Purina and Merrick Pet Food Deal & Dog Food Recalls
There was a lot of news last week in the pet food industry, so much so that it deserved a recap. Besides the stunning news that Purina has purchased Merrick Pet Foods, there was also not one, but two pet food recalls announced late last week.
Purina Purchased Merrick Pet Care
The announcement that Purina has agreed to purchase Merrick Pet Care was timed to coincide with the industry’s SuperZoo 2015 conference in Las Vegas (which I attended). This news truly provided the buzz around the event. I had the opportunity to chat with Garth Merrick, the founder of Merrick Pet Care about the sale of his company and two things stood out. First of all, I detected a sense of pride mixed with a bit of sadness now that his company has been acquired by one of the industry behemoths. Second, Garth stressed that Merrick operations will remain independent and that it will be business as usual, other than the fact that the Merrick Pet Food line will now have the advantage of Purina’s marketing muscle.
My take on this deal is that Purina desperately needed to address the fact that they truly did not have a premium pet food line in their portfolio. In that sense, good for Purina. I also don’t think that consumers should now abandon Merrick just because it is now owned by Purina. At least in the short term, Merrick’s operations will remain the same. Time will tell if the food quality and innovation that Merrick has been known for will continue with Purina at the helm. I, for one, am willing to let actions speak for themselves over the coming months and years. Congratulations to Garth Merrick and the entire Merrick organization.
Dog Food Recalls
At the end of last week we saw 2 dog food recalls, one by Bravo and one by Nature’s Variety. Over the past 2 months alone, there have been 5 dog food recalls and several treat recalls as well. (For our coverage, click on tag “recall”). This sure seems like a lot of recall activity in a short period of time and it surfaces a question as to the safety, quality standards and processes that pet food companies are using as part of their production workflows. With that said, I am not one that gets “freaked out” when I see a dog food recall, nor will I stop using a dog food brand just because of a recall.
In some sense, you can argue that recalls are not a bad thing. After all, when dealing with food, and meats in particular, there is always a chance of contamination. Isn’t it better when the Brand is on top of this and acts quickly to notify consumers when there is even a slight chance of a problem? I would much prefer that a pet food brand act swiftly and aggressively when it comes to recalls. Better safe than sorry, so to speak.
However, there can be circumstances around recalls that are troublesome and send up a red flag or two. Two examples come to mind. First is the Natura Pet recalls in 2013. This recall was initially made in April but was expanded two months later, in June. This type of recall scares me as it indicates, to me, the possibility that the company was not transparent about the seriousness of their problem. Furthermore, in the Natura case, the way that the company dealt with the retail pet stores was extremely bad, forcing the retailers to hold products on their shelves for long periods of time.
A second, more recent example is with Bravo Pet Foods, which announced last week their fifth recall since 2013. This raises another red flag to me. If a pet food company needs to recall their products five times in 2 years, you wonder if they really care about quality and safety standards at all. One recall in a short period of time (like two years), in my opinion, is acceptable and can help a company find holes in their safety standards and processes. Maybe even two recalls, as “stuff happens”. But five recalls? Not good. It just doesn’t seem like Bravo can learn from their mistakes.