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Regular vs Premium Dog Food: What’s The Difference?

Nicole Cosgrove

As consumers demand, the manufacturers will supply. The consumer spoke throughout the early 2000s, asking for more of a balanced diet for themselves and their pets. All of a sudden, the market exploded with trending phrases like “Premium,” Super Premium,” and “Ultra Premium.”

The truth about the terms is quite unclear, even now, more than a decade after the trend started to grow. Let’s dig into what “premium” really means and how it can differ when raising the bar two or three times above that.

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“Premium” to the Marketing World

shih tzu puppy eating
Image Credit: STEVEPHILCOPHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

To be the most accurate, we can’t start with scientific facts or government regulations because neither of these terms is backed by those. Instead, premium and super-premium are phrases used by the marketing teams of pet food brands to attract customers.

It all has to do with customer perception. Overall, the marketing term is called “premiumization.” The alcohol industry initially put the terms into play to describe slightly better alcohols, processed in better ways or with enhanced flavors.

Since the alcohol industry coined it, it has become a method for marketing agencies in health and beauty, clothing, and both human and pet food.

In general, Western consumers have developed a desire to buy luxury goods. When a marketing team presents a product as less tangible to those with budgets, they become more desirable for everyone to have.

Our perception of price also catches us out when it comes to these marketing terms. People generally view a higher price as meaning that the product is more valuable and is made with a higher quality of ingredient or ingredient, even if that isn’t true.

There have been quite a few studies done on the effect of this perception. If it involves a food or drinks trial where the samples only differ by price, consumers will say that the more costly of the two tastes better. The brain does perceive the samples as tasting better because of a pricing bias.

Although we cannot taste pet food to see which tastes better for our cats and dogs based on price, our animals aren’t influenced by the cost of their food either. Regardless of the flavor, the increased prices put on pet food bags still enhances our perceptions as their owners.

The issue comes down to determining whether these words on the bag will mean a healthier pet in the long run. Are premium and super-premium foods any better than regular foods?

The Difference Between Regular and Super Premium

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Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

The primary challenge associated with these designations on pet food is that they are entirely unregulated. They are a whim that marketing departments have to get people to invest increased amounts of money in certain foods.

Generally speaking, regular premium products will avoid certain kinds of ingredients, like animal by-products and grains. They might add things like vegetables, fruits and even include something beneficial like probiotics.

Super-premium foods should be even higher quality than premium, but again, this isn’t a regulated term. Instead, it was a term used once the word premium started to become normalized.

Super-premium products might be better, but typically, they change the recipe so it doesn’t include artificial flavors and colors and cuts synthetic preservatives. This recipe will be better for your pet, but it is up to you whether that is worth the super-premium price tag that comes with it.

It is a good thing to have a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to these words. Our brains will get a trigger from them, indicating that these brands or series within a brand are obviously better. We can’t always trust our brains, though.

There is only one way to determine the value of your pet’s food: conducting your own research.

Challenge to Read Ingredients List

West Highland White Terrier dog at home eating
Image Credit: Alejandro rodriguez, Shutterstock

There are plenty of terms regulated by the food industry, but there are fewer terms for pet food than humans. Since premium and super-premium are not terms that get regulated, you shouldn’t put any actual stock in them being better than other foods on the shelf.

Instead, do your own research. Don’t look for pet food with all kinds of fun, triggering words on the front of the bag. Turn it around and look at the ingredients list. It is best if pet food has a minimal amount of ingredients to help with pet allergies. It should exclude unnecessary preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Look for fresh ingredients, and take note of which ones are positioned at the beginning of the list, since they will be present in the highest quantities. Take note of what kinds of proteins are present and the percentages, and be aware of how much protein and fat your animal needs.

The ingredients list on the back of the bag can’t tell you everything that you need to know about food either. Research to see where the company sources their ingredients from, as different countries have many different regulations.

Ideally, they should source it from North America or Europe, since most of those countries have the highest regulations. If you notice that they source ingredients like meats or certain by-products from China or several other Asian countries, it is best to avoid the food. These countries have low regulations on what they allow in their pet food, and it becomes a loophole for American-based companies.

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Conclusion

Ultimately, it shouldn’t be about whether a brand claims to be premium or even super-premium. Since these words are effectively meaningless, take time to research your own food. Determine your budget, and talk to your vet about foods that would suit your pet and be as high quality as possible.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.