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CleanLabel™ vs. Fluff and Fillers – What You Should Know

Clear Conscience Pet® introduced and claimed our trademark to the term CleanLabel™ Pet as applied to pet food and treats starting in 2014. Here’s why.

Having been actively involved in pet nutrition as my professional career and life mission since 1991, one of my biggest frustrations as a pet nutritionist and product formulator is the lack of consistency or defined criteria attached to the use of “natural” terminology in our industry. As I have written extensively, the ubiquitous use of the term “ALL NATURAL” in pet food and treats foods with wildly variable quality and efficacy undermines the true movement towards efficacious and biologically appropriate carnivore nutrition. Clear Conscience Pet does use the
terms “natural” and “all natural.” We do so because it happens to be true in our case. But by adding the CleanLabel™ Pledge and defining the CleanLabel™ philosophy, we have much more strictly defined and we follow what we believe, and what biological science substantiates, is the RIGHT way to formulate food and treats for dogs, cats, and other animals.

It starts with a basic premise of fairness. To us, that means we absolutely and positively will NEVER cheapen our products at the expense of animal health and consumer wallets. So how do so many manufacturers get you to pay MORE money for LESS nutritional value? It’s all too easy. Various sorts of fluff, and fillers like tapioca, pea flour, and gluten meals are low-nutrition fillers used by the boatload to allow manufacturers to market products that sound fine to the layperson but cost far less to make than true meat-based products. In addition, chemicals like glycerin and modified food ingredients like gelatins are part of the strategy for inflating profit margins while allowing products to sell for less than a biologically optimal carnivore-suitable canine or feline food source.

To manufacturers who care more about their bottom line than they care about the health and happiness of your dog or cat, it’s simple math: making it cheaper = making more profit. Being able to make a food or treat fluffed up with fillers and other questionable ingredients and market it in beautiful packaging as “All Natural” provides ZERO benefit to dogs, cats, or consumers who are pet parents. But “creative formulation” DOES benefit the brands that employ this strategy in a big way. It makes them richer and gives them even MORE money to advertise and market inferior products. Thus, it’s a vicious self-perpetuating circle that gives an unfair advantage to companies who cheapen their products when competing with honest companies that make products with nutritional integrity instead of fluff.

This enrichment through deception generates enormous profits, allowing brands who play the filler and fluff game to invest much more in marketing, advertising, and of course gorgeous packaging. The marketing messages of these brands are all designed to perpetuate an image of health and quality that isn’t related at all to what is in the products.

One can call it by a lot of names, but to us, it’s just a scam. It’s a sneaky way to sell a lot of “sizzle” with little or no steak. In this case, I am specifically referring to using lots of cheap fillers that can be technically called natural but have very little biological value for your dog or cat. As a 25-year veteran of the natural pet nutrition industry who feels a deep obligation to be an honest advocate for animals and consumers, it is the most deceptive aspect of pet food and treat marketing.

We have invested a lot of heart, soul, money, and intellectual capital in developing the CleanLabel™ philosophy. CleanLabel means that we not only don’t use chemicals and other adulterants, we also don’t use unnecessary ingredients simply to boost profits. We call such ingredients “fluff” but a more commonly understood term is “fillers.” Formulating products to sound good on paper but not really deliver the goods in this manner is dishonest and unfair to consumers because it is a “sneaky” way to tout high carbohydrate products with needless ingredients as “all natural.”

Perpetuating the myth that “All Natural” has any defined requirement or legal meaning is bad for our business and that of other serious nutrition providers. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage because our products cost much more to make than so-called all-natural products with high levels of carbohydrate fillers like potato flour, pea flour, pea protein, and other fluff and fillers. One of the worst offending ingredients is also one of the most commonly used, and that is glycerin. It’s not a food, it occurs nowhere in nature, and it is used in hundreds of “natural” treats from moist treats to tough jerkies. It is also an unresolved factor in the ongoing controversy about illnesses caused by Chinese treats, a vast majority of which are made with glycerin as a humectant preservative. Humectant means an ingredient that “sequesters” water molecules and thus inhibits mold growth and the other effec
ts of moisture on shelf life. Glycerin and Propylene Glycol are the two most popular humectants in pet food and treats, and we won’t use either, ever, in a Clear Conscience Pet ® product.

We are the only pet nutrition brand that has used the legal structure of common-law trademarking to claim the exclusive use of the name or term CleanLabel™ as part of the branding, packaging, or company descriptions of their pet nutrition products. We have had the trademark actively designated since July of 2014. So if another company is using the term, we absolutely can NOT vouch for the fact that they even understand the principles, let alone whether they are following them. But we DO know one thing- they are infringing on our trademark rights and stealing our hard-earned intellectual property.

Support other honest companies who make high quality, true meat-based food and treats for dogs and cats. But we ask that you don’t reward companies that disrespect the American principles of fairness and the sanctity of intellectual property. CleanLabel™ Pet was born at Clear Conscience Pet ®. Please respect our right to keep the baby that we made and raised.