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The Birth of the commercial dog food business must be attributed to the inventor of the first “dog cake,” a carefully compounded preparation of blended wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and meat by James Spratt. The brilliant hunch that there was a market for proprietary dog food came to him while he was in London, in 1860, trying to sell lightning rods.
Spratt was offered some inedible, discarded ship biscuits for his dog and thereupon decided his pet was worthy of more consideration. Being of inventive mind, he devised a “dog cake” which was nutritious and inexpensive.
It was the first commercial dog food and was baked on the premises of Walker, Harrison and Garthwaite, a firm which lay claim to have baked the first dog biscuits. Nevertheless, the Spratt distinction places him not only as the initiator of pet foods but as the first pet food entrepreneur to farm out his production.
Early Customers were English country gentlemen who bought for their sporting dogs. Yankee advertising ingenuity was not neglected since the first color display billboard was mounted on London retail store depicting an American hunting scene with Indians slaughtering bison to provide the British market with buffalo meat for “Meat Fibrine” dog food. Spratt’s Patent, Limited, an English public company, was registered in 1885 to continue the business founded by James Spratt.
Spratt’s Patent (America) Ltd., began a United States Operations at 239-245 E. 56th St., New York City, but early success soon forced a move, in 1895, to a large three-story building on Congress St., Newark, NJ. Later, the firm acquired the whole of the site bordered by Market, Congress and Jefferson Sts. and the Spratt plant became a familiar landmark to all those who traveled the Skyway to New York City.
While it was an American who created the first dog food, it was British enterprise which monopolized the market for almost 50 years, until 1907, when the F. H. Bennett Biscuits Co. was organized. Bennett’s start at Avenue D and 10th St., New York City, heralded the introduction of Milk-Bone dog biscuits as the first domestic canine food