Maybe I am an unusual, but in a world where the preferred method of communication is to write novels back and forth to each other, I still love to pick up the phone and connect with people. How can I really get to know about you or your dog and what you're trying to prevent or what you're trying to address without being able to open a dialogue that allows us to ask each other questions? You can't get that level of understanding through email.
What is apparent in every interaction is that we all have our hearts in the right place - we want the best for our dogs. Money or time is not always an issue for people but instead but rather that companies spend more on their marketing than on the ingredients they use. I have been saying this since I started on this journey in 2010 and while there are small improvements to products, sadly companies still spend more on marketing than their ingredients.
Now more than ever it is important to be informed and educated. is As someone who set the bar very high all those years ago, I almost feel obligated to share with you some of the key marketing terms to look out for. This is not a name and shame post or a self-praise post but a call to action - I urge you to read the ingredients label before you purchase anything. What you purchase or more importantly what you do not purchase will determine how high manufactures will raise their standards.
If you look back through the dog marketing archives, I am either guilty or credited for making this buzzword as well as human-grade and certified organic a thing in the pet industry.
Considering that currently the term “superfood” has no standard criteria or legal definitions, I'd like to see companies using it in the spirit that the term was intended - as referring to non-man-made ingredients that offer maximum nutritional benefits for minimal calories. Superfoods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are usually plant-based.
If the ingredients list it reads like a bunch of vitamins and minerals or as if it is in broken english, there is nothing superfood about it - these are known as synthetics or man-made nutrients that mimic nature and are made in a lab.
Why do companies use synthetics instead of real ingredients?
- Stable and long shelf-life vs wholefood ingredients degrade over time.
- Endless supply unlike wholefoods - no matter how high the business scales up the ingredients are always available.
- Convenience - it much easier to balance out wholefoods when you can order exactly the nutrients you want when you want.
SYNTHETICS VS WHOLEFOODS
Now that the pet industry gold-rush is really on as celebrity vets and companies with deep pockets are attempting to cash in, it's more important than ever to ignore the clever marketing and read the label.
Taken from the Augustine's SuperBoost product page:
The majority of pet food companies rely on synthetic supplementation to compensate for the natural nutrients destroyed during cooking (irrespective of price or quality of the ingredients). Synthetic supplements are also used to help products meet standards that will allow companies to label their products as balanced. Whilst on paper these products appear to be nutritionally balanced, it is no secret that many synthetic vitamins lack the important nutritional co-factors needed to assist the body in absorbing and assimilating nutrients.
Unlike synthetic vitamins which contain no trace minerals and must utilise the body's own mineral reserves, wholefood complexes are recognised as real food. The body can digest and assimilate wholefood nutrients without having to rob itself of the trace minerals and other co-factors necessary to complete the vitamins synergistic operation. Research indicates that over time synthetic vitamins may actually cause nutritional deficiencies. Augustine’s SuperBoost is made entirely from highly digestible plant ingredients. You could say that it helps put the goodness back that processing takes out.
I've recently noticed ads in my feed claiming to be SUPERFOOD supplements and or MEAL BALANCERS that help to balance out their own recipes or even other recipes. At first I was genuinely excited to read this because I actually want more healthy options for dogs all around the world. Not only did they turn out to be synthetic garbage, but also do not truly balance a meal because as stated above, the body cannot absorb and assimilate them like it does real food. Additionally, it is dishonest to claim that a supplement can balance out a meal without knowing what else the meal contains - you have to look at the whole diet.
When we released Augustine's SuperBoost it was the first supplement in the world that was not actually originally designed as a supplement - it was derived from our fresh food recipes for Augustine's SuperFood and while you can and most people do use it as a supplement to the food of their choosing, it is technically a true meal balancer for our recipes.
The irony is that if you are going to supplement with synthetics you really might as well just stick to kibble or canned foods that are full of synthetics.
MADE WITH REAL CHICKEN
... or lamb... or fruit or whatever... If you have to tell someone that something is made with a real ingredient like chicken it shows how low we have stooped as an industry. Please read the label because when you see this there is a high chance that the other ingredients are not healthy.
100% PURE INGREDIENTS
This has to be the most pointless marketing term in recent times especially when they are referring to synthetic ingredients. As someone pointed out online, you can have 100% pure poison. While it is at a glance this marketing term is perceived as a positive, it really means nothing and is a term used by companies wanting to keep their ingredient costs down in order to presumably spend it on packaging and online marketing.
Since inception, commercial pet foods were used as a means to monetise food products that were not fit for human consumption and would otherwise be thrown out. In 2011, I began to notice a slow shift in the use and marketing of human-grade ingredients in pet food products. When we made the Human Food For Dogs tag line public, almost overnight I observed that products on the supermarket shelf were relabelled from PET FOOD ONLY to FOOD FOR DOGS by some of the major brands.
While it is important to source dog supplements that contain high-quality, human-grade ingredients please note that just because something is approved to be consumed by people, it does not mean that it is of quality. For example, and I am being generous when I say this, we shouldn't be eating approx: 80-90% of what is on supermarket shelves.
VET FORMULATED / VET ENDORSED
This is the equivalent to protein shakes being formulated by general practitioners or psychiatrists promoting Adderall. Most vets are not nutritionists and when you look at all the horrible junk food and veterinary flea & tick products that celebrity vets are paid to promote it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
Just last week a celebrity vet popped up in my instagram feed promoting their new supplement range and they made a point of saying "no fillers". These are the same people that made a career out of going on TV pushing dry food that is full of fillers. I can't help but think of that scene in Nacho Libre when sister says Sister Encarnacion, "People cheer for him, but he is a false idol."