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Pet Product News International staff held a panel discussion with natural pet food manufacturers and retailers to discuss what truly defines a natural product, how it pertains to pet food, and what the term means as a whole in terms of marketplace presence.


Panelists included Rick Rockhill, Vice President of Merchandise for Petco Animal Supplies, Bette Schubert, Director of Sales for Bravo! Raw Diets, and Ken Wilks, Director of Sales and Marketing for Merrick Pet Care. Moderators were Sheri L. Collins, editor of Pet Product News International, and Brian Hutchings, news director for Bowtie, Inc. The article first appeared in the Natural Pet Product Merchandiser magazine in October of 2009.


When asked what is “natural” and does it involve the ingredients, process, or both, panelists concurred for the most part. Wilks shared that there is a difference between natural to a pet specialty channel and natural to a grocer. For the grocery side, Wilks stated that though images of meats and carrots are on the front of the bag, the bag’s panel of ingredients is not necessarily reflective of them.


Schubert shared that raw food is on the rise, and though in its infancy stages, the more people become educated about raw, the more she feels it will be embraced. Rockhill agreed and reported that over the last 60 years, the quality of pet food has gone up and that can only be good for both the pets.


There is a difference between holistic and natural, as the panelists pointed out. Natural for Schubert involves looking at the product and determining if it is truly in its natural form. Holistic, however, relates to the whole animal, and for Schubert, more of a veterinarian standpoint term than something like “natural.”


Industry standards and the use of the word “natural” with enforceable guidelines were also explored. To read the entire report, visit

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