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Having said by piece about Iams (Proctor and Gamble), Whiskas (Mars Inc.) and Beneful (Nestle SA) I feel compelled to complete the big four and tackle Hill’s Science Death Diet (Colgate-Palmolive). Remember that these four big companies dominate the pet food industry and have many more horrible brands, I’ve written about them before here.

Hill’s go to market strategy is a little different to the other brands as rather than ploughing money into TV adverts they’ve chosen instead to brain wash our vets into selling their death bags. I’m sure many of us have had to stare at this horrible stuff whilst waiting to see the vet, I know I’ve had to literally hold my tongue when the vet nurse has been telling owners, “you need this one for teeth cleaning, and this one for joint care” pffft.

Probably the first thing to note is that Hill’s is losing market share to smaller petfood companies that manufacture natural petfoods or premium petfoods with high-quality ingredients. It seems that “Science” isn’t selling any more, so much so that they tried to introduce the Science Diet Nature’s Best line but it didn’t go so well. As Ian Cook, Colgate CEO put it: “the consumer had a disconnect with this idea of Science Diet and a naturals product,”. I tell you what Ian let me rephrase that for you, “the consumer actually saw through our bullsh!t marketing and took their hard earned cash to someone they thought they might be able to trust a little more”.

I’ve taken a look at Hill’s website and it seems they have sneaked a teeny rebrand past me so I can no longer use my preferred name of Hill’s Science Death Diet. Instead we now have:

Hill’s Prescription Diet – Clinically proven nutrition to alleviate your pets’ most important health conditions.
Hill’s Science Plan – Scientifically developed nutrition to fit your pet’s age, size and sensitivity.
Hill’s Vetessentials – Nutrition specifically formulated for pets’ essential health needs in every life stage.
Hill’s Nature’s Best – Perfectly balanced nutrition made of high quality wholesome ingredients.

I’m struggling to see the difference between Science Plan and Vetessentials or why I’d select either of them over “perfectly balanced nutrition of high quality wholesome ingredients”. I also don’t know why I’d only want my pet’s most important health conditions alleviated by Prescription diet not all of his health conditions. But we all know that flooding the market with brands and then saying some words about them is a good way to shift product. Hell, Colgate Palmolive are experts at this, they’ve got 27 brands of toothpaste to flood the shelves and confuse shoppers with.

For the Hill’s Nature’s Best brand (see how Ian cunningly dropped the “Science” bit) they’ve even created a new website look, thereby backing two horses, allowing them to break it away from their Science brands. Given that it’s newer and it claims to be “natural” I’m going to select a Hill’s Nature’s Best product to take a closer look at. Let’s see if perhaps Hill’s are improving their offering, because let’s face it, it couldn’t get much worse unless you cracked open a bag of Bakers.

Nature’s Best™ Canine Adult Mini/Medium
Ground maize, chicken and turkey meal, maize gluten meal, animal fat, digest, brown rice, ground barley, oat groats, vegetable oil, dried beet pulp, dehydrated carrots, dehydrated peas, tomato pomace, spinach powder, citrus pulp, grape pomace, potassium citrate, flaxseed, L-lysine hydrochloride, calcium carbonate, salt, iron oxide, L-tryptophan, vitamins and trace elements. Naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, citric acid and rosemary extract.

Well I’ll hand one thing to Hill’s they don’t bang on about dogs being carnivores and then go feed them grains, or try to lie and call them omnivores, heck no, Hill’s just get right on with making a “food” out of grains and rendering industry by-products. It’s a pretty nasty list up there, I don’t see any whole meats at all!

When I compare the 4 big player’s websites and marketing efforts you can see who the scientists are without the big clue in the name. Hill’s are no where near as slick, but they do still happily throw some words out that aren’t really meaningful, including saying one of the key benefits of this product is: “Provides naturally healthy superior complete nutrition.” I’m pretty sure none of that is measurable!

So Hill’s most natural product isn’t natural. It’s just the old stuff in a new green bag, which you can see if you compare it to a Science Plan product.

Science Plan™ Canine Adult Performance Chicken
Ground maize, chicken and turkey meal, animal fat, dried beet pulp, digest, vegetable oil, dried whole egg, potassium chloride, salt, disodium phosphate, taurine, vitamins and trace elements. Naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, citric acid and rosemary extract.

In conclusion, in response to falling market share because consumers want a more natural product for their beloved pets Colgate Palmolive have responded by more or less taking their old product and putting it in a new bag, creating web pages with a nice country feel and adding yet another brand to their stable. That’s what they think of people, that they are stupid enough to fall for the green bag and their meaningless words and that they’ll ignore the cr@p ingredients.

Well Colgate Palmolive/Hill’s/Nature’s Best/Whatever you decide to call yourself next. Us tinkerwolves see through you and we’re going to keep telling everyone else about what you’re doing because we’re like that.

Staring out to sea

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