Yes Toto We’re IN Kansas… at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center…

Two weeks ago or so, I had the fortune of going to Hills Pet Nutrition Center after being invited and hosted by the Hill’s Prescription Diet® and Hill’s Science Diet® pet food brands’ big brand, Hill’s®.

They, like many other pet food companies including Purina, are starting to open their doors to bloggers and online writers as the realization spreads that we are the 21st century form of consumer reviews… and that ALL companies need to be more transparent to their customers. (Don’t get me started.)

Anyhow, I am excited to tell you about my trip and I’ll have some separate posts every couple of weeks about other things at Hill’s.

So first I will give a quick (or not) bullet review of what I took away…:

– Hill’s is extremely focused on nutrition and creating formulas for pets with various medical and health conditions

– Hill’s has a TON of acclaimed veterinarians and scientists who create their foods based on the pets’ life stage, health condition and/or size

– Hill’s does animal testing, but it’s food testing, it’s NOT INVASIVE PEOPLE… They do side by side bowl testing. What I witnessed first-hand was in total opposition to what you will read on outdated and offensive sites like Uncaged. I won’t link to it…) There is NO abuse or neglect happening at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center. Watch the videos…

– The cats that are used for food testing are extremely happy; and they’re extremely smart – taking doses of medication like a human would down a shot so they can get some attention afterwards as a reward! The cat care is amazing:) !

– The folks here are quite dedicated to pleasing the pet’s palette in this process

– The animals are well-trained and know their schedules; they have space to move and are not in teeny cages, suffering or whining. They are HAPPY:)

Hill’s has some of the most intelligent veterinarians and nutritionists in the industry

Hill’s is very into label manufacturing – ensuring its guests understand how to read a pet food bag or can’s label correctly (I’ll explain later)

Hill’s is very involved in the community, supporting the Kansas Humane Society of Wichita through it’s Food, Shelter and Love™ Program (LOTS more on this in a separate post)

This one-of-a-kind program has donated over $240 million worth of Science Diet brand pet foods to nearly 1,000 animal shelters nationwide

– Hill’s has been right by the side of other agencies during national and international emergencies like the Joplin, MO tornadoes, the 2010 Gulf Coast BP oil spill, and the Japan tsunami, bringing along their Hill’s pet food to donate. Heavily involved in disaster relief, yet seemingly unnoticed and under the radar while doing it, Hill’s also helped generously during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, during the Calif. wildfires of 2007, and they’ve donated other items, too to vet clinics, Vet Assistance Teams, vet schools & other random places where homeless pets are being cared for and housed.

Hills has a brand-spankin’ new manufacturing plant where they are seriously dedicated to quality, cleanliness, safety, value, nutrition, taste and manufacturing and developing only the most perfect kibble.

– At the Emporia, Kansas manufacturing plant, where the folks are as sweet as southern summers, if one piece of kibble is broken, it doesn‘t go in the bag – it gets thrown away… the imperfect pieces of kibble that have ends cut off, are cracked or fragmented get tossed. This seemed wasteful to me. (Sorry, just being honest and saying what I saw.)


So, now you have things in a nutshell. There is lots more – I mean, this tour was chock-ful of information packed into a a teeny two-day timeline. The first day we spent learning from the folks at Corporate and the Veterinarians, then we took a VERY short tour (oddly short I thought… kinda hands-off) of the Pet Nutrition Center; the second day we spent at the Manufacturing Plant in Emporia, Kansas, which is only three years old.

This trip was of particular interest to me because last spring I toured the Nutrition Center (et. al.) at Proctor & Gamble Pet Care, i.e. IAMS/Eukanuba (and a few others).

I was curious how Hill’s® runs their show because, unlike IAMS, we HAD fed Hill’s® pet food to our animals before. There was a time about five years ago when Gibson was still alive that he and Benson were on Hill’s®.

And, in February I did get a generous sample from the company of the wet Savory Chicken Entree canned cat food for the our kittehs. The kind Marketing/Blogger Outreach Mgr., Lori Smith — who is one of the sweetest, most caring and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met — hooked me up!

Anyways, Sasha, sorry to say, did not like it and Max, who has been super-surprisingly “P-I-C-K-Y – you-ain’t-got-no-alibi – you-PICKY, uh-huh, YOU PICKY” lately, didn’t care too much for it, but Tater ate it up and my sister’s two adult ladies LOVED LOVED LOVED it. They lapped it up like creme or something. The canned selections at Hill’s that we sampled did seem to be quite “watery” but I learned that it’s not water – it’s juice.

Which brings me to a point about Hill’s that I want to cover now – THE BASICS.

Let’s start with The Basics — their MISSION, which was explained to us by Neil Thompson the first morning; he’s the President and CEO. Thompson has been with the company in some capacity since 2003 and has contributed significantly to sales, international business growth and profit growth, and brought industry experience to the European division (He’s British and so enthralling…!)

Hill’s Mission: “… to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets.”

Philosophy: “We believe all animals, from your pet to our pet partners, should be cared for and nurtured, throughout their lifetime.”

– Hill’s Pet Nutrition is a $2.2 billion, global subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive, headquartered in Topeka, KS

– Over 2,500 employees worldwide

– Hill’s product line includes more than 80 Prescription Diets and 90 Science Diet brand pet foods

– “To deliver great-tasting, precisely balanced nutrition, a Hill’s team of more than 150 vets, nutritionists, and food scientists, among the largest in the industry, collaborates globally.”

– Since 2002, The Hill’s Shelter Nutrition Partnership, the largest company-sponsored shelter support program in the industry, has donated more than $180 million worth of Science Diet brand pet foods to more than 1,000 shelters nationwide. This provides about 500 million nutritious meals for shelter pets and helps more than 5 million pets find new homes! (Separate post about this to follow!)

Vision: to make nutrition a cornerstone of vet medicine, which build on Hill’s heritage of leading-edge research, from the pioneering work of our founder Dr. Mark L. Morris to our current global exploration of the science of Nutrigenomics (separate post to follow on Nutrigenomics — it’s AWESOME stuff!).

Soooo… here you have it. The first impression of what Hill’s is all about in not a nutshell. I loved the people there – everyone is an animal lover and is passionate and knowledgeable. Everyone was extremely courteous and you could tell that that’s just the way it is there — kinda laid-back but totally cutting-edge research into nutrition happening behind the scenes! All to help our fur-babies.

Stay tuned for more posts on Hill’s, including an Animal Welfare round-up, a 5th Vital Assessment review, a Nutrigenomics lesson, and more!


7 Responses to “Yes Toto We’re IN Kansas… at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center…”

  1. Hunter says:

    you know, i have not heard good things about the testing done there… who knows – you say the animals are fine but they also flew you there and prob asked you to say that.
    It bothers me that you said the CATS are extremely happy.
    What about the dogs?
    Were we supposed to pick up on that – is that a subliminal message?
    Uncaged is actually a reliable source here int he UK, if you didnt know, updating regularly and providing lots of info for US residents on their every day products.

    I wont feed my pets HIlls, OR any other tested product.

    • Mike Ianna says:

      This is not true Hunter. I dont know where you people read this crap. For every site that purports animal testing there are five LEGIT sites to stymie the rumor…

  2. Hannah says:

    I have heard the opposite – that Hills is one of the most reputable. I have a friend who lives in Topeka who has seen their dogs outside – or so she says…. she says they are all the same kind it seems.

    I like Hills. Its amazing nutrition and our dog has had it for like at least 10 years.

    I dont know what you are talking about with the “subliminal message” but that is not how this blog is. This writer doesnt beat around the bush very often and I have only been reading for about 6 months.

    Anyways, just wanted to let you know that.

  3. Brian says:

    I agree with hunter – Hills does do testing and its not good.

    Why would a cat take medication JUST TO GET ATTENTION???????? THEY SHOULD GET ATTENTUON ANYWAYS.

    Thats a dumb reward. Treat training is teh only way to go and I cant belive Hills would neglect their animals like that.

    I know you say the cats seemed happy and well but Im sure there was a slight exaggeration??

    I dont give a crap about the nutrition – animal testing is the only thing I care about and I wont support any compnay that does it.

  4. JL says:

    WHOA – before we go any further

    1. I was not PAID in any way or told to say anything – that’s not how these things work

    2. I simply talked about the cats here because it was in my notes to note it

    3. Dogs will be covered in a separate post

    4. Yes they test FOOD ONLY on one kind of dog – Beagles

    5. Agree to disagree on the reputation and relevance of sites like Uncaged.

    6. You should care about nutrition if you have a pet; in fact, its one of the 5 most important things vets take into consideration nowadays

    Hope this settles the comments before fingers start flying. Be nice to each other please guys.

    JL Smith

  5. Bo says:

    What an amazing group. I cant believe all they are involved in that they NEVER get credit for – you are right in saying its totally under that radar

    Kudos to Hills

  6. Sheri says:

    I work for Hill’s Pet Nutrition as a sales representative and stumbled upon this site.

    The Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, KS, is a top notch facility. The pet partners have AMAZING living quarters–I wish I could post some pictures. The cats live in colonies so they are not alone unless they choose to lay by themselves–just like a cat living in a multi-cat household. Their living quarters are large rooms with walkways, toys, skylights, and even access to a floor-to-ceiling window area that is like a porch where they can sun themselves.

    The dogs also have a great living situation and too live in groups. They have access to enclosed outside dog parks whenever the weather is nice so they can come and go as they please. Their inside facilies have beds, toys, skylights, and picket fences–a very “homey” touch. Both cats and dogs have designated “play” time with Hill’s employees.

    The Pet Nutrition Center also has an onsite AAHA accredited veterinary hospital. Honestly, our pet partners probably receive better veterinary care than the majority of pets. For example, dental cleanings are done twice a year for every pet partner. My dog’s last dental was well over 2 years ago and he’s in major need of one.

    The Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center is far from what people tend to think an animal testing facilities is. There are no animals being housed in stainless steel cages with no human contact and being ignored. We love our pet partners as if they were our own.

    Also, would you rather a pet food company come up with a recipe based on the ingredients they want to use without knowing if pets will like the food first and/or if it truly is nutritious, balanced, and bioavailable to the pet? Or just end up as excess piles of crap in your backyard? Something to think about….

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