Updated August 24, 2012
Since there is constant breaking pet business news, I have decided to launch a new category to cover it all: The Paw Sweet Journal (with apologies to the venerable newspaper of a similar name).
This will enable me to gather top breaking news stories in one place, for easier reader access. Without further ado, here is the top pet business news for late August 2012.
Wal-Mart Unleashes Private Label Premium Pet Food Brand
Not one to miss out on competing in a huge and booming market, or the fact that people are becoming more educated and discerning about the foods they serve to their pets, discount shopping behemoth Wal-Mart has just released its own line of "natural" dog foods.
The Pure Balance brand of dry foods for dogs, to be available exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, boasts all natural ingredients, and is free of chicken byproducts
, soy, corn, artificial colors, preservatives and fillers. It’s available in Chicken & Brown Rice and Lamb & Brown Rice.
This is not the first premium brand of pet food that the store has carried; the last time I visited the Wal-Mart in my region (I was buying household supplies and toiletries…forgive me!) I spied the Newman's Own and Rachel Ray brands in the pet aisle.
And this is not the company’s first foray into private label territory: Special Kitty and Ol’ Roy for dogs are long-time Wal-Mart brands.
But this is the chain's first attempt to enter the premium natural pet food
Pet industry insiders claim that Wal-Mart got on the premium private label pet food bandwagon in order to buck the competition from big box
pet stores, and small mom and pop retailers. But no one believes anyone in those sectors is exactly quaking with fear over the new brand.
As a few small pet retailers interviewed by Pet Products News International pointed out, there's one department in which Wal-Mart will never be able to compete with the independents: customer service
PetSmart Celebrates 25th Anniversary
And speaking of big retailers, industry giant PetSmart is marking its silver anniversary.
The world's leading pet store chain now boasts 1,249 outlets in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
While the company has often been the bane of small retailers and general merchandise big box stores (see above news item), they do deserve a little credit. For one, PetSmart provides 50,000 people with jobs.
Just as (if not more) importantly, the Phoenix, Ariz.-based company helped to pioneer the now popular partnering with pet shelters
business model. To date, PetSmart Charities, which facilitates an in-store
pet adoption program, has helped 5 million homeless pets to find fur-ever families.
In addition, the store has elevated one-stop-shopping to an art form, with the offering of pet grooming
and dog training
, and has cornered the celebrity merchandising market via partnerships with the likes of Domestic Diva Martha Stewart
and rocker Bret Michaels
"Paw-don" me while I say, "Happy anniversary, PetSmart!"
Pet Food Trucks Hit the Road
In a trend that mimics the current popularity of upscale people food trucks, a couple of pet food companies are employing trucks to promote their products.
The first that am I aware of to do this was the Chef Michael's brand from Purina, which debuted in Boston in July 2012 in conjunction with the release of the new Carvery Creations line of dog food.
Hill's has followed suit by recently introducing the Pet Café, a pet food truck that is set to travel around the country to promote the Science Diet Ideal Balance brand of dog and cat foods and treats by giving away free samples.
The Hill's truck is set to take off in October 2012, with stops in Southern California and Phoenix, Ariz.
Top Pet Business Trends for 2012
According to a detailed report in the August edition of Pet Business magazine, the recession isn't taking much of a bite out of the pet market.
Quite the contrary, as small, independent retailers are doing especially well. In fact, 60 percent of pet store owners that participated in a survey the magazine conducted indicated that their sales increased by at least 5 percent during a 12-month period.
The report goes on to advise independent retailers to identify five key trends in order to sustain growth during the fourth quarter for 2012:
Otherwise, the pet business does seem to be recession proof
, and looks as if it will remain so indefinitely as people continue to regard their pets as beloved family members.