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?