Walmart, the Bentonville, Ark.-based discount giant, jumped into the premium pet food market today with its own brand, Pure Balance.
Available exclusively in more than 2,900 Walmart stores, the retailer’s first ultrapremium dry dog food contains a blend of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and is free of soy, wheat, corn, artificial colors, preservatives and chicken byproducts.
“Our customers told us they wanted to be able to feed their dogs a dry food made with pure ingredients without having to make a special trip to the pet store,” said Jody Pinson, vice president of pets at Walmart. “We listened and are excited to offer Pure Balance…at a price our customers can afford.”
The new offering wasn’t cause for alarm with B.C. Henschen, co-owner of Platinum Paws, a holistic pet store and grooming salon in Carmel, Ind. A Walmart store is two miles away.
“In our store, education remains the most important thing to assist in selling pet food,” he said. “If a formula looks great, with no fillers, byproducts and such, but has a price that is far lower than the average food of comparable quality, then where are they saving the money–quality, sourcing of ingredients, manufacturing, safety?”
Pure Balance comes in two varieties: Chicken & Brown Rice and Lamb & Brown Rice.
The chicken recipe is offered in 5-, 15- and 30-pound bags priced at $6.78, $16.60 and $31.88, respectively. The lamb recipe is available in the same sizes and retails for $8.47, $21.47 and $39.88.
Walmart, which stated it sells enough dog food each year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 2,050 times, did not identify the manufacturer of Pure Balance.
A second pet store owner took the Walmart news in stride, too.
“I think this move will be more threatening to the big-box pet supply retailers like Petco and Petsmart than it will to the independent retailers who offer better formulations,” said Michelle McConnell, co-owner of Amy’s Natural Pet Pantry in Osprey, Fla.
“Most independent retailers, like ourselves, have far superior customer service skills and product knowledge than anyone on the Walmart sales floor will possess,” she added.
Phoenix-based Petsmart, one of the nation’s largest pet retailers, declined to comment.