How Kitties Helped Create Friskies' New Line of Cat Food

Nestle Purina
Nestle Purina / Nestle Purina

Cats are notoriously persnickety eaters, often turning up their noses at food chosen for them by their humans. But Friskies is betting that picky felines will be a little bit more excited about food chosen by their kitty counterparts: It debuted Cat Concoctions, a wet food that features flavor creations picked by cats, earlier this year.

“At Friskies, we’re always looking for new, unique things to do,” Friskies Brand Manager Jessica Nichols told mental_floss at the New York City launch of Cat Concoctions. “We have a lot of great tasting cat food, but we don’t want to just do more of the same, and we know that cats are quirky and they have their own wants and needs.”

So the company decided to let cats pick flavor combinations for once, though humans still had to help a little bit. Friskies scientists took flavors they knew cats liked and threw them together in bizarre variations. Then, they turned to the cats in the company’s St. Joseph, Missouri facility for tasting help. “We fed them different combinations to see what they gravitated towards the most,” Nichols says. “We literally gave each cat two bowls and asked them to choose which one they liked.” (Many of the cats in the facility—which also houses dogs; Friskies is owned by Purina—come from shelters, and each one has a name. “A lot of them end up getting adopted by the people who work there,” Nichols says.)

Celebrity cats Grumpy Cat, Nala Cat, and Waffles help introduce Friskies® Cat Concoctions, a wet cat food that features curious flavor combinations from the minds of cats at an event in New York City. Image courtesy of Bennett Raglin/AP Images for Friskies.

Based on how much the cats ate, flavors were either scrapped or advanced to the next round, until, eventually, “we narrowed it down to what they like the most,” Nichols said. “It’s all scientifically studied.” Four flavors were ultimately chosen: Scrumptious Salmon & Chicken Liver Dinner Pate; Chicken in Creamy Crabby Sauce; Cod in Cheesy Bacon Flavored Sauce; Lamb in Clam Flavored Sauce. “The cod and cheesy bacon sauce, I think, is the most unappetizing to humans,” Nichols says. The flavor has at least one feline fan, though: “Grumpy has been really enjoying the cod in the cheesy bacon-flavored sauce,” Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, told mental_floss.

Despite the fact that humans don’t get the appeal of these combinations, the response to Cat Concoctions, according to Nichols, has been “overwhelmingly positive. It’s one of our most successful launches with wet cat food with Friskies. It’s really just about letting cats call the shots, so it’s not just scientists determining what’s going to sell best—it’s what cats like.”

Four Cat Concoctions flavors are in stores now; two more will hit shelves next January. You can get a coupon here.