When it comes to pet food, there are arguably a handful of brands that sit at the top of the grand pantheon. Whiskers and Pedigree are perhaps the most immediately recognisable to even those who would never dream of letting a furry friend share their sofa. But when it comes to pet food that's a step above the typical tripe and jelly compounds, IAMS is the brand that makes us think of pampered pooches and fawned-over felines.
This week, with the help of IAMS UK & Ireland Senior Brand Manager Krisztina McCumesky, we go behind the brand with IAMS, exploring the brand's history, its charitable heart and what the immediate future holds.
Krisztina McCumesky, Senior Brand Manager UK & Ireland
How was your brand born and what does it do?
The IAMS brand was born in 1946, when Paul F. Iams sought out new ways to create premium, quality pet food that would help give cats and dogs a healthy, active and happy life.
Passionate about our furry friends, Paul believed the only way to provide the best possible food and pet care products was to understand cats and dogs better than anyone else in the industry. He spent time with breeders and nutritionists, learning the importance of protein and the role of fat in pet food.
He considered cats and dogs as being best fed as carnivores with high protein and high fat diets, an approach which was to revolutionise his way of making IAMS and his choice of ingredients. Taking all that he learned, Paul created his first small batch dog food, IAMS 999 in the 1950s.
From that moment, Paul set a new standard for pet food - advanced nutrition to make a substantive difference to the health and vitality of pets.
What is one unique aspect of your brand?
What makes IAMS truly unique is our nutritional philosophy. After conducting years of research in pet health and nutrition, we discovered that animal protein based diets are essential for pets to thrive on – sources like chicken and lamb provide pets with the essential amino acids and valuable nutrients they need as part of a complete and balanced diet.
This has been at the very core of our brand since our inception 70 years ago, which is why our products always contain high-quality animal protein like fresh chicken. It is this expert nutrition that allows IAMS to nourish the healthy vitality of cats and dogs through pet food that they truly enjoy, without compromise.
Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?
We are confident, concise and honest, with a warmth that conveys our passion for pets.
What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your brand?
The pet food market is saturated with a great number of brands, each promoting different claims and messaging. This overload of information can often be contradicting or misleading, and therefore overwhelming for pet parents, who are just looking for clear guidance to help them choose the right type of pet food.
With an increasing number of products on shelf, we always want to ensure that our brand values and key product attributes are conveyed to the consumer in a clear and concise manner on our packaging.
As a result, we’re very excited to be bringing a new and improved version of our IAMS for Vitality and IAMS Delights packaging in the next few months, which we think will help shoppers make well-informed decisions when shopping for their furry friend(s). Pet parents who choose us know that they are giving their pets tasty and nutritional food, from a trusted brand with proven expertise.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
In the last 70 years we have celebrated great successes; from launching the first pet food with animal-based protein, to introducing pet formulas based on life stages. Yet, one success which we are particularly proud of is our charitable initiative I AM HOME. Since its inception in 2017, we have donated over million meals since 2017.
I AM HOME was created to help make a difference in pet rescue. The goal of this programme is to help nourish homeless pets’ hungry tummies in times of need, supporting the incredible rescue staff and volunteers as well as to raise awareness of the cats and dogs still waiting for their forever home, in the hope of finding prospective new pet parents. We now work with over 60 rescue centres across the UK, and hope to keep expanding our rescue network to help pets in need.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your brand in the next year?
Industry data shows that 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, and as a pet food manufacturer this is a great opportunity for us to target new owners. We want to help cats and dogs to live healthy, active and happy lives through expert nutrition they truly enjoy. Having pet food suitable for all life stages, I think we’re well positioned to target these new pet owners who seek for complete and balanced nutrition for their pets.
Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?
We are fortunate enough to be able to work with several agencies and also have a small in-house creative team in Germany.
What do you look for in a creative agency?
We are honest, confident, positive and passionate. We value these very same qualities when partnering with an agency.
Our aim is to feel that the agency is an extension of our own team. We expect that they can bring a fresh perspective and expert know-how so that together we can create maximum impact.
What is one tip you would give to other brands looking to grow?
I think I would advise other brands to be true to the values and philosophy that the brand was built on, as this is what can set you apart from the competition. At IAMS, we’re still following our unique nutritional philosophy and we’re committed to giving cats and dogs exactly what Paul IAMS intended.
What is your current role about? What does a typical day look like?
As a Senior Brand Manager working on the IAMS brand, no two days are the same. The pet food industry is currently a very interesting and dynamic space to work in, so one day I could be focusing on new product initiatives and brand plans to capitalise on market trends, and another day planning nationwide media and communication campaigns.
What’s your one big hope for the future of branding?
My one hope is for the regulatory environment to be developed in such a way that brands are required to use clear and honest messaging which, in turn, allows pet parents to make rational choices about what they feel is actually in the best interests of their individual pet.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
For those when a genuine interest in understanding what is best for their pets, the PFMA website (www.pfma.org.uk) is well worth exploring.