Dog Food: Marketing Messages vs Food Realities

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In my role as Vice President, Food, at, I am responsible for the Petnet SmartFood program, which is a pet food subscription and automated delivery service for those pet owners who use the SmartFeeder, a web connected “intelligent” pet feeder. Among other things, we learn the specific Brands and recipes that the customers are using, and send out a bag of food and a SmartFood “report card” which is a summary of each food’s ingredients and macronutrient profile.


This whole process has been very eye-opening to me as I have been able to observe which Brands are most popular with our clients. I have noticed that there have been many customers that have chosen what I consider to be higher quality foods. Unfortunately, there is also a large concentration of people who have chosen lower quality foods. This second scenario had me wondering why consumers, in this day and age, would choose to feed their pets foods that contain questionable, and species inappropriate ingredients.   My in-going hypothesis is that the Brands are doing a great job with their marketing messaging, and many consumers are not comparing the marketing messaging to the actual food in the package. If I am right, there should be a “disconnect” between the words and statements that are used to describe the Brand, with the actual ingredients in the foods themselves.


Marketing vs. Dog Food Ingredients

One way to compare the marketing messaging with the actual foods is to use a word cloud visualization.   For those who don’t know, a word cloud reads a set of words and will visually show which words are most common in the set, usually highlighting the most common words with larger, more emphatic font. This type of analysis should highlight the key terms that a Brand uses to describe itself. A word cloud can also be used to highlight the most common ingredients in a Brand’s product line. Unlike in marketing, the ingredients speak for themselves, and there can be little ‘sugar coating’ when it comes to the ingredient panel.


The goal of using this type of comparative analysis is to first highlight a Brand’s key marketing terminology (as pulled from their website), and then see if the actual ingredients that are used in the Brand’s products are consistent with these messages.   As an example, if a Brand uses terms like “healthy”, “nutrition”, and “science”, I would not expect to see ingredients like corn, by product, and colorings.


As a practical matter, I am going to limit the word cloud analysis to a page or two on the Brand’s website, specifically the page or pages that describe the Brand’s overall point of view and mission. For the ingredient cloud visualization, I will use only the first 15 ingredients of the foods in a Brand’s food portfolio. The primary reason for this limitation is that the ingredients that are further down the list are technically not as important as the earlier ones, so I want to be sure to emphasize the analysis on the front part of the ingredient list.


I am really excited about running through a series of these word cloud comparisons and will report on the first Brand that I have chosen next week. It happens to be, surprisingly to me, one of the more commonly used Brands right now with Petnet SmartFeeder customers. It is also the Brand that ultimately led me to come up with this whole analysis concept.


Dog Food Brand Word Cloud

In the meantime, I have created a word cloud using around 100 dog food Brands. Each Brand is weighted by the number of recipes it makes, so those with larger portfolios of recipes are featured more prominently.


pet food brands


If you have a Brand that you would like me to analyze, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to work it into the schedule.


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  1. I’d love to see your analysis of the Hills’ Ideal Balance brand! I’ve only found one ingredient that really irks me – caramel “color” – but it is so close to the end of the list that I don’t worry about it too much.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Making Some ChangesMy Profile

  2. We are contemplating Petcurean Now. It seems like a real good food from all the info we can find. It is just such a jungle in the pet food ingredients department!
    Emma recently posted…Tailgating And Football – A Perfect MatchMy Profile

  3. As a brand ambassador for Dr. Harvey’s, I’d love to see their results. ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Hunting for Gator TreatsMy Profile

  4. That’s a unique approach to brand comparison & I can’t wait to see your clouds!!!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Comment on Splishing & Splashing at the RiverBark Pet Retreat! by K9sOverCoffeeMy Profile

  5. This sounds very interesting, and I look forward to seeing these! We are currently feeding our dogs Wild Calling, so I’d be interested in that if you could fit it in.
    Jan K recently posted…Fun with “Feet” #52Snapshots of LifeMy Profile

  6. Americans in particular seem remarkably affected by marketing and price point instead of quality at first glance. I’ll be curious to see how the brand I’ve used in the past from your word cloud stacks up. 🙂
    Monika recently posted…Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

  7. Very interesting. Thanks for explaining this very well. I still think it also goes down to poor education and financial.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Hunting Season Has StartedMy Profile

  8. I have been using Welly Chef for about three months now for two adopted min-pins. I use the one to which I add ground antibiotic-free turkey. They love it and do well on it. Both have chronic illnesses (auto-immune disease and chronic bronchitis) so I did lots of research on many brands before trying this. I thought it would be better than trying to make my own food from scratch to make sure they get all the ingredients they need. I even bought Dr. Becker\’s book on making dog and cat food. If you have the opportunity and time, could you have a look at this brand?

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