Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Merrick bought by Purina: The Pros and Cons of mergers

Merrick will soon be owned by Nestle Purina.

To say people are disappointed would be an understatement. Hundreds of people on Merrick's Facebook and Twitter accounts are telling them they will stop feeding their dog Merrick.

I myself am a bit concerned. I am supposed to be working with Merrick on its new Limited Ingredient food line.

Jasmine sits with a bag of Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet food.
Jasmine sits with a bag of Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet food.
It's done amazing things for Jasmine so far. She's stopped scratching and her flaky skin is gone.

So now I'm left wondering if this wonderful food will stay that way.

Why would a company that produces high quality foods sell out to a big company that has a bad reputation?

There are benefits for the companies.

 Merrick released this Tuesday:
Merrick Pet Care announced today it has signed an agreement for Nestlé Purina PetCare Company to purchase the company from its private equity owner, Swander Pace Capital.  Terms were not disclosed.  
With SuperZoo as the back drop, Merrick Founder Garth Merrick said, “I believe Nestlé Purina is the right company to take what I along with others have built to the next level. I’m proud my name will continue to be on the door as we remain committed to making the best food for the best pets ever.”
Merrick is one of the fastest-growing natural and organic pet food companies in the industry, and will continue to operate as an independent business with no planned changes to its management or operations.
Merrick has more than 350 employees located primarily in Hereford, Texas, Amarillo, Texas and Evanston, Illinois. 
With this agreement, which is expected to close over the next several months, Merrick will be able to further build upon its record of providing pets with industry leading nutrition, quality and food safety, while taking advantage of new global resources and innovations.
“The Merrick team has built an extremely strong portfolio of natural and organic pet food and treat brands that are helping millions of pets thrive,” said Joe Sivewright, chief executive officer of Nestlé Purina PetCare.  “We admire Merrick
and what the team is doing to provide pets with nutritious, quality and safe food and are excited about how the Merrick brands will broaden the Purina portfolios.
Merrick offers a wide variety of USA-made dry and wet foods, as well as treats, that are available nationally at independent pet specialty stores, Petco, and online via select retailers.  In April 2012, Merrick Pet Care Inc. acquired Castor & Pollux and its ORGANIX branded portfolio. These brands are available at PetSmart, natural grocery, and online via select retailers. 
This is not the first high-quality pet food company that Purina has bought in the last few years. Purina bought Zuke's Dog Treats in 2014. The treats are still manufactured out of the same plants, they still have never had a recall and still don't use ingredients from China.

But people weren't happy with Zuke's when that announcement happened either.

Then there is Natural Balance. That dog food company was bought out by Del Monte in 2013.

Del Monte owns Kibbles N Bits, among other lower quality pet foods. And I didn't realize until recently that Those Del Monte brands were all just sold to Smuckers.

For Purina and Smuckers, these deals are big wins.

More dog parents than ever are picky about what they feed their pet.

Spending on pet food accounted for $22.26 billion in overall pet purchases in America in 2014 (where Americans spent $58.04 billion overall), according to the American Pet Products Association. It's not that we are spending more on quantity of food. We are spending more on quality. Pet food companies recognize this.

If you're a company like Purina or Del Monte -- you have a reputation for not making great dog food or even, in the case of Purina, making dog food that's accused of being dangerous or even fatal for dogs. The easiest way to break into the higher-quality food market is not to change recipes but to acquire new brands. It's not just the brands they are acquiring, but the formulas for those foods.

But why would a company like Merrick and Natural Balance want to be bought by companies with bad reps?

Both Natural Balance and Merrick were fast-growing brands. They are catering to an audience that is clamoring for better foods. That means they need the production resources to meet the demand. Both companies said they would take advantage of "new global innovations and resources."

"Natural Balance looks forward to working hand in hand with Del Monte to leverage their strong distribution, supply chain and innovation resources that will help the brand achieve its next level of growth," Natural Balance said in its announcement in 2013.

So what are the pros and cons for the customers?

  • Food potentially available in more places. Natural Balance is now in PetSmart as well as Petco, though whether having a better distribution system helps with that I do not know.
  • Potentially more products available.
  • Companies may change formulas or recipes.
  • Companies may change quality of products.
  • Companies may change testing of products for quality.
 Now in Zuke's, Natural Balance's and Merrick's cases, all companies said they would act independently and not see any changes. How true that is remains to be seen.

What hurts Merrick is simply the fact that people are convinced that Purina Beneful is killing and sickening dogs and Purina is doing nothing about it. Nestle Purina is also the number one food company in the world. The company's reputation as a whole is not necessarily sterling.

Perception is important. For a company like Merrick to go with Purina feels like a betrayal among some pet parents.

However, I would say this is something we may have to get used to. Natural Balance and Merrick are not the first dog food companies to be bought by major conglomerates, and they won't be the last. More of these mergers will happen.

The good news is you won't see changes (if any changes come) right away. Even once the sale is completed, it will take time for Merrick to get acclimated into the new corporate structure. And if Purina does decided to hurt Merrick's quality in any way, it will still take time to roll out those products. That means you don't need to drop Merrick and switch your dog's food right away. You can wait and see.

Again, Merrick insists that won't happen. But can we trust Purina?

But then, this should not be new for us Americans. Big companies own a vast majority of the food we eat and other products we buy. Even many so-called "whole food" items are manufactured or farmed by big companies. Or by a little company owned by a big company. Unless we know each link in the supply chain, we'll never know exactly how our food came to be, let alone our dog's food.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Would you continue to serve your dog Merrick now that Purina is buying the company?


  1. Excellent post! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Disappointing is a good word for this. The financial pressures in the industry are huge, and the money is in the big companies, who are buying up the little ones.

    One note... Del Monte no longer owns any pet foods. They sold off their human foods and then renamed the rest of the business Big Heart Pet Brands in 2014. Early this year, Big Heart Pet Brands was bought by Smuckers, who now owns Milk Bone, Meow Mix, etc. We need a playbill to keep up with this stuff!

    1. I didn't know that until yesterday. But of course I wasn't home to update. *sigh*

  3. This is so disheartening for us. I'm not a fan of anything by Purina which means we'll be looking for an alternative to our moist food. Probably go back to Taste of the Wild. Very sad to see Merrick goes this route. :(

  4. I agree w/ a wait & see approach. I don't see Merrick letting their life's work go down the drain. I think big companies are realizing that more is expected of them in terms of high quality pet food & safer processes & QA. Its up to us to keep them (or get them) honest! Awesome post!!

  5. so sad. I am moving to Fromm. I will never trust what a company like purina or nestle says the ingredients are. Check out all dog foods at dogadvisor.com

    1. I will Never buy Merrick foods for my dogs again....very dissapointed to hear Purina bought them out and will look into a whole new brand for my dogs!

  6. I'm researching now. While I have the time. Merrick can still "claim" whole organic foods but will that be the truth? It's all about the almighty dollar here in the USA. Nothing to do with our actual pets. My scrying doggie water bowl vision is. Out sourced "whole meats" from countries like China.

  7. when I first fed Merrick Whole Earth Farms all my dogs health issues went away, now 2 years later all of a sudden he has new issues so there is no need to speculate about whether the formula will change because it already has !


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