Pet food domination: The Big Three Corporations
August 23, 2014 | By David Jackson, AllAboutDogFood.co.uk
We all know there are plenty of pet food options out there. All About Dog Food currently features well over 250 brands of dog foods and treats that are available in the UK and still has many more to go. Incredibly though, almost 90% of all pet food sales in the UK are from just three companies. Through relentless marketing and wide spread buy-outs, 'The Big Three' corporations have come to dominate and define pet food in the UK and across the world.
Who are 'The Big Three'?
Unless you've been living (and shopping) in a cave, you will certainly have heard of each of pet food's big three corporations but what you might not know is that, between them, they own almost all of the UK's best known pet food brands.
- Mars: Pedigree, Cesar, Chappi, Frolic, Kitekat, Pal, Nutro, Greenies, James Wellbeloved, Royal Canin, Sheba, Whiskas.
- Nestle: Bakers, Beneful, Beta, Bonio, Felix, Friskies, Just Right, ProPlan, Purina One, Purina Veterinary Diets, Winalot.
- Colgate-Palmolive: Hills Science Plan, Hills Prescription Diets.
But how have these three companies come to control the pet food market so completely? It must be because their products are so good, right? Unfortunately not...
Pet food domination
The problem is that, for many pet owners, The Big Three are pet food. They are the only companies rich enough to have TV advertising and the only ones that can afford the terms imposed by supermarkets. For the millions of pet owners that never step inside a dedicated pet shop and never read specialist pet magazines, the other brands may as well not exist.
But it doesn't end there. The Big Three aren't content with just main-stream dominance. By buying out the most successful independent brands and effectively inventing veterinary diets, the corporations have even taken a large bite of the pet shop and veterinary market. 9 out of 10 vets now recommend foods from one of the big three. The corporations have long understood the importance of veterinary recommendations and have spent millions on securing their positions as the vets' diet of choice with 'sponsored' nutritional modules at veterinary college and substancial monitory incentives for veterinary practices.
With so much expenditure on advertising, supermarket special offers and retailer incentives, you might think there would be less money to spend on ingredients and in many cases you would be right. One look through the ingredients lists of the UK's two biggest dog food brands, Pedigree and Bakers, clearly shows that marketing is a lot more important to a brand's success than the quality of the products. Of course, when your customers have nowhere else to go, quality can afford to take a back seat.
The fight back
Of course, when your pet's health doesn't come first, there is bound to be a backlash. Some retailers are now scaling back on their big three brands and pet owners are increasingly choosing to steer clear of big three products in favour of smaller, more ethical producers.
The fact is that the big three are just companies and like all companies, they are answerable to their customers. Every time a pet owner moves from a low grade food to a good quality diet, it increases the pressure on the manufacturers of low quality foods to change their ways and to finally put our pets first.