Clever Pet Food Marketing

There’s more to the product name than clever marketing. The name will actually give you your first clue about the ingredients. Because so many pet owners base their buying decision on a specific ingredient, brands will try to highlight that ingredient in the product name. But it’s all in the wording. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has four rules:

  • The 95 Percent Rule: At least 95 percent of the product must be the named ingredient, for example, “Chicken for Dogs,” or “Salmon Dog Food,” must include at least 95 percent of chicken or salmon, respectively. In addition, this main product must be at least 70 percent of the total product when counting the added water. According to AAFCO regulations, the remaining five percent of ingredients will be those required for nutritional reasons, such as vitamins and minerals, and small amounts of any other ingredients.

  • The 25 Percent Rule: When you see products named “Beef Dinner for Dogs,” “Chicken and Sweet Potato Entrée,” or “Lamb Platter,” for example, this is the 25 percent rule in action. If the named ingredients comprise at least 25 percent of the product (not counting the water for processing), but less than 95 percent, the product name must include a qualifying term, such as dinner, entrée, or platter. Counting the added water, the named ingredients still must comprise 10 percent of the product. If more than one ingredient is included in a “dinner,” the combination of the named ingredients must total 25 percent of the product and be listed in the same order as found on the ingredient list.

  • The “With” Rule: When you see a dog food label, such as “Doggie Dinner With Beef,” the “With . . .” ingredient need only be at least 3 percent of the product. Just the addition of that one word — “with” — dramatically changes the percentage requirement of the ingredient in the food and is a good reason to pay attention to the product name.

  • The Flavor Rule: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if the label says “Beef Flavor Dog Food,” then “a specific percentage (of the beef) is not required, but a product must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected.” In this example, the word “flavor” must appear on the label in the same size, style, and color as the word “beef.”

Our job as your veterinarians is to make sure you pick a diet that is going to provide your pet with the nutrients they need as well as ensure that you aren’t misled by marketing or the misinformation on the Internet. You want a pet food company that has control over all aspects of their product, including research, development, and manufacturing.


Keep learning about your pet's nutrition and how we can help, here.