Here’s an interesting question, just what is a premium or super premium food and why does a brand use this description, other than to justify charging more for its products?

We’re told by one manufacturer that Nutro Products, Inc. has been a leader in natural, super premium dog and cat food for over 80 years but they don’t tell us what they mean by ‘super-premium’.

Arden Grange tell us Arden Grange is a family run business based just outside Brighton which has been producing Natural Premium pet foods since 1996.

So does that make Nutro better because it is ‘Super Premium’ rather than ‘Premium?’

I would seriously doubt it – the fact is that no-one seems able to provide a suitable definition.

It all got a bit murky in the US recently when there was a couple of big health scares with pet food ingredients. To quote the Guardian Newspaper:

‘The value of buying super-premium brands will also be brought into question and could hurt the bottom line of those suppliers. Pet owners will be wondering why they are paying higher retail prices for premium food even though the cans and pouches contain the same ingredients as bargain-basement store brands from the likes of Wal-Mart and Safeway.’

‘The recall of some 60m containers of ‘cuts and gravy’ wet food revealed that although consumers seem to have a plethora of choices on retail store shelves many brands are made by one manufacturer in three huge plants around north America.’

Interestingly in the UK a handful of manufacturers produce a lot of different brands. Well known Premium names like Arden Grange, James Wellbeloved and Burns are all made by the same machinery in the same factory as pet shop own brands.

So is it just marketing hype?

Actually, I don’t think it is. Let’s look at this sensibly by assuming that what we’re looking at in these terms is some indication of quality – quality of raw ingredients and maybe quality of service. We’re looking for a Super Premium food to offer something better than the value supermarket own brand which sells at a quarter of the price.

So what do we get with a Premium product?

You tend to get the following, and with the reputable brands experience would suggest that this is the case

1.You pay more – that’s a bit of a no-brainer, I’m afraid. A 15kg of a Premium Food is giong to set you back between £30 and £40 as opposed to £10 or less for the ‘value’ alternative

2.The food is probably hypo-allergenic, which means it is less likely to cause ingredient sensitivity problems (though bear in mind that the majority of cats and dogs live quite happily on cheaper value brands)

3.The ingredients are more easily identified – single sources of protein and cereals used, rather than generic animal or cereal by-products. Premium products tend to avoid beef or wheat which can be problematical.

4. You feed less – this is the case with quite a few Premium brands such as Burns where feeding rates can be considerably less than economy brands, because the food is more digestible.

5. Less waste to pick up – Premium brands tend to be more digestible, therefore there’s less poo to pick up… that’s a big product plus!

You will also find other ‘product plus’ features such as added herbal or other products which offer, according to the advertising at least, health benefits.

Euromonitor reports this about the UK Pet Food market ‘With sales staff at one of the UK’s biggest grocery chains noticing that people often purchase premium products for their pets but value products for themselves, manufacturers are using advertising to persuade pet owners to trade up in their pet food purchases. 2006 saw the release of the world’s most expensive television pet food advertisement coming in at £1 million to support the Sheba cat food brand. Convenience has also been at a premium, hastening the decline of the canned format, whereas innovations such as Whiskas and Felix pouches and Olli’s non-slip trays have continued to perform well.’


by John Birch