-related services and products in 15 cities, nominating Halo for more awards than any other petfood brand. Halo was voted the winner in the categories of best dog food, best cat food, best dog treat and best cat treat. Cities that voted Halo as recipient of these awards included Los Angeles, USA; Washington, DC, USA; Orlando, Florida, USA; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Denver, USA; Indianapolis, USA; and the metropolitan areas of New York, USA, and New Jersey, USA.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stella & Chewy's donates petfood to New York, Illinois, Wisconsin animal shelters

Stella & Chewy’s donated six, 50-pound boxes of freeze-dried chicken to animal shelters in New York, Illinois and Wisconsin, USA.
“It’s wonderful to get a donation from Stella & Chewy’s, helping us reduce costs in the foster program. Good nutrition is key to maintaining health in shelter settings – what a great two-fer,” said Mary Haight, Lake Shore Animal Shelter board vice president.
In addition, Stella & Chewy’s gave away its Carnivore Kisses to each dog at the PAWS Chicago Fur Ball gala, which hosted more than 750 guests and their canine companions at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, USA.

PetFlow offers 70 brands of petfood, customizable delivery schedule

PetFlow is an online petfood retailer that allows pet owners to have petfood delivered directly to their homes.
PetFlow offers 70 brands of dog and cat food/treats that ship in the US for a flat-rate delivery fee of US$4.95. Customers can select food by type, brand and characteristics, or they can receive petfood recommendations from the site. Customers can also create a customized delivery schedule. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Canidae Natural Pet Food Co. announces support of Pink Ribbon Puppies calendar

Canidae Natural Pet Food has announced its support of the 2011 Pink Ribbon Puppies calendar created to aid in the fight against breast cancer.
The calendar is a fundraising project; funds raised will go toward breast cancer research. "We are thrilled to share with you a wonderful and inspiring project that has been put together by a long-time member of the Canidae breeder program," said Suzanne Alicie, Canidae Responsible Pet Ownership blog author. "While the Pink Ribbon Puppies website may appear to be just an adorable site with puppies on it, there is a serious and touching story behind it."
The calendar features a litter of Canidae-fed lab puppies, born in September. When one of the co-owners of the litter's dam was diagnosed with breast cancer, the other co-owner decided to support her friend via this project. More information on the calendar can e found at the Pink Ribbon Puppies website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

American Consumer Satisfaction Index for petfood drops 1% for third quarter

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)  for petfood fell 1% for the third quarter to 83, but remained one of the highest scoring products with no company ever scoring below 79.
After almost two years of stalling scores, the overall ASCI also fell 0.3%, bringing it to 75.7 on a 0-100 point scale. The top scorers among petfood manufacturers were Mars Petcare, whose score rose 2% to 85, and Del Monte Foods, whose score rose 4% to 83. Iam's consumer satisfaction score dropped 6% to 80 with complaints of decreased quality, putting them at the bottom of the industry. The index for Colgate-Palmolive’s Hill’s Pet Nutrition rose 3%, while Nestle Purina PetCare's index fell 5%, resulting in a score of 82 for both companies.
“Periods of stalling ACSI growth have often been followed by weak, and sometimes negative, GDP growth,” said Professor Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer. “Consumer spending is unlikely to exhibit much of an increase unless bond buying by the Federal Reserve leads to more employment, inflation, consumer confidence and higher stock prices. With the drop in ACSI, consumer spending for the final quarter of 2010 does not look like it will improve enough to spur much economic growth.”

Natural Balance selects winning dogs for Rose Bowl parade float

Natural Balance Pet Foods selected five winning dogs to ride on the "World's Heaviest Float" in the New Year's Day Rose Bowl parade.
More than 100 dogs auditioned for the chance to participate in two activities on the float: dock diving and skimboarding. Three dogs were chosen for the dock diving portion of the float, including a black Lab named Sammi Jane, an Australian Shepherd named Juice and the oldest dog in the competition, a mixed breed named Bubbles. The two dogs chosen to skimboard on the float were a Bulldog named Sir Hollywood and a Jack Russell Terrier named Porter.

Waltham Symposium discussed petfood industry advances

The three-day Waltham International Nutritional Sciences Symposium concluded on September 18 in Cambridge, England, bringing together nearly 250 researchers to discuss advances in pet nutrition, petfood safety and weight management.
Participants were offered presentations on many subjects, including the effects of diet on intestinal bacteria, the potential for enhancing a cat's immune system by dietary supplements, the association between vitamin D and certain tumors in Labrador Retrievers and the problems that diets consisting of bones and raw foods can present for dogs. Two themed sessions were also offered, exploring the challenges in developing nutritional guidelines for pets and analyzing issues related to food safety in the petfood industry.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eagle Pack named official sponsor of 2011 Iditarod dog race

Eagle Pack Natural Pet Food became the official dog food sponsor of the 2011 Iditarod Trail sled dog race.
As official sponsor, Eagle Pack will supply dog food along the trail and will dedicate funds to the health and care of the Iditarod dogs. The Iditarod Trail race runs more than 1,049 miles from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, USA.
To celebrate its partnership with the Iditarod, Eagle Pack will also sponsor a sweepstakes to send one winner and a guest to Alaska, USA in March 2011 to attend the race. Entries for this contest will be accepted online until January 21, 2011.

Morrisons fights pet obesity with portion control labels on petfood

Morrisons became the first supermarket to print portion control labels on its petfood products, in an effort to control rising obesity in dogs and cats, according to UK's mailonline.com.
"We’ve had feedback from our customers which says that they are often in the dark about how much food they should be buying and giving their pet," said John Cannan, product development manager for petfood at Morrisons.
The MailOnline article cites research that found 36% of dogs and 29% of cats treated by veterinarians are obese. To fight obesity and pet depression, veterinarians say small dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and large dogs require more than this. The article points out that giving a cat one saucer of milk is the equivalent of four cheeseburgers, which emphasizes the importance of controlling what pets eat.

Winning products from Pack Expo Selects have use in petfood industry

The Pack Expo Selects 2010 competition highlighted several packing innovations that can be used by manufacturers in the petfood industry.
Pack Expo Selects includes packaging innovations released commercially within the last 12 months by Pack Expo exhibitors. Pack Expo attendees were able to view and vote on the products until November 3, when 10 finalists and the winner were announced.
Coldkeepers LLC's Kold-To-Go thermal bags were selected as the winner of the contest and can be used to prevent freezer burn in raw or frozen petfood products. Chosen as the second place winner, the IML “Handled Bucket” Line submitted by Airlite Plastics Co. features reusable, recyclable packaging for easy storage and pouring of petfood. The third place winner was Ampac's Vapur bottled water packaging. 

2011 AAFCO Pet Food Labeling Workshop to be held in Florida

The 2011 Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Pet Food Labeling Workshop will be held on January 17 in St. Pete's Beach, Florida, USA.
The event is relevant to anyone who makes treats, is a food control official, is a petfood marketer, handles petfood label compliance or writes copy for catalogues, labels or the Internet. Registration is due by January 1, 2011 and is limited to 200 attendees.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dogs audition to ride on Natural Balance float in 2011 Rose Bowl parade

In Los Angeles, California, USA, more than 180 dogs tried out for their chance to appear on the "Havin' a Splash'' float in the 122nd Tournament of the Roses parade. Natural Balance Pet Food sponsors the float, on which dogs have previously skateboarded and snowboarded. Many different dogs attended the casting call to test their skimboarding skills, including Jack Russell terriers and French bull dogs.
The Tournament of the Roses parade will begin at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Jan. 1, 2011.

All American Pet Co. reformulates petfood to be 'natural'

All American Pet Co. Inc. reformulated all of its products to qualify as "natural" dog food.
This reformulation comes at a time when US retail sales of natural pet products are growing at double digit rates, according to the company.
"The growing strength in natural petfood sales reflects consumer's interest in living well and longer and sharing those same ideals with their -- four-legged -- family members. Consumers know that their personal health and the health and well-being of their dogs are linked. Our entire product line is now natural, including the heart-healthy Grrr-nola Dog Food Bar that doubles as a heart healthy snack, all of the Grrr-nola Natural products and the Bow Wow Breakfast product line," said Barry Schwartz, chief executive of All American Pet Co.