Dog biscuits have been around a long, long time. Ads appeared for biscuits intended for sporting dogs as early as 1792 but generally sources cite Spratt’s Meat Fibrine Patented Dog Cakes as the first dog biscuits manufactured on a large-scale commercial basis.
The story goes that in about 1860, Ohio electrician and lightning rod salesman James Spratt developed his version of the dog biscuit after he saw dogs on the Liverpool docks eating what’s called hardtack. Hardtack (aka “molar breakers”) was a kind of biscuit that sailors ate when perishable foods weren’t available. Spratt’s doggie version, which contained wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and meat, was patented in England in 1861.
Spratt’s first consumers were indeed sporting dogs belonging to “English country gentlemen.”
After Spratt died in 1880, the company went public, developed the first dog food line formulated for a given life stage, and went down in advertising history as the first company to put up a billboard in London.
The company’s US operations began in 1870, first in New York City and then Newark, NJ. No stranger to marketing, Spratt’s bought the cover of the first American Kennel Club Journal in 1889 and branched out into other pet products, including “palatial” kennels, collars and other accessories, treatments for canine ills, and various information booklets. Spratt’s US operations were acquired by General Mills during the 1950s. In the UK, Spratt’s was acquired by a company called Spillers, which in turn was acquired by Nestle in 1998.
Spending on pet food in the US today? Almost $23 billion in 2014. Worldwide? An estimated $74.8 billion by 2017.
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Spratt’s was the world’s first large-scale manufacturer of dog biscuits.
The History of Pet Food
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