Consumers livid over Nestle-Purina acquisition of Merrick, Castor & Pollux, accusing them of selling out to Big Pet Food

Bye bye independent pet food brands, hello homogenization.

Nestle-Purina announced yesterday it’s gobbling up some of pet parents favorite niche pet food brands Merrick and Castor & Pollux. Merrick Pet Care said yesterday it has signed an agreement for Nestlé Purina PetCare Company to purchase the company.

Nestle-Purina, eyeing the growing demand for organic pet food, decided they wanted a piece of that lucrative pie, and swallowed up Merrick Pet Care, one of the fastest-growing natural and organic pet food companies in the industry.

The cherry on top of Merrick’s pet food pie for Nestle-Purina was Merrick’s portfolio of natural and organic pet food and treat brands, namely Castor & Pollux and its ORGANIX brand, along with Ultramix natural pet food, Good Buddy natural pet treats, as well as its Whole Earth Farms line.

In 2012, it was Merrick that gobbled up Castor & Pollux, when it was acquired by Merrick Pet Care to further expand its natural pet food line. That same year, Merrick’s facilities became certified by the USDA National Organic Program to manufacturer for both dry and canned food for pets.

Even though Merrick swears they will continue to operate as an independent business, with no planned changes to its management or operations, consumers aren’t having any of it.

Pissed, that Nestle-Purina, one of the most reviled pet food brands on the market, has just eaten up some of their most cherished pet food brands, has left a decidedly icky taste in their mouth.

Nestle-Purina probably didn’t foresee the fury it would cause pet parents who were once loyal, devoted consumers of Merrick, Castor & Pollux, and ORGANIX brands, who have taken to social media to ride them up one side and down the other for selling out to Big Pet Food, least of all a company as loathed as Nestle-Purina.

Consumers, once loyal to those brands, are dropping like flies, swearing on Merrick’s Facebook page and on Castor & Pollux’s Facebook page they will never to buy their food ever again. Ever.

https://www.facebook.com/merrickpetcare/posts/1113928241956636:0

https://www.facebook.com/castorpolluxpet/posts/10153216617264086:0

I think it’s safe to say that Merrick and Castor & Pollux’s customers are pissed. These are just a few of the more choice comments:

“Way to flush the legacy down the toilet. I will make my own dog food before feeding something associated with the pet killing Purina again…Lost my business for sure.”

“This is sad news. We loved your products; so did my sister, cousins, and friends. I guess we will all be looking for quality product and Purina has not proven to be a quality product. Why are there so much quality organic company selling out to big name? I guess money talks and integrity is lost.”

“…once Nestlé Purina hold the reigns your company is shit and will no longer be trusted by consumers. Purina sources and makes food and treats in China…”

“Corporate greed over health as safety of our companions. No matter what you say Merrick, Nestle now owns you…”

“I’m hurt. We all know that the formula will change it’s just a matter of time. I will no longer be recommending Merrick or Whole Earth Farms foods to my clients…I bought my last bag from this company.”

“We will no longer be buying your product for my dog. Nestle is not a company I can support in any way. They do not support my right to know what is in their food. Their CEO does not think water is a human right and their dog food is crap.”

“Merrick why choose investors associated with dog food that was killing family pets? Surely if you are committed to continue making high quality food you could have found a more reputable company…”

“This is very disappointing news. Merrick might as well have been bought by McDonald’s…”

“…I won’t be surprised if your next announcement is that food will now be made in China. Good riddance.”

“HORRIBLE NEWS. I’ve been buying your dogfood for a long time and now I have to find something else. Sad to hear that such a fine company has sold out to corporate greed. This literally makes me feel like crying.”

In fact, I feel like crying too after reading the comments. In comment after comment consumers are in anguish, heartbroken even, at the utter disappointment that their brands sold out to Nestle-Purina.

Way to go Merrick, I think you just lost all of your most loyal customers.

Did you hear that swoosh?

That was Merrick’s reputation being flushed down the drain.

Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (30) Write a comment

  1. This is Ann back with a new comment regarding the buyout of Merrick by Nestle Purina. Despite the reassurances (lies) of Merrick from seven months ago announcing their buyout by Nestle Purina:
    (From Merrick) “Pet parents, we have news to share with you regarding the ownership of Merrick Pet Care.
    We’ve signed an agreement for Nestle Purina PetCare to purchase Merrick Pet Care. We will continue to operate independently, with our same management team, operations and kitchens in Hereford, Texas. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/1CNNYAv
    At the core of our business is your trust in choosing Merrick for your pet.”

    It didn’t take long for my predictions from July 2015 in this comment section to come true. Consumers have filed a class action lawsuit against Nestle Purina and a Merrick cat and dog pet food for false labeling of the food which now contains ingredients from China:

    http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/327183-nestles-purina-hit-with-made-in-usa-false-labeling-class-action/

    There is only one way to protect yourself and your pets from big pet food lies and that is not to buy any products made by or affiliated with Nestle Purina.

    Reply

    • It’s interesting to note that if you buy a company (Merrick) you’re liable for their business practices – so in reality it is Nestle Purina that is being sued (although Merrick and Castor & Pullox and Organix are also named in the complaint). I would assume that C&P always had imported vitamin and mineral premixes in their food – even before Nestle came along…The lawsuit does not say anything other than it contains that premix from a foreign country (they don’t say which country, nor how they obtained their information).

      I’ll get in touch with them to find out how they arrived at that conclusion. Perhaps it is even possible to base a complaint on a mere suspicion, but that would be pretty stupid (to me). But what do I know – I’m not an attorney. Maybe they don’t write that in the complaint – that they have proof.

      Reply

  2. I have 8 small dogs 20lbs and under. I have been feeding them Whole Earth Farms grain free stews- chicken, turkey and salmon. My dogs loved them! Tonight I had a can explode when I opened it: the can was only 3/4 full of just gravy. Six months ago a case I had sent to my sister for her dog was full of maggots. If I have to switch dog food companies, who should I try that’s not too expensive??

    Reply

    • I’m puzzled – why, if the cans were “full of maggots” did you continue to buy this brand of food? I think the exploding can might be clue to switch brands. Personally, I like Honest Kitchen – but it is a bit $.

      In this biz – you get what you pay for. If you want top quality ingredients, that are human-edible AND made in a human food facility – you should expect to pay as much for it as you would a high quality food for humans.

      BTW – did you report these problems to the FDA or the manufacturer? I sure hope so. If you haven’t done so yet, please go here: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/ and/or here: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm.

      Reply

    • Marie, Here is a link to Whole Earth Farms/Merrick/Nestle Purina website: http://feedgoodness.custhelp.com/app/ask
      I suggest that you also contact them to inform them of these problems and ask if anyone else has reported similar issues. They should also refund you your purchase price. Their website says they use no ingredients from China and the product is Made in the USA, but I wonder since Nestle Purina bought them out if that is still true. Maybe they “haven’t had time” to update their website.
      Good luck to you and your 8 family members. But please put them on notice that problems are occurring in their product line.

      Reply

      • Thank you Ann for pointing her in the right direction! I forget sometimes to take that extra step by getting the contact info for consumers. Bless you for helping me (and her!) out.

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  3. “We admire Merrick and what the team is doing to provide pets with nutritious, quality and safe food and are excited about how the Merrick brands will broaden the Purina portfolios.

    Are we really supposed to believe that? Merrick was one of the brands I purchased, and my cats liked it, but they’ve just lost a customer!

    Reply

    • The same thing happened last year with independent Zuke’s Dog and Cat Treats, bought up by Purina. I emailed Zuke’s to confirm it and they did confirm that they are now “partners” with Purina, proud of it, and hopeful to bring positive change to the industry. Except that when I examined every inch of the Zuke’s packaging I could find no mention of Purina, their new partnership they are so proud of. I told them that I do not buy Purina products and will no longer be purchasing theirs.

      Reply

  4. It’s more than sad. It is tragic, and truly dangerous for some pet parents. The Merrick line of cat foods is among the ONLY choices for those needing low/moderate phosphorous products. I will no longer be able to trust Merrick, and there will be no getting around that.

    Reply

  5. “Even though Merrick swears they will continue to operate as an independent business, with no planned changes to its management or operations, consumers aren’t having any of it.”

    Don’t bet on that. They will have to do what their masters tell them to do.

    Reply

  6. You have mentioned some contaminants of pet food, but every time Purina challenges the customer to show that these contaminants are actually present in a particular batch of product and that there is a direct relationship between the contaminant and the illness. Why is it the responsibility of the customer to identify and correct the deficiencies of the manufacturer? We are not privy to key pieces of information regarding their processes, their controls, their HACCP plan, their ingredient specifications, ingredient suppliers and audit reports, if any, from those suppliers.
    We are aware of numerous customer comments regarding these products, but once again, we are not in a position to evaluate these data. For example, are all 17 Purina manufacturing plants getting similar numbers of comments on a per million units produced, do they have identical processes in each plant, are the ingredients sourced from the same supplier etc.etc.etc. I know that if I had access to this kind of data it would be much easier to challenge their assertion that their product is 100 % safe.

    Reply

      • Michigan State University will not test for endotoxins. In addition, they are the lab that Purina uses to show that their samples are free of mycotoxins. Of course, when mycotoxins may occur in measurable amounts in less than 0.1% of the samples, the chances of finding them is slim to none.

        Reply

        • Anthony, it is my understanding that “endotoxins” are generally refered to any cell-associated bacterial toxin, in bacteriology it is properly reserved to refer to the lipopolysaccharide complex associated with the outer membrane of Gram-negative pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Pseudomonas, Neisseria, Haemophilus influenzae, Bordetella pertussis and Vibrio cholerae. With that in mind, Michigan does test for those pathogens, so your comment puzzles me. Robert Roth, the professor of toxicology at MSU, whose important work in the field of endoxins is described here:

          His area of work is in the area of liver toxicology, especially the role of inflammation as a determinant of sensitivity to hepatotoxic chemicals (pyrrolizidine alkaloids, aflatoxin, drugs). Researchers in his laboratory are interested in how modest inflammatory stress can make individuals particularly responsive to toxic chemicals. In rodents, they have created modest inflammation by administering a small dose of endotoxin (a bacterial product) that by itself is noninjurious. The modest inflammation markedly enhances liver injury caused by drugs and toxic chemicals. For example, aflatoxin B 1 is a toxic metabolite produced by a fungus that contaminates nuts and grains. People are exposed to small amounts of it when they eat products made from peanuts or corn, and it is of concern because it can cause liver damage and hepatic cancer in people and animals. The Roth lab has found that a small dose of endotoxin that is without effect by itself markedly enhances the hepatotoxic effects of aflatoxin B 1 , as well as other toxic agents that occur in our food or environment. Thus, endotoxin exposure or underlying inflammation from other causes may be an important determinant of sensitivity of people and animals to toxic chemicals. These findings have led to a potentially important hypothesis that concurrent inflammation may underlie some of the rare, idiosyncratic reactions people experience when they take certain drugs. Roth’s team is working to characterize this inflammation-induced augmentation of toxicity and to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie it, with particular emphasis on the role of inflammatory factors such as neutrophils, cytokines and the hemostatic system.

          I agree, that testing for mycotoxins in general is problematic for many reasons (which I won’t go into here), as you say finding them in levels below 0.1% is difficult.
          Finding a reputable lab that does not have a food client is next to impossible. Take Davis, for example. Even the FDA uses Davis. Does that mean they are not reputable? I understand the problems of conflict of interest, but if the samples are blind, then there can be no bias. At least that is my hope.

          Other labs, such as Elisa, told me they would not test pet food for me because of a conflict of interest with their existing clients.

          Do you have any suggestions? I’d be happy to hear them.

          In the past I have used several labs all over the world, and even state labs. NYSDAM knows who I am, so I never did get the results back from some jerky treats I was having tested for antibiotics, so my faith in state labs is rather limited.

          Reply

          • Hello Mollie, Thank you for your extensive reply, I am aware that MSU tests for a large number of bacteria, many of which release endotoxins when they are killed, I asked them if they had any tests for the endotoxins, as the bacteria are killed either in the rendering process that produces a number of the pet food ingredients, or in the thermal process prior to extrusion of the kibble. I (via my vet) was told that they do not test for endotoxins.
            According to a published report by USDA, the products of rendering contain endotoxins but pet food manufactures do not test for these toxins. There are ample technical reports that show the presence of endotoxins in the diet on a sustained basis causes inflammation and susceptibility to severe consequences when elevated levels of endotoxins are experienced. These elevated levels can and do occur when rendering plants process carcasses that are not processed on a timely basis or are not kept under refrigeration. The conditions provided by endotoxins in the diet also increase the susceptibility to other toxins like mycotoxins, and there are other ingredients in this dog food that exacerbate the situation. I reserve these details as they may prove to be critical in and in-depth challenge to Purina.

        • Anthony, here is the answer I received from the Toxicology Section Chief, Assistant Professor of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, Michigan State University regarding your comments:

          “Our laboratory does not test for endotoxins. Endotoxins are components of the outer cell wall of gram negative bacteria. Therefore, the most appropriate test is to look for gram negative bacteria. Our laboratory does not test feed for bacteria as this is a function of our state’s department of agriculture feed testing program.

          As for mycotoxins, we do test for these. These are what we refer to as toxic secondary metabolites of fungi. Fungi are present in a variety of grains that are used in producing feed. However, most often they are not present in large enough quantity, or the conditions that support their growth/proliferation are just not optimal, to have an adverse effect on feed quality. Because of this, we seldom see a finished feed product that is contaminated with mycotoxins.”

          He added:

          “I want to make it clear that we are not a designated testing lab for Purina or any other manufacturer of feed. I test feed products from a variety of manufacturers only at the request of veterinarians and producers. I cannot attest to the quality of all feeds, only to the tests for which I am asked to run.”

          I hope this helps.

          Reply

          • Thanks again for the elaboration. I was not in any way inferring any bias on the part of MSU in their handling of samples, just stating a fact that they also have done analyses for Purina. The analysis for endotoxins in feed or food is not easy as there has to be an extraction before analysis and most of the tests are designed to identify trace amounts of endotoxins in medical equipment. I am sure that ALL Purina products that contain ingredients from rendering plants will test positive for endotoxins, does that make them contaminated??? These ‘low’ levels just set the stage for adverse reactions when elevated levels of endotoxins of other toxins are encountered.

          • I agree with you, but who does this type of detailed analysis? Davis, Cornell? I am at a loss. As I wrote to you (privately), I suggest asking the toxicologist there for suggestions. This is not my field of expertise, I would have to make a number of inquiries and do allot of research before giving you a meaningful or helpful answer.

    • It is sad day indeed. On the bright side (if there is anything positive about it) is that this merger is a reflection of the growing demand for safe, organic pet food has created a lucrative market that Nestle-Purina want to cash in on. A market that is only going to continue to grow as consumers become educated about the atrocities in the pet food industry. I’m sure if Purina could find a way to cash in on consumers who make their own pet food, I’m sure they would want a piece of that action as well.

      Reply

      • I hope that you are right and that it is a bright side but I think it more realistic to believe that Nestle Purina is buying up all of the independents so that Nestle Purina can control the market and eliminate the competition. Once Nestle Purina controls the market, it can put out whatever cheap options they come up with and consumers will have few choices to buy elsewhere.

        Reply

        • As I said “if there is a bright side…”

          I have to believe in the wisdom and intelligence of the consumer, who, I hope, aren’t easily fooled, so if they change those venerable brands – they will lose the customers that came with the brands. That is where the profit is – in high margins for pet food people are willing to pay a premium for.

          If Nestle has plans to cheapen the brand, by doing so would essentially de-value the brand – so why bother buying it in the first place?

          Of course this is pure conjecture. I could be my usual cynical self, but I like to expect the worst but hope for the best.

          Reply

      • However it’s not that bright because Nestle wants to monopolize the dog industry its a 50 billion dollar industry. Dog food is the biggest markup of them all. People will pay more money 3 bucks a can for 30 cents of what it costs to make per can. Of who knows what’s inside of it

        Reply

  7. I have bought Merrick products for many years and the idea that they will remain independent is ludicrous. Nestle Purina will be pressuring Merrick to return more to the shareholders and all independence will be quickly gone. I am not buying any more Merrick either.
    I looked at a bag of Nestle Purina Waggin Train chicken jerky treats this morning and asked my husband to find the NEW larger font MADE IN CHINA in a more prominent place as a result of the Nestle Purina lawsuit settlement. He couldn’t find it. I had to point it out to him on the backside in font that could not have been much larger and in a place a couple of inches above the bottom left corner of the package where it used to be. This is an insulting joke to claim that the settlement gave significant improvements to the labeling.
    I quit buying all Nestle Purina products two years ago and now Merrick is added to that list.

    Reply

    • You and thousands of others are jumping ship, and rightly so, after the egregious, and unforgivable trespass that Nestle-Purina has perpetrated on pets and pet parents for years.

      The CJT debacle is just one example. After all that happened, after all the deaths and misery and heartbreak they brought upon pet parents – that they could have the gall to refuse to stop making them in China (after EVERYTHING that was found)!?!

      Because for Purina it is profit over pets. Plain and simple. That’s their bottom line.

      Who upholds the quality assurance that the pet parents fought so hard to win in the settlement? Who do they go to to complain?

      Do they have to sue them again? And spend a nightmarish two years in court again only to be shafted again by them?

      I guess I need to out them on that too. Eventually, I hope that continued onslaught of bad press can only chip away at their bottom line.

      The whole thing makes me sick Ann.

      Reply

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