Hill’s Pet Food: Marketing vs. Food Ingredients

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I recently started to use a word cloud analysis to compare a pet food Brand’s marketing messaging to the actual ingredients in the Brand’s pet food. The goal is to look for consistency in messaging versus the ingredients to determine if the marketing is just talk or is it backed up by the quality of the food. Last week, I ran the analysis on Royal Canin. This week, I will examine Hill’s Pet.


Before I begin, a few housekeeping notes. First, my plan is to run this analysis on many Brands. Thus, I have created a new site tag, “ingredient cloud” which I will use to tag all of these posts. Readers will now be able to search using the tag selector on the sidebar or by using the URL http://slimdoggy.com/tag/ingredient-cloud/ . Second, I am trying a different software program to generate the clouds. I am using Tagul, which 1) allows me to use a dog shape for the cloud 😉 , and 2) provides an interactive cloud. You can hover over the word cloud and each word will ‘pop’. This is especially useful for the smaller (i.e. less frequent) words in the cloud.


About Hill’s Pet Food

Hill’s is a pet food Brand that has been around for a long time, since 1939 according to their site. Many pet parents are probably used to seeing some of their products in veterinarian clinics, as Hill’s offers prescription diets and has otherwise sought out a vet focused distribution model.


According to the Hill’s website:

“For more than 70 years Hill’s has pledged to enrich and lengthen the special relationships people have with their pets. Our foods are made with balanced nutrition for happy, healthy lives together”


Hill’s pet food is a moderately priced food line, at least for the foods that are available without a prescription. I pulling prices of dry foods from a major web retailer and found that the average price per lb. is about $2.25 per lb., with a low of $1.19 per lb. for larger bags and a high of almost $4.00 for smaller bag sizes.


I created a word cloud analysis based on three of the Hill’s web pages:

Hill’s Mission

Nutritional Research Innovation

Nutritional Philosophy


The resulting cloud looks like this.


Hill’s Pet Marketing


Some of the more prominent terms that are used by Hill’s Pet include:

  • Nutrition
  • Research
  • Clinical
  • Balance
  • Quality
  • Nutrients
  • Precise

Sounds pretty good.  Combined with their stated mission, it would seem that Hill’s would be a solid choice for a pet owner. Now let’s look at the ingredient word cloud. I created the cloud by using the 1st 15 ingredients for 126 of the Hill’s Pet product line.  The resulting ingredient word cloud looks like this.  

Hill’s Pet Food Ingredients



Some of the more prominent ingredients include:

  • Chicken Liver Flavor
  • Dried Beet Pulp
  • Soybean Oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Chicken (in some form)
  • Corn (in some form)
  • And several grains


I would not recommend these ingredients nor would I want to feed my dogs any foods that rely on these types of ingredients to form the basis of the dog food. In my opinion, the common ingredients used by Hill’s Pet are inconsistent with the “happy, healthy lives” mission stated on the Hill’s site, as well as with the word cloud that I generated.



Ideal Balance Ingredients

Per a reader request, I decided to run an ingredient word cloud specifically on the Hill’s Ideal Balance product line. The Ideal Balance line is purported to be a higher quality food line in the Hill’s portfolio. The resulting cloud is here.


The more prominent ingredients in the Ideal Balance foods include:

  • Chicken (in various forms)
  • Brown Rice
  • Dried Beet Pulp
  • Chicken Liver Flavor
  • Flaxseed
  • Pea Protein Concentrate


The Ideal Balance ingredients appear to be slightly ‘better’ than the ingredients of the entire Hill’s product portfolio. However, I believe that they still fall short of the marketing messages that are put forth by this pet food Brand.

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  1. It’s just amazing how different the perceived nutritional value is versus what’s actually in the food. I love these word clouds, they’re perfect for visualizing ingredients. And Hill’s is another company that has done so much marketing over the last year, toting their Ideal Balance Line.
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Roundup 33 – Favorite Dog Articles, Deals & Videos of the WeekMy Profile

  2. thanks for a super important post. We bought Hill’s for a long time and we were always satisfied… till Easy suddenly stopped to eat it… there was no change of ingredients, no other color of the bag, no different smell… it’s a miracle :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  3. Ages ago Hills was our food, but as dog food has evolved and we have learned more about it, we have switched, and switched, and switched to keep up with what appears to be some of the best at the current time. It is important to not get comfortable with a food and assume if it is good at one point it will always be good as that is not usually the case. Hills is disappointing really. Actually, rather sad.
    Emma recently posted…Give Back With Hero’s BanquetMy Profile

  4. Oh goodness, Hill’s is my dog food pet peeve. It was the very first food our pups Missy & Buzz ate after they were weaned from their momma’s milk, and they developed allergies as a consequence. We switched to a healthier dog food from there (Blue Buffalo), then were on Wellness, then Great Life for quite some time, then slowly discovered the raw dog food world via Ziwipeak (air-dried raw), and are now feeding raw. No more allergies, glowing coats, lots of energy, no doggie breath.

    I love your dog shaped clouds, by the way!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…How To Spoil Your Dog For Under $25: Beef Green Tripe (Ground) from Raw Paws Pet FoodMy Profile

  5. Our first dogs ate HIll’s before it was available at the grocery stores. As I have learned to be a more conscientious pet parent, I have concluded that if you can buy it at your grocers, it is not a quality recipe.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News September 28 2015My Profile

  6. Excellent work, Slimdoggy! I’ve heard for some time that Hill’s is not that it’s cracked up to be and thus stopped feeding it to my pets years ago. Fillers didn’t seem like the optimal feed for a cherished family member. Can I just say, I love the new shape of the Word-Cloud? Outstanding job! And mucho thanks for distilling all the marketing jargon into some useable facts on food. 😉
    Monika recently posted…Tuesday TriviaMy Profile

  7. It’s so important to be educated about the issues and posts like these help so much. It’s funny because sometimes the popular names are not always the most nutritious. I think I mentioned before but Cocoa has tummy issues and we have had to become super aware of what is put into these foods and sometimes it is scary. I like to put healthy food with good ingredients in my body and want the same for Cocoa!!
    Julie recently posted…Mornings are for the birdsMy Profile

  8. I cringe every time I read an ingredient that says something like chicken liver “flavor” – what does that mean???? I subscribed to the Whole Dog Journal years ago and it really opened my eyes to the importance of reading ingredient lists – for me and my dog. I am probably healthier now than I was in my 20s!
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…On-the-go SnackingMy Profile

  9. I’ve never used Hill’s – always been a little leery of kibble and canned foods. The ingredient cloud is a spectacular idea. It “keeps it plain” for all to see and understand. How’s things going Slim? You’ve all been on my mind lately. Much love from Doodleville.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…PET PARENT #EXTRAORDINAIREMy Profile

  10. This is an absolutely brilliant way to compare marketing versus actual ingredients since many people are more visual. Bravo and keep up the great work!
    Oz the Terrier recently posted…Dirty DogMy Profile

  11. I love what you’ve done with the dog shaped word clouds! So cute. I almost switched Haley to Hill’s food many years ago and was very disappointed after reading the label. It’s a shame that so many vets recommend the food without really looking at the quality of each formula.
    Elaine recently posted…Why We Love DogsMy Profile

  12. We used to feed all of the pets nothing but Hill’s Science Diet, because that’s what our vet’s office sold. Then they switched brands so we did too. I finally came to learn that my vet isn’t an expert on food, so we do our own research.
    For the longest time, I still thought Hill’s was quality food too. It’s actually disappointing to know how very far off the mark they are.
    Jan K recently posted…Are You Ready to Walk? #DogWalkingWeek Begins Today!My Profile

    • Good thinking, to do your own thinking 😉
      mkob recently posted…Walk Your Dog WeekMy Profile

  13. Thanks for doing the word cloud on the Ideal Balance. It’s really disappointing. I finally got Ducky’s IBD under control enough to get her off the prescription food only to find the “regular” stuff isn’t much better going by your research. BUT, you know what? She’s doing great on it, she likes it, and she hasn’t had an IBD episode in over 4 months. I can’t argue with those results. When I was experimenting with the higher quality foods last year, all three dogs were getting sick despite careful transitioning. I’m not putting Shadow and Ducky through that again.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…A Difficult MonthMy Profile

  14. We sell Hill’s prescription diets at our clinic. Interesting to read your take on foods. Such great information.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Preacher And The Pigeon For Some FitnessMy Profile

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