Why are claims important?
Labels are the main form of communication between purchasers, feed business operators (FBOs) and enforcement authorities. The prime purpose of labels is to provide clear, accurate and honest information about a product that may facilitate the buying act of the purchaser. Product labels help communicate characteristics of the product, and allow consumers to make informed choices on product suitability. This can be supported by claims, which allow for differentiation between pet food products. Not only can they be a useful marketing tool for FBOs, they can also be informative for consumers, to help them in choosing a product from the many options available . A study into dog owner purchasing habits suggested that claims relating to targeted nutrition resonated with a majority (84.5%) of dog owners (Banton, et al., 2021).
Ingredient and product attributes have become key focal points among consumers (Nielsen, 2019). This correlates positively to growing trend of humanisation in the pet industry. Consumers increasingly see their pets as family members and are prepared to spend more on pet food and pet-related products (Robeco, 2020). Most pet owners reported giving equal or more priority to buying healthy food for their pets compared to themselves (Schleicher, et al., 2019). This suggests that the presence of health or functional ingredient-related claims are an important factor in the decision-making process. Due to their strong influence, it is imperative that claims comply with regulation.
• Well established and recognised knowledge already exists
• Based on general scientific knowledge
• Claims are accepted in the industry e.g. Vitamin A to help maintain normal vision.
• May not yet be widely recognised
• Substantiation may be based on published/unpublished research, in-house research or a combination.
A claim must be based upon a comprehensive review of all available scientific data relating to the validity of the claim. All data should be reviewed irrespective of its favour to the claim itself. Ignorance of data that isn’t favourable could result in the claim being considered invalid by competent authorities.
How does regulation work?
When the validity of a claim is in question, this is likely to be the result of a challenge brought to competent authorities by a purchaser. Alternatively, this could be challenged by the competent authorities themselves (for example Trading Standards). In response, the FBO would be expected to provide a sufficient substantiation dossier for the claim in question. If the competent authority has doubts surrounding the adequacy of the substantiation provided, they may take further action. Repercussions for non-compliance could include fines, in addition to the cost of having to correct packaging and marketing materials, whilst not making sales. Non-compliance could also result in long term negative impacts on contracts, partnerships, brand perception and consumer loyalty.
It is in the best interest of the FBO and purchaser to provide clear labelling and make accurate claims. Regulation 767/2009 and FEDIAF Code of Good Labelling Practice for Pet Food are effective tools to ensure compliance.
1. Banton, S., Baynham, A., Pezzali, J.G., von Massow, M., Shoveller, A.K., (2021) Grains on the brain: A survey of dog owner purchasing habits related to grain-free dry dog foods. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250806. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250806
2. FEDIAF. (2018) FEDIAF Code of Good Labelling Practice for Pet Food. https://fediaf.org/images/FEDIAF_labeling_code_2019_onlineOctober2019.pdf
3. Nielsen IQ (2019) Who’s winning the claim game in the pet food arena? /https://nielseniq.com/global/en/insights/analysis/2019/whos-winning-the-claim-game-in-the-pet-food-arena/
4. REGULATION (EC) No 767/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 13 July 2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:229:0001:0028:EN:PDF
5. REGULATION (EC) No 1924/2006 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:404:0009:0025:EN:PDF
6. Robeco (2020) Consumer trends in 2020: food delivery, humanization of pets and streaming wars. https://www.robeco.com/uk/insights/2020/01/consumer-trends-in-2020.html
7. Schleicher, M., Cash, S.B., Freeman, L.M., (2019) Determinants of pet food purchasing decisions. Can Vet J. 2019 Jun; 60(6): 644–650.
Article written by Sophia Parkinson