Nutrition: Could The Way You Buy Pet Food Be Putting Your Best Friend At Risk?
The way consumers purchase their pet food has changed dramatically over the last few years, and particularly over the last few months in the wake of COVID-19. The majority of this change has been driven by the consumer’s need for convenience. Prior to the big box retail boom and online stores, most people purchased their pet food from small local pet food stores and farm supply stores. These small family businesses generally provided quality products for an affordable price. These supply stores also hosted a variety of other products and were located centrally in town. As the shift of big box and online retail began to gain popularity many of these small stores began to go out of business. However, purchasing from online retailers and big-box stores can have some major drawbacks such as:
- Storage concerns such as on-climate controlled warehouses
- Dates close to expiration (short-dated)
- Inadequately trained staff
- Staff motivated by sales goals, which may mean you not getting the product you need
- Companies who are not truly concerned about the quality and sourcing of products they carry and of the ingredients within them.
Online retailers have taken advantage of the convenience of automated delivery and 1-click ordering in this fast-paced world we now live in. It is a fair statement to say that some pets have suffered as a result. Sometimes, but not always, these online and big-box retailers buy their products in bulk which can sit in warehouses for months to sometimes a year or more! Believe it or not, we have actually had instances of previous customers who decided to purchase online and received near expired, or expired food and then try and return it to us after they purchased it “on-sale” from an online retailer! We turn around ALL of our products at least every other week, if not every week.
We are talking about some of these issues because there are safety concerns with the sale of expired pet food. In this instance, it can become rancid, especially when not stored correctly or shipped through harsh non-climate-controlled conditions. In another blog, we will examine the multiple health and nutritional concerns of stale and rancid pet food.
Your local pet supply store can introduce you to a wide array of pet food and other products that can’t be found at common online retailers like Chewy and Amazon. We even have a variety of Canadian and European options, which can have unique quality control options in comparison to USA products. There are many small pet food manufacturers that are family-owned that offer honest and high-quality products…and many of them even have free samples!
It’s More Important to Shop Small Than Ever Before!
There are dozens of small pet food supply stores across Connecticut and many other states. Shopping small offers you many advantages:
Direct access to educated staff who truly care about the quality of the product on their shelf and the pets they are feeding. In general, family-owned businesses have a unique sense of pride and have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in many brands and types of food rather than an associate at a big-box store who often is subjected to branded training and have sales goals to meet. Small businesses, in general, do not have these types of processes deployed in their stores which ensures each customer receives an individualized approach vs. one driven by a sales goal.
- Small businesses can actually be more affordable. Big box stores have huge overhead – and investors. Unfortunately, these retailers have to answer to these investors, who are concerned with the bottom line. Many small businesses will meet or beat the large competitor’s price and offer frequent buyer programs which ultimately save you money.
- Many online retailers have shipping costs wrapped into their “low price”. We agree that sometimes these online retailers offer convenience, however, you may be surprised price checking at your local small retailers. Many small businesses will deliver also, sometimes even on the same day! NorthPoint Pets also delivers…for free!
- Frequent buyer programs can’t be found through online retailers, and neither can our knowledge or experience. Not to mention the dozens of products that you cannot find online.
- Stores like NorthPoint Pets & Company, NorthPoint Pets & Company has an owner, and staff that are professionally-educated nutritionists. Some staff members also have additional certifications in pet nutrition which allow them to spend extra time to comb through ingredient labels, sourcing of particular products, and vitamin panels finding the perfect food for your pet.
- Our experience drives the type of products we carry and from what company. Meaning, we have asked the tough questions to pet food companies and manufacturers. If a product or company is not up to our standards of quality, sourcing, or transparency we are known for removing it from our shelf – regardless of popularity. We do what is right for the pets we feed, and won’t stock items we don’t feel comfortable feeding to our own pets.
- We can even build balanced and supplemental diets for raw feeders, those who prefer home cooking, and those with particular disease processes.
- Many small pet supply stores have extensive knowledge and offering of nutritional supplements that can help support whole-body health as well as help pets with many types of disease.
- Small businesses also have exclusivity with many small companies that offer unique and local treats, toys, foods, and accessories that just can’t be found online or in big box stores.
- We LOVE to give back. We annually donate several TONS of food, often by the pallet to local rescue and municipal pounds. We also proudly feed several police department K-9’s, and service dogs throughout the state. We are humbled at the opportunity to give back whenever we have a reasonable chance to. Keeping business local, not only through your pet shops but through all small businesses provides support for your community in a much greater way than you could ever imagine.
Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.