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Showground shock as Masterfoods disbands its breeder service team

Pedigree masterfoods has taken the decision to withdraw the breeder service team from the show scene with immediate effect as a result of ‘a strategic business review of the Pedigree Breeder Service’. The decision has caused a mixture of shock, surprise, sadness and anger amongst breed collection points up and down the country and on the show scene, particularly at Bournemouth this weekend.

Pedigree stand is dismantledSpeculation began after the shock decision to pull out of Bournemouth show during the set up day when all enquiries were met with ‘no comment’. News of the shock pull out soon spread amongst the dog showing fraternity. Subsequently a short statement was issued saying ‘We are currently exploring suitable opportunities within the business for the affected employees, as well as offering an extensive support package for anyone affected.’

Our Dogs has been aware for some time that major changes were afoot. Mars, the US based owners of the Pedigree Masterfoods business have recently changed the PR consultancy to Lexington after nearly twenty years with Grayling and, of course, the last few months have seen a continual reduction in Pedigree’s profile at championship shows. As many people know, Pedigree Petfoods have provided millions of pounds on support, sponsorship and prize money for the world of dogs in the thirty-five years they have used the show scene as their main advertising and public relations route into the world of dogs. It has been an incredibly successful strategy and one to which many rivals have aspired and it spawned the iconic advertising phrase, ‘Top Breeders Recommend it’. But clearly, as we so rightly explained in our Opinion column last week, their focus has been modified in recent years, starting with the swing towards non-pedigrees in the United States and that it could have been the thin end of the wedge. Breeders were expressing worries that they were being sidelined somewhat. We did not anticipate that we would be proved right so quickly!

OUR DOGS asked Pedigree for their views on the current competitions and they have confirmed that the support of the Pedigree Stakes will continue in 2008, culminating with the final’s celebration in January 2009. There are no plans to run the Pedigree Stakes in 2009 and the Top Breeder and Top Puppy competitions are likely to run for the same period.

Just a name in the windPedigree has also confirmed that it will continue their association with the show dog world and the association with Crufts, as principal supporter of the show. To replace their breeder service team that have confirmed that members of the Pedigree Breeder Service will be able to access all and more of their current benefits through their new web based service, which they say ‘will provide professional breeders with a modern solution for purchasing Pedigree products at discounted prices and free delivery’. This service will be up and running from 1st September and the current breeder collection point scheme will cease operating on August 31st.
The online facility also enables members to order our new Pedigree Puppy Packs (which include a Pedigree food storage tub containing a 1kg box of Pedigree Puppy Complete Dry) an information guide for new owners and money off vouchers. An incentive scheme, crediting money off vouchers to breeders’ online accounts will also be available.

Pedigree balloonInevitably, the Pedigree Breeder team is affected by this change. Pedigree have told OUR DOGS that they are currently exploring suitable opportunities within the business for the affected employees, as well as offering then an extensive support package. Members of the Breeder Service Team, understandably, do not feel able to comment at this stage. We contacted Neil Thompson the Breeder Service Manager but again he referred us to the statement issued by Pedigree which simply said:-

‘Pedigree can confirm that, following a strategic business review of the Pedigree Breeder Service, a decision has been taken to evolve our service to better meet the needs of the modern professional breeder. The Pedigree Breeder team are affected by this change and we are currently exploring suitable opportunities within the business for the affected employees. We would like to thank all of the Pedigree Breeder Team for their years of dedicated service.’

OUR DOGS contacted Pedigree following the receipt of letters concerning the breeder collection points and they responded with an additional statement:

‘We apologise to any of our breeder collection operators if they feel our new breeder programme improvements were not communicated in our usual manner and we welcome queries from any who wish to contact us directly. We would like to reassure our breeder service members that our new web based service - - will provide a modern solution for purchasing Pedigree products at prices discounted from RRP, with free delivery, direct to their door. We believe will provide a more convenient solution for our professional breeders.’ – Pedigree Spokesperson

Breeder ‘collection points’ to end

OUR DOGS has had an early reaction from people who run breeder collection points and one such person is John Magee of the Jonromac Irish Setters who has already written to Pedigrees’ Marketing Manager Stephen Rendu. Mr Magee has given OUR DOGS permission to reprint that letter. Apparently Mr Magee received a letter on Saturday August 9th informing him that the last day for orders was Friday August 8th. He tried to place an order on Monday, but this was refused.

Dear Mr Rendu,

Thank you for your telephone call last night and your letter Re Mars Pet Care. Your decision to close down the BCP Network has somewhat astounded the Breeder fraternity.

I have always advocated the Pedigree products and when asked to become a BCP I felt honoured to the point I spent several thousand pounds of my hard earned money on a water and vermin proof container, a sign written van and all of my boarding kennels ‘Rockmeadow’s advertising has BCP information on. My staff also has the Pedigree logo on their shirts and coats.

In my opinion this has shown my loyalty to the Pedigree Brand and Mars Pet Care, with my area manager Andrew Winfrow we have together built an excellent customer service for pedigree via open days and letters. This has serviced many dog owners/breeders unable to purchase products at Shows they were unable to attend. Your sales have increased via this outlet and I now feel with your short minded approach to the future, which has been tried and miserably failed will result in loss of sales.

In fact talking to breeders and what is being said on the Internet many if not thousands of your customers will now not buy from Mars, I am sure you will also see a fall in Royal Canine, James Wellbeloved and confectionary. Loyalty cannot be brought, but earned over years like the Breeders Service has done.

What is more incredible was how I was told about the Mars decision, how did I find out? Through one of my customers who was at the Bournemouth show and watched the Pedigree unit being taken down. By Friday morning most of dogdom knew before operators like myself who have given you loyalty as well as an income – I think your business acumen leaves a lot to be desired.
BCP’s offered value for money and a service offered by no other company, unique, personal, satisfying but more importantly hands on communication with professional advisors who breed, show and have experience that your competitors envied and could not offer.

My BCP saved a litter of Chow Chows the mother did not have enough milk they contacted Andrew, who gave them professional advice. Within hours they had purchased Puppy Porridge from my BCP. Will your new modern system be able give advice, offer alternative products to dogs who have allergies and more important will they be able to save puppy lives as stated above, unfortunately your answer can only be NO.

From our conversation I am surprised that you did not have information on the best performing BCP’s perhaps the best 5 in each area should be kept on to help Breeder and Exhibitors before they switch to other brands and this will happen.

Rockmeadow is a very busy boarding kennel, we currently board 62 dogs in our busy season, we have converted many of our customers onto Pedigree, and in fact approximately 47 of these dogs are fed on either Pedigree Complete or Better By Nature, as mentioned before you had a very loyal person here representing your products at very little cost.

My loyalty will now cease with all avenues connected to Mars; Rockmeadow is out of pocket with your withdrawal of the BCP. We were with you like others for the long term.

I am sure almost all breeders/exhibitors hope that Pedigree will no longer be Principal Supporter of Crufts because of your treatment to Dog Breeders and Exhibitors. In my view, Pedigree is no longer suitable to have such a high profile at Crufts within the field of breeders who have given you the status you currently hold.

Yours sincerely
John A Magee
Breeder and Exhibitor of Jonromac Irish Setters

* * * * *

Another angry letter has been received from Patsy Hollings of the world famous Gunalt Weimaraners, also sent to Pedigree:

‘Pedigree, synonymous with dogs, here in the UK, well in fact the world? Not any more, I fear. We have won best in Show, all breeds, at championship level, here in the UK, the biggest populated arena for dogs in the world. The next show where are we? Back at the same level as everyone else!’

‘This product has always been at the top, the place all the other manufacturers of dog foods have attained to. A forward thinking brand will take your place and the headlines you are now making will end up on the kennel floor, ultimately in the dustbin, along with your reputation. We, as top breeders all breeds for the last 14, 15 years feel let down and deserted by a company we have held in high esteem.

‘I have always been a stance supporter of the Kennel Club, liking The Kennel Club to parents, “they don’t understand, never say the right thing” but where would we be without them. This I felt about Pedigree, now we have to look for that confidence elsewhere. We have received support and care from the breeder service over many years and this alone has earned our loyalty, loyalty is earned, not something given lightly.

‘Dogs, are not farm animals who we care for but live outside and fulfil a purpose, nor are they looked upon as horses, loved but kept in a stable, but treated by many as members of their family, another child, no less. I know that as fact, I have run a large and busy boarding kennels for 30 years, do Pedigree really think anyone is going to use an impersonal service such as email or phone to communicate re, our feeding requirements, or recommend the company to our puppy owners, certainly not.

‘We would not sell our carefully bred puppies by Internet, rather necessitating face-to-face inter-action. We have enough trouble with the likes of BT, pressing; 1 for sales, 2 for faults, 3 for instruction. God forbid this should occur in dogs!

‘We have used shows to visit the Pedigree stand to talk with the courteous, professional team who are there to advise in a relaxed way, our breeder regional managers are on hand to keep us informed and advise keeping us aware of products which suit our needs giving us confidence in the product which we pass to new owners. We feel strongly, that the ones benefiting from an anonymous source, email, telephone, will be puppy farmers and bad breeders who would be identified by personal contact of regional managers and therefore weeded out. They will only serve to give pedigree a bad name, not the caring company, who advertise “an adoption drive” for the care of dogs!

‘The UK is a unique environment, in the smallest area we have the largest population, certainly in dogs, why the need, even to consider anything other than personal service?

‘We are appalled at the way Pedigree have tossed us aside, loyal supporters of this product since the early 1970s, we have never signed for or succumbed to “rewards “ to endorse feeding regimes, we have just truly believed in Pedigree. How let down we feel. I have been astounded these last few days at the communication, between dog folk, many not renowned for their support of Pedigree and those who don’t use the product, who are devastated and alarmed at the current actions taken by the company, unbelievable the most common word!

‘We are saddened at the lack of interaction shown to BCP’s, supporters and employees. Would they not be the people to talk to, gauging reaction to such a momentous change before administering the new strategy? Obviously the people out there that know, appear to be of no consequence.

‘Whilst the food has always served us well, the company and its new ethos has destroyed our trust, let us down, if the company can treat their own as they have, what is there left for us? We wonder if anyone will stick around to find out.’

John Wright (Coaches to Shows) writes:- ‘In my view there is no surprise here as it's the way all business appears to be going. I had a similar situation with a coach company some years ago…. no warning, no negotiations, just out. I think the problem is all companies are profit orientated and nobody gives a damn about the customer any more. Some years ago Pedigree gave me a lot of support with my brochure for the then Johnsyl Travel, in later years they gave me access to Pedigree product for the Irish tours. Then they were a great company run by a management who understood the canine world and the breeders. Now it appears that Pedigree is run (as so many other companies are) by accountants who only see figures and profit, the customer and employees no longer count. So nothing surprises me in this world; we have become a non-caring society so why should that attitude not go for business as well. I was, during my breeding and showing years, a firm believer in the Pedigree range of products and since those days when asked have always pointed people in the direction of Pedigree as they were the best. But obviously we were all were proved wrong when it came to customer loyalty; make no mistake about it as Pedigree are the same as any other company - they want your money and that’s it!’

The Kennel Club has issued the following press release:- ‘The Kennel Club has been notified by Pedigree of its decision to change the operation of its service to the breeder community. As a result of a review, we have been advised that Pedigree will be launching ‘pedigreedirect’ from 1st September which will provide breeders with on–line ordering and a free delivery service. It is understood that, also as a result of this review and the launch of pedigreedirect, Pedigree will no longer be attending Championship Shows but that it will honour its commitments to Shows in 2008 and will continue to run the heats of the Pedigree Stakes Champion & Veteran competitions throughout 2008 and host the final in January 2009.

Kennel Club Chief Executive, Rosemary Smart, said “Pedigree has made a significant contribution to the dog show and breeder world and to the world of dogs in general for more than 40 years. Whilst the decision no longer to attend Championship Shows will sadden many, not least because of the respect and affection held by many for members of the Pedigree Breeder Services Team, the support Pedigree has given in the past is greatly appreciated and the services it will provide in the future will, I am sure, be effective for breeders. Pedigree has confirmed that it will maintain its position as Principal Supporter of Crufts and we hope to continue and strengthen this relationship in the future for the benefit of all of those involved with dogs.”

OUR DOGS welcomes readers letters and comments. Please write for the attention of the Editor of go on line to comment.

. . . and finally . . .

OUR DOGS has learned that a fire that on July 27th totally destroyed Asfordby Storage & Haulage's warehouse and distribution centre in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

The facility is a significant third-party warehousing operation centre for Masterfoods, which manufactures pet foods including Pedigree, Chappie, Whiskas, and Kitekat. Masterfoods is the UK division of Mars and has two large factories in Melton Mowbray and Waltham, as well as another site at nearby Peterborough.

A Mars spokesman was recently quoted as saying "We can confirm that the affected facility provides a warehousing operation for our Melton Mowbray and Peterborough petcare packaging materials and a co-packing operation for petcare and food. We are currently assessing the impact of this incident on our business."

The fire caused severe disruption in the town, and the B606 Saxby Road - which runs east from the centre of Melton Mowbray to the A1 trunk road - was closed for several days while firefighters continued to damp down what remained of the warehouse.

Early reports suggest the blaze has caused so much damage that the facility will have to be demolished. Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service say that initial indications suggest the fire was not caused by arson.No one from Asfordby was available to comment.