Differences between expensive and less costly brands

With so many types of pet food available on the market, it can be daunting to choose a specific food for your beloved pet. Not only can you choose from different brands in the pet shop and vet shop, but there is also a big variety of food available in supermarkets. So, is a higher price an indicator of better food?

Pricey products

Although Animaltalk advocates that pet owners should buy the best food they can afford, it is not to say that one brand is better because it is more expensive. The onus is on you, the pet owner, to find out what goes into the product and to find out from your vet what the best food is for your pet. Discuss the ingredients with your vet, and look at which brand is most suitable. If your pet has a special requirement, this is an important factor to take into account. Price shouldn’t be the determining factor, but it is definitely something to keep in mind. If you can’t afford a specific food, ask your vet for an alternative option.

Quality of products

Dominique Kuhlmann, general manager of the Pet Food Industry (PFI), says that the quality of pet food is largely determined by the quality of the ingredients that is used in the product. “Better quality ingredients offer better absorption of nutrients, which often result in lesser quantity of food required by the animal to achieve the same energy output,” explains Dominique.

Therefore, the first thing you have to find out is what ingredients are in the food. This may take some research, as the packaging isn’t always clear what exactly is in the food, even though the ingredients are listed on it. Nothing stops you from contacting the manufacturer directly, but normally this is a timeous exercise that most people try to avoid. Usually, pet food manufacturers that produce the better-quality food boast about the natural ingredients they use on their packaging, and in more detail on their websites. Have a look at this information before you buy.


According to Dominique, protein and fat are generally, and very broadly speaking, the differentiators of premium food and economy brands. “Premium food generally contains higher quantities of proteins and fats that are obtained from good-quality sources. Fat is the most concentrated form of calories and the body’s primary source of energy. Protein is the building blocks of muscle and body tissue and the body’s alternative source of energy, especially in the absence of sufficient fat or carbohydrates,” explains Dominique. (Look out for the article on the importance of protein in pet food in the May edition of Animaltalk magazine.)

“Economy brands will still meet your pet’s basic nutritional requirements, but it might not be at the same level as the premium brands, which are mainly available at pet shops or your vet’s shop.”


Another factor that influences the price of pet food is the time taken for a manufacturer to formulate a food that is very specific to the type of food in question. “Because economy brands have been around for many years, a new formulation in this category will take far less time than a new food that is following a new trend of innovation, like grain-free, for example. A new innovation may take months or even years to formulate, whereas a formulation that follows a more tried-and-tested format, may only take a few days,” says Dominique.

She adds that, generally, wet food takes longer to formulate than dry food, and cat food takes even longer than dog food to get the formulation right. “The reason why cat food takes longer is that there are more ‘special requirements’ for cats, such as the importance of the pH balance in the food and the effect that it has on a cat’s urinary tract,” explains Dominique.

Bottom line

Just because a certain food is more expensive than another, doesn’t mean that it is a better quality food. Pet owners are becoming much more aware of the affect that quality food has on their pets. They do research about the ingredients of different brands, and that is how they determine which food is best for their pet. They then buy the best food that they can afford.

Did you know? Pet food brands are registered with the PFI in South Africa to ensure that the technical advisor has reviewed the formulation, and is satisfied that the nutrient makeup of the food is adequate for the pet when eaten as a complete diet.


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