The next pet food? A look back and forward

Consumers have increasingly high expectations – for their own food and the food of their pets.

Healthy with great taste

Consumers desire new foods, snacks, and dining experiences with great taste. However, they also expect long-term health benefits from what they eat directly or through the addition of supplements

Pet owners have similar expectations for their pets’ foods and treats. As consumers became more aware of their own health, foods for their pets must adapt too. There are growing expectations that nothing is missing, foods must lead to long-term health and their pets must love every mouthful.

Foods for every health disorder

Today’s consumers desire meals that will target every potential pet problem. Skin issues, bad breath, allergies, sensitive stomachs, dental conditions, kidney disease, heart disease, stone dissolution, weight management, and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) prevention and even brain health. This led the industry to change from simple products that target adult maintenance and foods for all-life stages, to an improved high energy, concentrated, premium, super-premium, specially fortified and weight management product focus.

Niche pet food market

As a result, pet food companies have begun to market to the niches. One niche focussed on consumers that were convinced raw foods are the best because processing destroys nutrients and enzymes. Another added special kibbles or freeze-dried pieces. Today, hundreds of supplements and toppers are being launched to add more to the food and provide key nutritionals.

One scare is that supplements with limited data can speak to the health fears of consumers. For example, after a recent industry show (US), we counted over seventy new products with hemp or CBD conjuring many unproven health remedies not supported by scientific data.

Areas for growth

  • While there are hundreds of products in worldwide pet markets, we still see a number of potential areas where pet food products will continue to arise, including:
  • designer pet foods
  • clean labelled pet foods
  • sustainable pet foods 
  • keto diet-focused pet foods
  • human-grade pet foods
  • pet foods with new protein sources (insects, microbial, algal, lab-grown)
  • regional pet foods
  • made-at-home pet foods
  • calorically-control pet foods
  • higher digestibility pet foods
  • disease-prevention pet foods

What’s next?

Nutritional messages have always been difficult to explain to consumers. That is why it is so easy to demonise ingredients to create product appeal. But, the connection to consumers is getting more elongated. 

Consumers used to visit pet fairs and local pet shows often. Today, an escalating number of consumers purchase their foods online. This makes the communication to the consumer more distant and the potential of creating new foods more difficult. Pet owning consumers are continuing to escalate worldwide and they will always look for the new, healthy, nutritious regime of food products. So, what’s next?

Will the consumer expect all genetically, predisposed health disorders be limited or prevented by what is in their pet’s foods and treats? What responsibilities does the pet owner have to keep their pets trim and fit? Whose responsibility is it to ensure a food regime that is balanced and well-fortified in connection with treats, chews, et cetera?

Author

George Collings

How millennials and pets in cities change the pet industry landscape. Alternative protein development.