• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

Can progressive brands create a sustainable pet food industry?

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Oct 1, 2022

The relentless media coverage of the impacts of climate threats at home and abroad constantly reminds us that our food production system, pet and human, contributes significantly to an evolving existential threat to the long-term security and well-being of the planet (and our) .

This tsunami of media attention on the sustainability and climate impact of the food system is prompting consumers to make the connection between their brand preferences and climate consequences.

The growing role of sustainable choice is a key element of market competitive advantage as consumers begin to express their climate beliefs and values ​​on shelves and at checkout counters. Beware of pet brands that choose to sit on the sidelines hoping the “climate thing” will cool down. Temperatures continue to rise around the world, leading to extreme changes in dangerous weather patterns, prolonged droughts and general ecosystem disruptions that portend future supply shortages of essential food ingredients.

Yet there is a disconnect in the march towards sustainable performance and policies, as some pet brands misinterpret the tea leaves into thinking that this arena is an optional choice of altruism over exploitation of pets. key components of sustainability readiness to set the stage for long-term growth and market share. advance.

Consider these sobering “situational analysis” facts:

  • Food production is responsible for around 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while being particularly dependent on stable climatic conditions.
  • Continued legacy growth in animal-based protein will account for about 49% of the emissions budget on track to meet or miss the 2030 target of the 1.5°C temperature cap written into the agreements. Paris on the climate.
  • Livestock is the main source of methane, a gas 82 times more toxic to the environment than carbon dioxide and responsible for 32% of anthropogenic methane emissions.

Meanwhile, extensive research confirms that approximately 64% of consumers are passionate or concerned about the sustainability performance of the products they choose. However, it is difficult for people to make sustainable choices when shopping and to determine within a given category of food (pets) which is the most sustainable branded option.

The shifting sands of market leverage are real, and the face of the pet industry is likely to change in favor of progressive brands that are beginning to assert themselves as climate-smart players. These climate-friendly brands will likely be leaning towards a higher purpose and mission that includes increased innovation and change investments to improve their carbon footprint and sustainable prep story.

What do sustainability best practices look like? In a recent Sustainability Readiness Assessment of 20 brands across a range of categories from CPG to food retail and pet food, the results indicated near-universal consensus on key areas of vulnerability that will need to be strengthened.

The Brand Sustainability Solution (BSS) Readiness Questionnaire project included organizations such as LVMH, Grupo Bimbo, L’Oréal, Ahold Delhaize, Nature’s Logic Pet Foods and revealed ongoing performance challenges in sustainability in these three areas:

Science-based analysis of Scope 3 emissions: Scope 3 analysis looks at the supply chain. A A recent report on players in the human food industry, from manufacturers to retailers and catering companies, found that more than 80% of emissions contributions on average were in the supply chain. Yet, for the most part, science-based assessments were either non-existent or limited to Scope 1 and 2 carbon assessment.

What gets measured matters: the right measurement infrastructure must be installed to track and measuring the sales impacts of sustainability performance. The framework for this type of balance sheet contribution is often lacking as organizations approach sustainability as a ‘good citizen’ strategy rather than a business building initiative.

Sustainability communication left unaddressed: A recent study of food retail companies UK by London-based Brand Experience Group reported that the top three food retail companies were leaving a total of $9 billion in unrealized sales on the table. Why? Because they hadn’t invested in adequate communication designed to inform their customers of their sustainability policies and the important work they were doing to make improvements. You can’t get credit and gain credibility with climate-smart consumers if you don’t tell them your story effectively.

The four components of sustainability best practices are:

Scientific analysis of the business life cycle – including Scope 3 assessment to establish a clear picture of the true impact of the organization’s emissions.

Finding consumer information – consumers will invariably surprise you about the areas of sustainability performance that matter most to them. You will get more credit for addressing their concerns rather than areas that do not matter to them.

Business Metrics – ultimately, organizations will make better climate investment decisions when they consider it as a component of the brand value proposition and a direct link to business benefits.

Effective communications – Closing the loop with consumers and stakeholders is key to gaining their allegiance and championing your sustainability performance.

Does your pet brand strive for sustainable investments? Progressive brands turn to strengthen their good faith in sustainability and establish the standards and policies needed to reduce carbon footprint and emissions. Greg Kean, global vice president of advanced innovation, research and development and sustainability at Wellness, reports that his company plans to address scope 3 emissions assessment within the next year.

“We have increasingly integrated sustainability practices into our supply chain which cover activities such as performing life cycle analyses, installing solar panels and ensuring fair labor practices. From an innovation perspective, we are addressing the development of recyclable packaging and the pursuit of research into alternative proteins and improving animal welfare practices,” he explained.

It is essential for a more sustainable future in pet food to recognize that the widespread use of animal-based protein brings inherent challenges to the emissions produced by animal husbandry. The wellness brand is working diligently to understand where they are on this journey.

Kean said: “We are committed to carbon accounting throughout our supply chain. We have already started to perform life cycle analysis of energy and water use and are in the final stages of choosing carbon accounting software that aligns with the protocol on greenhouse gases to begin the process of measuring and setting targets to reduce volume-adjusted emissions across scope 1. -3.

Champion Petfoods, long recognized for its commitment to fresh ingredient partnerships with farms, ranches and fisheries, sees the process as a journey that requires an ongoing commitment to progress over time. “The field of sustainability is vast and it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. Pushing for progress often comes with managing significant complexity or additional costs. Our industry embraces this sentiment and it is encouraging to see the growth in momentum and collaboration to collectively solve these challenges,” said Nicole Suteau, sustainable development manager at Champion.

Suteau named Champion remains committed to doing its part to create positive change within the industry and the world at large. To that end, she said Champion has set specific goals for responsible sourcing, sustainable packaging and mitigating waste to landfills.

For his part, Champion sees the path to sustainability readiness as a large-scale effort that cuts across functional areas of the business. “We are putting in place a clear strategy that is fully endorsed by senior management; involve large groups to collaborate on the development of action plans; recruit others outside the organization to help, such as our suppliers and the Pet Sustainability Coalition; and realizing that this is an interactive process where we can celebrate successes and bring the whole company up to the challenge,” she said.

Suteau said the company is in the midst of an initiative to source fish sustainably with the goal that 100% of the fish used in their kitchens, including fresh, raw, meals and oils, will switch to a source. credibly verified. “Currently, we are more than 70% of the way there,” she said.

During this time, Wellness decided to secure a packaging solution that meets its quality and sustainability goals. “Our internal goal is to move to recyclable packaging by 2025,” said Kean, who noted that the company’s key initiatives include “reducing waste through recyclability of packaging, reducing emissions and reducing the contribution of protein of animal origin by 20% by 2030”.

As more pet brands prioritize performance, standards and sustainability policies, the industry will move closer to satisfying pet parents’ wishes for credible choices and more. sustainability in the pet food they buy. At the same time, the industry can help address food system conditions that contribute to the climate threats that now plague the entire planet.


Robert Wheatley is the CEO of Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency, based in Chicago. Emergent can help pet brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity and deeper meaning in their relationships with pet parents and brand communication.

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