Raw? Paleo? Grain free? Non-GMO? Organic? Minimally processed? Fido’s vast dog food choices rival that of his or her owner and no longer only consists of big box brands’ hard food or soft food. According to Innova Market Insights and Petfood Industry.com, the popular pet food trend of 2017 tracks right along with human trends in food: whole foods, premium and healthy ingredients, sourcing of non-GMO and organic ingredients, low-carb, and high protein options.
In response to the market demand for healthy and wellness-related specialty dog food, some dog-loving entrepreneurs have launched their own specialty dog food brands. For example, two such Colorado companies include Suzy’s Doggie Delights and I and Love and You. Another company, The Farmer’s Dog, based out of New York, offers raw homemade dog food over the Internet, selling its product nationwide. According to Scott Glover, CEO, Mid America Pet Food, the trend of researching and gathering dog food information on the Internet, as well the utilization of pet food review sites by owners to ferret out ingredient quality will influence the 2017 dog food market.
Techflier.com identified several 2016 niche dog food company startups that bear watching in the new year: Alfa Bar offers a meal replacement bar for pups, and The Honest Kitchen offers custom-processed, whole food options for your dog. , Raw Bistro is another innovative startup gourmet dog food company providing “farm to table” freshness for Fido. Based on the gourmet dog food market over the past year, PetFood Industry.com and Innova Market Insights forecast continuing growth in 2017.
What does it take to launch and distribute a new dog food under federal and Colorado state regulations? The federal agency that regulates food and drug safety for animals is the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). CVM is governed by the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The CVM regulations state that the product must be safe to eat, must be produced under hygienic conditions, must be properly labeled, and must not contain any harmful substances. In addition to CVM’s regulations, and prior to actually making the dog food product, the manufacturing facility, regardless of its size, must be registered with the FDA pursuant to the FDA Bioterrorism Act (unless the production takes place in a private residence).
Each state, including Colorado, has specific state labeling and registration requirements, which typically consist of an ingredient list, net content, name, address and statement of identity. State requirement’s can also include specifics about the provided nutritional information, calorie content, and guarantees. If the dog food is being distributed to multiple states or on the Internet, then compliance with each state’s regulation and licensing rules is required. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), state laws are fairly similar. However, individual compliance is required. To determine the requirements of each state, the State Feed Control Official of each state should be contacted.
In addition to the federal and state registration and licensing hurdles referenced above, there are also applicable federal regulations governing the transportation of the dog food. The FDA oversees the safety and sanitary transportation of human and animal food under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Once the pet food is properly labeled and licensed under state law, and registered under federal law in compliance with federal transportation regulations, the focus turns to refining the marketing and branding processes. The FTC governs truth in advertising and has published a policy statement about deceptive marketing and advertising practices. Additionally, the AAFCO website provides guidance with “romance copy/marketing claims” on labels.
While the process seems daunting and overwhelming, the number of entrepreneurial success stories reflects the market demand for a healthy variety of wholesome food choices for Fido. According to Petfood Industry.com, just as humans seek out and search for the latest health trend in cuisine, they will also look for the companion specialty health-based dog food options that best suit their pet.