Major Pet Food Retailer Petco Bans Artificial Ingredients

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One of the world’s largest pet food retail stores is standing up for per health, starting by removing pet foods with artificial flavoring from its shelves.

Petco CEO Ron Coughlin made his company’s stance known in a public statement on Nov. 13. The move could potentially cost the pet specialty retailer as much as $100 million in annual sales.

In the preface to the official release, Coughlin explained why this decision is so important to Petco, and why it’s important to his own family.

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Petco has banned foods with artificial ingredients from its stores.


Since joining Petco as CEO earlier this year, I’ve seen first-hand just how special the bond between people and pets can be.

Here at Petco, pets are unquestionably part of our families. If you’re reading this letter, chances are you agree. My 10-year-old lab, Yummy, is 75 pounds of pure love and I would do just about anything to keep him healthy, happy and by my side, tail wagging, for as long as possible.

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This decision affects a potential $100 million a year in sales for Petco.

I’m proud to lead a company that’s been putting pets first for more than 50 years. And when you love pets as much as we do, you always want to do more. To be better.
That’s why we’re introducing new standards for nutrition at Petco.

Today, we’re making a commitment to not sell dog or cat food and treats with artificial colors, flavors or preservatives – making us the first and only major retailer of pet food to take a stand against such ingredients. We’ll start removing products that don’t meet our new standards in January 2019, and complete the process by May.

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Petco CEO Ron Coughlin is dedicated to the health of his customers’ animals, and his own.


We’re raising the bar and stepping out ahead of the industry. Not because it’s an easy thing to do, but because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

Our goal is better health and wellness for the pets we all love. And setting new standards for nutrition is just the beginning.

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Foods with artificial ingredients will be off Petco’s shelves by January 2019.

Petco, based in San Diego, is the 100th-largest private company in the U.S., Forbes reports. The company makes at least $4.2 billion in sales every year with 1,500 locations throughout the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent $69.5 billion on their pets in 2017, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. But Coughlin isn’t worried that the decision will hurt business. He’s just looking out for the animals.

“We are making sure we are always taking the nutritional high ground,” he told The Associated Press.

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In 2014, Petco banned pet foods made in China from its retail stores after safety concerns arose.


In 2014, Petco discontinued the sale of China-made treats after consumers began raising safety concerns. The company’s latest decision will take effect January 2019.

“Some may question whether this makes good business sense, but putting pets’ health first has always been the right thing to do for Petco,” Coughlin wrote. “This is both a major step forward for pets and a natural next step on our journey to become a complete partner in total pet wellness. We hope the rest of the pet industry will join us on this path to better health for the pets we love.”

Pet food including the following ingredients will be dropped from Petco’s shelves:

  • FD&C Red No. 3
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated hytroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Glycerol tributyrate
  • benzaldehyde
  • and others

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Petco is the 100th-largest private company in the U.S.


“We’re inviting pet food companies to join us on this journey, even working hand-in-hand with some to pursue potential ingredient changes to meet our new stringent ingredient standards,” wrote Nick Konat, Co-Chief Merchandising Officer for Petco. “In cases where an existing brand is unable to update some or all of their products to meet our criteria by May of 2019, we will not carry either specific products or the brand entirely – and we’ll help pet parents affected by such a change to safely transition to a new food or brand that we believe is healthier for their pet.”

Along with consumer surveys, Petco invited the opinions of in-house and consultant veterinarians, nutritionists, and wellness experts in its decision to ban artificial ingredients.

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Petco made its ban known in an official statement on Nov. 13, 2018.

“As a veterinary nutritionist, I choose pet foods that are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives when feeding my own dog and cats,” wrote Dr. Susan Wynn (DVM, CVA, CVCH, DACVN), a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, a national provider of specialty and emergency veterinary care based in Atlanta, GA. “Consumer opinions have more influence on company practices now than ever before, and market surveys have shown that pet owners are concerned about manufacturing and label transparency.

“Almost 70% of millennials are more likely to research and purchase foods with natural ingredients,” Wynn continued. “I think these well-informed pet owners will be pleased to know that they can count on Petco to stock the brands in which they believe, and I look forward to the rest of the industry following Petco’s lead.”

Petco’s definition of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, as stated in the official release, includes:

  • Color from artificial sources: any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food that is not derived from a natural source.
  • Artificial flavor: any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products.
  • Artificial preservative: chemical substances added to or sprayed on the outside of food to retard spoilage, deterioration, discoloration, or contamination by bacteria and other disease organisms. Does not include preservatives that are derivatives of natural compounds.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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