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Does Essence have what it takes to earn a spot in your cat’s bowl? Keep reading to find out.
We’ve gone deep on this new addition to the cat food market, doing everything from in-depth research to real-world testing. In this review, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this brand—like what makes it different from other brands, where it’s made, and what real cats think of it.
The Cats.com Standard – Rating Essence On What Matters
We’ve rated the brand on six key criteria for quality. Here’s how it rates in each of these six crucial areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 8/10
- Ingredient Quality – 9/10
- Product Variety – 8/10
- Price – 7/10
- Customer Experience – 9/10
- Recall History – 9/10
Overall Score: 8.3/10
Before we get into the details, let’s talk about what Essence cat food is.
Essence was created by Pets Global, a California-based company that specializes in “holistic wellness pet food”. Other Pets Global brands include Fussie Cat, Zignature, and Inception Pet Foods.
In a press release in Pet Business, Pets Global president Daniel Hereford says that Essence “delivers the highest quality in pet nutrition, while taking into consideration the changing needs pets have.” The brand’s website describes it as “the embodiment of superior pet nutrition”.
What Kind Of Cat Food Does Essence Offer?
Essence foods come in three recipes, each available in a dry and canned variety. Choose from Air & Gamefowl, Ranch & Meadow, and Ocean & Freshwater fish formulas.
Whether wet or dry, all Essence recipes are composed of 85% or more animal protein ingredients. Because addressing food sensitivities is a major part of the Essence offering, their foods feature typically novel proteins like wild boar, duck, and guinea fowl. They don’t contain grains, potatoes, or other ingredients that the company deems likely to cause food sensitivities.
Who Makes Essence Cat Food?
Essence says that all of their recipes are manufactured in the midwestern United States, but the company doesn’t go into any more details about who makes the food. It appears that Essence is made in the same Minnesota and South Dakota facilities that produce Zignature foods.
Their ingredients are sourced from the United States and imported from around the world. If you want more information on the origins of the ingredients used in a given food, visit the product listing on Essence’s website.
Essence Cat Food Review – A Personal Experience
In order to fully understand what Essence has to offer, I tried out a sampler pack of their recipes.
Over the course of a week, I subjected Essence cat food to hands-on testing. I evaluated every aspect of the experience, including the look and feel of the packaging, the ease of opening and closing the bags, the way the food looked and smelled, and—most importantly—how my cats reacted to each recipe.
At first glance, I liked the way the Essence food was packaged. With their deep, glowing scenes of sunset, prairies, and icy mountains, each package was visually captivating. The bags of kibble were easy to open and close, with convenient pull tabs and resealable Ziploc closures. In contrast to the usual impossible-to-reseal packages, Essence’s bags promise fresher food for a longer amount of time.
We’ll go in depth on our experience with three Essence cat food recipes—Air & Gamefowl kibble, Ocean & Freshwater Recipe canned food, and Essence’s Ranch & Meadow canned food.
#1 Essence Air & Gamefowl Dry Cat Food Review
In keeping with Essence’s meat-first philosophy, this kibble food is 86% animal protein. Guinea fowl, duck, turkey, chicken, turkey meal, and other poultry ingredients constitute the bulk of the recipe, with a smattering of legumes serving as plant-based protein sources and kibble binders.
The kibble pieces are quite small—just a little bigger than pencil erasers. Kibble size is usually a negligible factor, but it’s worth considering if your cat eats too quickly or has difficulty eating large or small pieces of kibble.
What Did My Cats Think Of Essence Air & Gamefowl Recipe Dry Cat Food?
After some initial reluctance, both of my cats dove into the kibble, gradually polishing off a big bowl over the course of the day. We have a maximum-hydration household and the kitties don’t normally eat this much dry food, but they seemed to enjoy it.
With garbanzo beans, coconut flour, and red lentils in the recipe and a carbohydrate content of around 30% on a dry matter basis you couldn’t call this the quintessential obligate carnivore’s meal. But it’s a few meat ingredients ahead of the other kibble on the market and a good stepping stone towards a more species-appropriate diet.
Guinea Fowl, Duck, Turkey, Chicken, Duck Meal, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavors, Guinea Fowl Meal, Red Lentils, Coconut Flour, Potassium Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Pumpkin, Choline Chloride, Dandelion Greens, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Fructooligosaccharide, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Chia Seed Oil
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Features a wide array of nourishing animal protein sources
- Doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives that might harm your cat
- Contains chicken fat, a species-appropriate source of fatty acids
- Cats liked the way the food tasted
What We Didn’t Like:
- High carbohydrate content
#2 Essence Ocean & Freshwater Recipe Canned Cat Food
This Essence cat food recipe features a combination of freshwater and ocean fish, including trout, salmon, whitefish, herring, catfish, mackerel, and sardines. It’s refreshing to see a cat food that names every species included in the recipe. Most rely on a nameless mash of “ocean whitefish” or even just “fish”. Divulging the species of fish used implies a higher level of control over the ingredients in the food.
These fish ingredients constitute 96% of each meal. The remainder is composed of agar-agar, a seaweed-derived thickening agent and a safe alternative to carrageenan, supplemental vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and finally, traces of several nutrient-rich additives. Kelp, dandelion greens, fructooligosaccharide, chia seed oil, and a tiny amount of lentils contribute nutrients and round out the recipe.
What Did My Cats Think Of Essence Ocean & Freshwater Recipe Canned Food?
This canned food was my cats’ favorite from the Essence selection. Compared to the other wet recipes, it had a softer, creamer texture and apparently, a flavor that tickled their tastebuds in the right way. They dove into it without hesitation. With its protein-rich ingredient list, abundance of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and low carbohydrate content, this is the kind of food I would consider buying again and again.
Trout, Salmon, Whitefish, Fish Broth, Herring, Catfish, Mackerel, Sardines, Natural Fish Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Agar-agar, Choline Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Dandelion Greens, Fructooligosaccharide, Lentils, Taurine, Salt, Kelp*(Marine Microalgae), Chia Seed Oil, Minerals (Magnesium Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate)
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Great macronutrient distribution with plenty of protein, moderate fat, and low carbohydrate content
- Cats loved the way the food tasted
- Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
- Doesn’t contain carrageenan, artificial dyes, or other ingredients that might irritate your cat
- Soft texture makes this food appetizing and easy to eat
What We Didn’t Like:
- Fish-based foods aren’t usually the best option for long-term feeding
#3 Essence Ranch & Meadow Recipe Review
Essence’s Ranch & Meadow canned food is primarily made of lamb and pork meat, lamb broth, and pork liver. The paté is held together with agar-agar, a seaweed-derived thickener that’s one of the safest binding gums on the market. It’s supplemented with an array of synthetic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Like all Essence canned foods, the recipe is rounded out with trace amounts of supplemental ingredients. It contains the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide, kelp as a source of trace minerals, chia seed oil as a minor source of vitamin B3 and zinc, and nutrient-rich dandelion greens.
What Did My Cats Think Of Essence Ranch & Meadow Recipe Canned Food?
Neither Wessie nor Forest seemed to love Ranch & Meadow. I’m not sure if it was the texture—relatively firm and dry—or the fact that it was made from ingredients they don’t normally eat.
Although my cats weren’t fans of Ranch & Meadow, it looks like a good option for anyone seeking a low-carbohydrate, meat-rich canned cat food. Particularly if your cat is sensitive to traditional proteins like chicken, turkey, and beef, this food is a promising and species-appropriate option.
Lamb, Lamb Broth, Pork Liver, Pork, Natural Lamb Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Agar-Agar, Potassium Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Dandelion Greens, Fructooligosaccharide, Kelp*(Marine Microalgae), Chia Seed Oil, Taurine, Minerals (Magnesium Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate).
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
- Low carbohydrate content
- Free of common irritating ingredients like carrageenan, artificial colors, and preservatives
What We Didn’t Like:
- Cats didn’t like this recipe
How Much Does Essence Cat Food Cost?
That depends on where you buy and how much your cat eats.
Essence dry cat food costs, on average, around $20 per 4-lb bag or roughly $0.64 per day. The canned recipes are more expensive at about $2 per can or $2.25 per day.
This places Essence at the lower end of the premium price range. It shares that territory with brands like Merrick and Nature’s Variety Instinct.
Overall, Is Essence A Good Choice?
Essence cat food recipes are brimming with the things cats need most—identifiable cuts of muscle meat and organs. Their canned recipes, in particular, come close to embodying species-appropriate nutrition.
They skip both the potentially-harmful additives found in the worst foods and the unnecessary fruits and vegetables found in so-called premium products.
Their dry foods aren’t the best thing you could give your cat, but as far as dry foods are concerned, they’re some of the better products you can buy.
Animal protein takes precedence in every formula and you won’t find any of the artificial colors, artificial flavors, or potentially-harmful preservatives that appear in so many other foods.
Considering that Essence and other Pets Global brands have never been recalled, this brand looks like an option worth trying.
Where To Buy Essence Cat Food?
Essence cat food is sold through independent brick-and-mortar pet specialty stores. The company doesn’t authorize sales on Amazon, Chewy, or other online retailers.
Click Here To Find A Retailer Near You.
*FTC Disclosure: We received this sample box for review at no charge. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves. All of our reviews are unbiased, regardless of payment received, and always reflect our honest opinion or the opinion of our cats.
Nice review. Please review blue wilderness!!
We have a review on Blue Buffalo Cat Food here:
I agree Essence makes good cat food products. One issue I have however is their choice of using agar-agar as a thickening agent as a replacement. Yes, they don’t use carrageenan but agar-agar can cause the same issues, especially for cats with IBD. We feed our indoor-only cats a competitor’s canned food because they use no thickening agent. I have contacted Essence and they said they would look into agar-agar issues.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
I understand your decision to opt for a thickener-free alternative. According to my research, agar isn’t as well-understood as carrageenan. So while it doesn’t currently appear to have any harmful effects, it is possible that it could irritate some cats—including those with IBD. That said, it’s all speculation at this point. I’ve not seen any research concluding that it is carcinogenic or inflammatory like carrageenan. In fact, it appears to be among the safest thickeners on the market.
We’re always interested in learning and sharing which ingredients are and are not safe for our cats, so your input is very valuable. Thanks again for commenting.
So, what is the “graded you would give this food?
Good question. Here’s how we rate Essence according to the We’re All About Cats Standard:
Species-Appropriateness – 7/10
Ingredient Quality – 8/10
Product Variety – 6/10
Price – 7/10
Customer Experience – 8/10
Recall History – 10/10
In total, we give Essence cat food a 46 out of 60 rating or a B+ grade.
Hope this helps!
My veterinary oncologist advised me to look for recipes that are caraggenan free. Why? Carageenan is a proven carcinogen in addition to being a significant intestinal irritant. I have a cat with low grade irritable bowl syndrome who cannot tolerate carageenan or guar gum.
My cats transitioned to Essence dry food a couple weeks ago. So far my problem child (allergies and sinus issues) has fared much better! His eyes are clearer and not so swollen and his nose is not stuffy. I’m truly impressed so far. My only concern is the carb count- we don’t need any weight gain or diabetes!! Thanks for your review.
I noticed you tend to say “Their dry foods aren’t the best thing you could give your cat, but as far as dry foods are concerned, they’re some of the better products you can buy.” sometimes at the bottom of reviews, but what exactly are the ‘better’ dry foods? Also what dry foods do you personally feed your cat?
I feed both dry and canned food, but the Fromm dry food is a little high in carbs. The cats love the flavor but I want something healthier. Orijen makes one of my cats sick but I did like the formula. Any suggestions for dry food?
Hey Samantha, good eye! I don’t personally feed my cats any dry foods—other than the occasional kibble for a product review or in a pinch—but I would recommend Dr. Elsey’s, Ziwi Peak, or Instinct Ultimate Protein. You might like our article on the best dry cat food: https://cats.com/best-dry-cat-food
Also, have you reviewed Holistic Select? Thanks!
Hey Samantha, we haven’t reviewed Holistic Select yet. We’ll consider it for the future, though. Thank you!
I read a article that said they tested Essence chicken dry cat food and it had 5000 times the iron in it over what Afco recommends. Another flavor had real high calcium. Will too much iron hurt my cat?
Hello Blanche, thank you for your comment. We are aware of the iron issue you’re referring to and have contacted Essence for more information. As yet, we’re unable to give any further information about this, but I will be sure to add more details as soon as we get them. I understand your concern and am sorry I couldn’t be of more help at this time. – Mallory
What us quite impirtant and musdinh here is Measured as Dry matter Phosphorus content. My finicky cat dies lije air and gane fowl and i agree with all yiur comments but he has just bern revealed to have chronic kidney disease and Essence is only brand whose phosphorus content is not revealed in any of the published guide lists by brand, on any sales sote or here in your review. Perhaps you can ask them. Meanwhile i will be removing it from our purchases intil we know since cat developed this CKD since he was put on Essence
Hello, thank you for your input and for sharing your experience. We will contact Essence and ask them about this food’s phosphorus content. I wish you and your cat all the best.
Is this related to Inception owned by the same company? I’m also looking for the carb and sodium and phosphorus content for their dry food. Thanks!
Ivy, yes! Essence and Inception are from the same company. Which dry food are you interested in learning about, specifically?
Thank you for posting this and for keeping up with the comments! It’s hard to find complete information regarding this food. I received a sample pack of the Ocean & Freshwater dry food that I’ve been using as “treats” for one of my cats and he is BONKERS over it. I wish they had more information about the amount of ash and/or phosphorus/magnesium in their food. I was going to get some more of this for my cat, but seeing the other study about the excessive iron level is giving me pause.
Hi, I was wondering if there has been any update on the iron, phosphorus, and other mineral levels in this brand.
I am considering switching from Orijen, but am not finding as much information on Essence.
Thank you in advance!
Hi Hope, unfortunately, I can’t give any more information on the mineral or heavy metal content of Essence cat food at this time. We have been submitting foods to a laboratory that looks at these components, so we may eventually send Essence in as well, but until then, I don’t have anything for you. Thanks for your comment!
My 11yo kitty is a large cat (size and unfortunately weight) and very picky. She likes wet and dry. I had her on Wellness when a friend gave me BB sensitive stomach. She loved it and wouldn’t eat any other dry I tried to give her! Then she really started gaining weight! I thought maybe we were feeding her too much, but we did 2 weeks of food journaling and it really wasn’t that much! A friend said her vet said that pets that had been switched to BB gained weight! So I went looking for a more premium dry food (she won’t touch premium wet no matter what I try!) and found Essence on a great sale and thought I’d try. Got both the fish and ranch and meadow… She LOVES both! She seems to eat less but be more satisfied. She’s also less crabby. I would definitely be interested in other info you find out. While her labs have been fine (I like to get them for baseline) I am worried about diabetes or other issues because of her weight and age.
My 10 yr old cat has some real issues with foods that contain fish products and it is really hard to find something fish free. I did find the Ranch and Meadow and am trying to add it to his diet slowly. He seems to like it well enough. Is there anyway to find fish free cat foods easier than trying to read every label? Is there a listing somewhere?
(I found this at Chewy)
Hi Alice, thank you for commenting! That’s a great question. We are working on developing a pet food database, and I think this is a feature we may be able to add to it. With so many people looking for foods that are free of specific ingredients, I think that would be incredibly helpful.
What about fussie cat wet food? what are your thought about this cat brand? would love your input on it 🙂
Hi Jessica, Fussie Cat is a decent brand, and I know a lot of people have good experiences with it. We haven’t done an in-depth review yet, so we’ve added it to the schedule for this September. Stay tuned!
I’m so glad you’re going to review Fussie Cat! I’ve heard so much about the brand and am excited to see an honest review.
I will tell you that I feed a lot of ferals and they all LOVE it so much they eat in all in 2 sec, yet I cannot get my inside cats to touch it. It looks and smells to be very good quality though. Even the little shrimps look good enough for me to eat. I wish I could get my senior and inside cats to eat better quality can food, but they all prefer the purina pro plan varieties, and since they recently changed the formula, in my opinion, it now looks disgusting bc it is so much darker in color than it was before.
The Essence air and game fowl review you gave is not up to date. Go on their website and scroll down to new ingredients. They start with turkey now. I emailed them about the ingredients on the bag don’t match the ingredients on their website, and they said they have a year to change the bag to the new ingredients. This is not the first dry food I have found like this. I don’t look at ingredients on the bags now, i go on their website to make sure they don’t have a new formula