The Origins of Dog Food
These days, supermarket shelves are piled high with a wide variety of dog foods. You can purchase even more varieties online and in specialist shops. You can even invest in prescription dog food if your pet requires specifically formulated nutrition. There is such an impressive and diverse choice that it is hard to imagine a time when dog food simply wasn’t available. But there was one. So how did the dog’s dinner first evolve?
James Spratt was an American electrician and lightning rod salesman. He was visiting England circa 1860 and whilst in Liverpool he saw dogs eating hardtack from the ships at the docks. Hardtack was a simple biscuit which was eaten by sailors on long voyages when perishable food wasn’t available. Seeing the hungry dogs enjoying the biscuits gave the entrepreneurial Spratt an idea.
The Meat Fibrine Dog Cake
Spratt established a company in London and commissioned Walker, Harrison and Garthwaite to bake his dog biscuit recipe. This he named his “Patented Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”. It was the first dog biscuit and featured a blend of wheat, vegetables, beetroot and meat. He initially sold his biscuits to wealthy British patrons but then proved to be a skilled marketer. He advertised his biscuits extensively in both the UK and America using snob value as a hook. He was also the first to erect a billboard in London.
One of Spratt’s factories was located in Poplar, East London, and can still be seen to this day. The ingredients were taken to the factory in ships and barges from the Thames. Biscuits were produced at the rate of 50,000 per hour. Spratt’s was to manufacture 1,256,976,708 dog biscuits for army dogs during World War I. A fact revealed by the factory’s meticulous record keeping.
The Forerunner of Acana and Iams Dog Food
Spratt’s company was to go public and eventually pioneered a variety of pet related products. These were amongst the most heavily advertised of the early twentieth century and met with great success. Spratt had invented dog food! Acana, Orijen, Iams Dog food and the other varieties on offer today owe their existence to one man with great insight.
The Perfect Partner
Spratt’s story is an interesting one not least because of one of his earliest employees who played a crucial role in the development of the company. That young man’s name was Charles Cruft. He eventually left Spratt’s to found the Cruft’s Dog Show. The parting of the ways was an amicable one and both men have a special place in the history of the pet industry.
It now seems obvious that there should be food for dogs but that just wasn’t the case in 1860. It took one man with insight, drive and ambition to establish the need and to capitalise on the opportunity. Dog food took off. People stopped feeding their pooches scraps and turned to Spratt’s recipes instead. Of course dog food recipes have moved on a great deal since then. Royal Canin, Acana, Pedigree and Iams dog foods offer improved nutrition but may never have existed if James Spratt hadn’t visited Liverpool.