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Barking Up the Wrong Tree?


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I was in my local food store last week and wandered into the pet aisle, something I almost never do because they tend to have zero options I would ever consider buying for my dogs. We feed our Duck Tollers high-end, grain-free kibble along with a diet rich in raw meat, bones and veggies. My three dogs are also given supplements for their joints, skin & coat, immune system support as well as probiotics to keep their stomach guts balanced. And yes, I am aware that I am not your typical pet owner. I read ingredient profiles, I look at protein, fat and calorie counts, and only natural ingredients will do, which is why I rarely if ever buy any of my pet’s food, treats, toys or snacks from mass market retailers. Thankfully I can find close to everything I want online including their kibble (Chewy.com); bully sticks, tracheas and gullet strips for the dog’s snacks (bestbullysticks.com) and supplements (allvet.com).

The one exception I did make recently was buying a box of Kirkland dog treats when I was in New Jersey last fall. Unlike similar Milk-Bone type treats, these are large and flat which makes them ideal for our two oldest senior dogs in which chewing hard treats is no longer an option. The Kirkland treats are not in line with the grain-free diet we typically feed, but they serve a specific purpose which is helping keep the dogs’ stomachs settled during the night.

As we are nearing the end of the 100,000 biscuits that came in the box and the closest Costco is 60 miles north of here, I thought maybe just maybe our local store might have something similar. Nada. However, while perusing the aisle I ran into the manager and he mentioned Fresh Pet might be coming back into the store. While I do feed primarily raw to my dogs, I prefer to give them ground lamb, salmon or duck blends from Oma’s Pride (purchased directly from the company through a co-op arrangement which enables me to pay a little less than MSRP). I then made a suggestion that if he was bringing back Fresh Pet that he might consider creating a clearly marked section of natural food and treat options, noting that people like me often struggle to find treats in mass market stores that align with the food we feed, aka natural. We even have a few all-natural pet biscuit companies in Vermont such as Vermont Animal Cookies, Healthy Paws Barkery and Andy’s Dandies, that I am sure would be happy to have some shelf space in this new natural pet section. I also know a local woman who runs a pet adoption/rescue who makes store-quality dog collars and cat nip toys to support her cause who would also be thrilled to be included.

Just as I noted last time about offering a locally-made chocolate section for Valentine’s Day, having a dedicated section of Vermont-based pet food, treats and toys would be another smart idea. And dare I say a way for this little store to differentiate itself from the big box stores and give pet owners a reason to stop there.

The manager listened to all my comments and seemed to think my ideas were not half bad. I left with some optimism that perhaps my little food store might finally sell some pet products I’d be interested in buying.

And while I was glad he was willing to listen it also struck me odd that no one higher up—no distributor nor vendor—appears to have initiated this conversation with the store’s management before. Given the rise of pet food home delivery companies looking for a piece of the pet food dollar; if you ask me there’s no time like the present to make the move.

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