Yes, Zuke’s Was Bought by Purina. So What?
We used to think Zuke’s was the shit. Zuke’s Performance Nutrition made high-quality dog treats that Chester and Gretel LOVED. Then, in late 2013, Zuke’s was acquired by Nestlé Purina PetCare.
UPDATE: The acquisition by Nestle-Purina occurred in late 2013. In February 2018, it was announced that Zuke’s will merge with another natural pet food company owned by Purina – Merrick Pet Care, an natural and organic pet-food company. Both are good companies, and the news is recent, so I’m waiting to see how everything shakes out before updating this article. However, I do know that 24 of Zuke’s 36 employees will be laid off – 16 of whom are located in Durango – during this consolidation with Merrick headquarters in Texas. The employees who lost their jobs are receiving outplacement support services, severance benefits, and benefit continuation (for an unknown amount of time). Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, added: “Whenever large companies purchase smaller companies, it’s all about the economics, and they are going to evaluate whether it makes sense or not to consolidate.” (Source)
Purina, the makers of Beneful, which has been rumored (although not proven) to make dogs sick, isn’t a popular brand among a lot of discerning pet parents. We, along with many dog owners, were crushed to hear the news. Many took to social media to attest that they will never buy Zuke’s again because of the merger. Reasons cited were the fear that the high-quality, and trusted ingredients in Zuke’s would be substituted for poorer quality, lower cost ingredients by Purina and general “we don’t support Purina so we can no longer support Zuke’s” sentiments.
Shortly after the acquisition, I published a post about it – Yes, Zuke’s Was Bought by Purina. Don’t Panic! I expressed my concerns about Zuke’s being bought by Purina. After the sale, the Zuke’s company stated that “Zuke’s will continue creating and producing outdoors-inspired, safe and healthy dog and cat treats in the same facilities, in the same way, right here in the USA” but, like everyone else, I had my doubts.
The bottom line for me though was that I’ve loved Zuke’s since I firsts discovered their Power Bones in early 2000 and Zuke’s was one of Chester and Gretel’s favorite treats. As long as nothing changed about Zuke’s mission, formulations, and their employees continue to be treated with respect, I would probably be fine with them being owned by Purina. My take was to not be hasty and condemn Zuke’s as soon the acquisition was announced.
I’ve been keeping a very keen eye on Zuke’s since they were bought my Purina. Over the last year+, my confidence in Zuke’s has been restored.
I’ve watched the ingredient list and packaging. I haven’t seen any changes in the quality of ingredients. I can’t say whether any of their sourcing changed but all ingredients continue to originate from the USA (or New Zealand). In an article published in the September 2015 issue of Pet Business Magazine, Zuke’s Director of innovation, Chris Meiering, said that any changes that have occurred are in alignment with Zuke’s original goals and values, and have come mainly in the form of operational efficiencies and perks associated with inclusion in a large corporation (mainly marketing). Meiering said not much has changed other than that. He said that Zuke’s has maintained a great deal of autonomy since the transition – everything from product development, to packaging, to ingredients have remained unchanged since before the acquisition. There does not seem to be any interest from Purina in tampering with Zuke’s winning formula.
So, for us, it’s back to “business as usual”. Zuke’s makes a regular appearance in our treat storage bin (yes, I have a large storage bin full of bags of treats at any given time). Our favorites are still the Mini Naturals and the Power Bones but Chester and Gretel are also loving the Z-fillets.
In all honesty, my view of Purina has changed since the acquisition too. I didn’t know a lot about the company but I was definitely swayed by the negative sentiments swirling around the company. I’ve learned a lot more about Purina since 2013. Purina are very concerned about the health of our pets. They take quality control seriously, have addressed concerns regarding Beneful, and hold an annual summit to bring together some of the brightest minds in the pet industry to talk about our bond with pets and how pets and people are better together. Although their food is not something I choose to feed my dogs, I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The company does a lot of great things for pets.
Anyway, some of you have asked how we felt about the Purina buy-out of Zuke’s over the last year and a half. I finally felt confident in my decision enough to share it.
Have your feelings about Zuke’s changed since news of the acquisition?
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
I’m happy to hear this about Zuke’s. My view of Purina is coming full circle, since growing up, we fed our dogs and cats Purina. As I look at my budget, my dogs, their health, and our needs, feeding Purina isn’t so bad. My food of choice is Wysong, but I’m cutting it as needed with Purina Pro Plan, mostly Grain Free, but not always. My dogs are doing fine. No one has celiac disease (the only real reason to be concerned about gluten), no one is allergic to beef or chicken, and my dogs, like all others, are omnivores who don’t mind some grain now and then. Hooray for Zuke’s! Thank you for this post and sharing it on FB.
Thanks for sharing your perspective Roberta. I think it’s a great thing that the variety of choices, and quality, of dog food available on the market has increased so greatly. However, I see a lot of shaming going on these days surrounding what people choose to feed their dog. While I believe in feeding the best quality one can (and that there is certainly room for education about healthier food options at a similar price point), I recognize that not everyone can afford the highest end food. Purina has a wide range of foods at different price points to meet the needs of pet owners. While I would never feed my dog Beneful or a similarly “low quality” (in my eyes) food, some of their higher end foods (like Pro Plan) aren’t too shabby if you’re on a strict budget. I am glad that you found a balance that works for you.
Great objective and informative piece, Jessica. A similar (I dare say, larger, simply because of market reach) thing is happening because of the recent Merrick Petcare acquisition. I have been a long-time supporter or Merrick, and continue to be. I will base my decisions to continue feeding purely on my pets’ continued well-being. I don’t feel that yanking my animals off something they’re doing well with, without objectivity, would be in their best interest.
Anyway, all kinds of innovative stuff is happening in the pet food industry (I got overwhelmed by all the kitten food choices in Petco yesterday. When I was a kid, Purina Kitten Chow was revolutionary and ALL we bought). Who knows what’s coming for the next generations. (Meanwhile, I could eat an apple for a snack right now, but I think I’d rather have a big apple cider doughnut instead.) 😉
Gah! I thought I replied to this. It must have been a dream 🙂
Purina has a bad reputation but a lot of it is scare mongering and rumors. It is true that one person has claimed that Beneful killed their dog and that others have claimed that it made their dog sick. However, there is no scientific proof of that… and not even a “professionals ruled everything else out so that totally had to be it” determination. I would never feed my dogs Beneful and don’t think others should either but everyone is free to make their own choices. There are plenty of people who feed their dog the food with no issues…. so, like you said, these things boil down to what works for each particular dog and situation.
Besides some low-quality foods, Purina is doing some good thing for animals like funding research and hosting the Better with Pets Summit (as you know) to help people better understand the bond between animals and humans and how they improve our lives.
I feed my dogs Purina Pro Plan. After trying other brands and being totally dissatisfied I spent a good deal of time talking to the Purina people at shows and other reputable dog people. I then made the switch to Pro Plan. It has good ingredients and my dogs are beautiful and healthy. There are many choices out there, some good and others not so good. The main thing is you have to do the research and find the right food for your pets. I’ve also started using the Purina treats and my dogs love them! I’m using the chicken flavored Roasted Slices right now and they smell so good when I open the bag! Also, have good ingredients!
I think ProPlan is one of their better foods and a lot of people feed it to their dogs with no issues. I am glad to hear you did your homework and found what was best for you and your dog.
I quit feeding Zuke’s as soon as the buy-out happened, and haven’t picked them up again. It’s Nestle I have the problem with.
Yeah. I struggle with other company choices and activities. I just don’t know enough about them to form a iron-clad opinion. The pet area is the one that I know the most about.
Thank you for your update/analysis. I hope you continue to monitor Zeke’s ingredients. Sometimes large companies will wait awhile before making any changes to brands they buy when consumers aren’t watching them as closely.
It’s been well over a year with no changes to Zuke’s and Purina is making obvious moves to buy more natural brands so they can have a piece of that market (sometimes it’s cheaper to buy your way into that market with established brands rather than inventing your own product). I think totally changing things would shoot themselves in the foot. I’m not saying that they couldn’t tinker with Zuke’s formula though so I will be keeping my eye out.
I’m glad to hear that the formula hasn’t changed. I’ve been buying Zuke’s Hip Action for my dachshund, Heidi, since she was a puppy because it was made it the US and it contained healthy ingredients. I didn’t know Purina bought them though. I will definitely keep a watch on the ingredients and where the product is made in the future. Thanks for the article.
We totally agree with you. We are also big Merrick fans and are still steadfast lovers. As long as things continue as they have in the past, we have no plans to withdraw our support of their products either, and we love Zukes too!
I stopped buying Zuke’s for a while after the Purina buy-out but they recently introduced these teeny tiny 2-calorie training treats that I could not resist. They are crunchy, but smaller even than cat kibble. They come in strawberry-yogurt and some other inoffensive flavor, so I can put them in my pocket without my clothes smelling like liver or fish.
I am not sure I’ve seen those new treats. The Skinny Bakes is the newest product I’ve seen from them. I know that Gretel would love strawberry-yogurt flavored treats though. And, oh my, do I need to find treats I can put in my pocket that don’t make me smell like maybe crapped my pants or haven’t showered in a week. Ha, ha.
They are part of the Skinny Bakes line – I think they come in three or four sizes now, with the 2-calorie treats a little smaller than a Tic-Tac. One store near me carries them and I make sure I always have them on hand.