Posted at 05 June 2018
The last editions of the Global Pet Expo (Chicago, US) and Interzoo (Nuremberg, Germany) tradeshows have been a good opportunity to get a global outlook of the pet food market latest orientations.
This year again, trends from the food market continue to spread to pet food and pet owners to extend their own consumption habits, diets, expectations for naturalness, quality and traceability to their four legged companions.
Starting with the focus made on proteins the base for paleo diet positioning but also a means to assert the quality of the product. Brands are not only featuring the high meat content of their formula, they also give detailed information on the amount of each type of protein source they use and how they are incorporated into the recipe (for instance promoting the use of deboned meat vs the “demonized” meat meal).
This is also clearly linked with the strong expectations for more naturalness and transparency to restore trust. Manufacturers use non-exhaustive terms like “Natural, Pure, Whole, Fresh, Real”, but they know that they are also expected to substantiate their positioning with visible or tangible proofs. Different strategies are adopted from the elementary “clean- label” and “no” lists, to the inclusion of actual pieces of the claimed ingredients (i.e dehydrated fruits & vegetables), or the explanation of how they can better guarantee the nutrients preservation via qualified “gentle” processes such as freeze dried, air dried, pressed, oven baked or any other slow cooked methods.
Manufacturers are even more eager to go into such details and legitimate their approach as they know that pet owners and especially connected millennials are chasing this type of information.
In the end, it is always a matter of “you are what you eat” and “what is good for me is good for my pet”. For pet parents, it is all about being consistent with their consumption habits.
They would consider applying their own diets to their pet: cretan and vegan diets being good examples.
Communication on food safety and traceability is another must-have with not only information on the ingredients origin and the uses of “made in” stamps, but also messages such as “farm to bag” or “family owned” and any claim which can testify of the local sourcing and production. Some owners are ultimately seeking for higher quality standards and come to consider the “human grade” products offers which may be questionable in terms of ethics when applied to the pet food market.
Sustainability is of course another key element of brands positioning and is not limited to the choice of sustainable ingredients. Brands endorse animal welfare (i.e no animal testing, cruelty free), optimize their product environmental impact through alternative sourcing (i.e non meat ingredient, eco-friendly packagings) and process (i.e reduction of water usage or greenhouse gas emissions). Having a certification such as “organic” is the icing on the cake preventing them from accusations of doing greenwashing.
In addition, pet owners always look for the holistic solution bringing health benefits while feeding their companions. Segmentation remains key to cover the animal specific nutritional needs (small dogs being the trending target) even if some players start do the opposite and launch “all breed, all life stage” offers which may be a good solution for multipets households. Classic functional properties are still widespread with weight, stress and longevity management to mention just a few, or sensitivity management from the regular grain exclusion (replaced by potato or peas and even more lentils) to basic alternative and single protein source and the well-established L.I.D (for Limited Ingredient Diet) or now hydrolyzed protein. Offers also include preventive food using ingredients clearly identified to reach immune targets such as the famous Omega, but also “good fat” (ie. salmon oil, olive oil), superfood (i.e berries, herbs, coconut, honey, krill, green lipped mussel), prebiotic (the famous FOS-MOS) and probiotics.
To finish, at the opposite, another category of pet parents is still more inclined to go for humanizing consumption. They would keep on turning to the usual “culinary propositions” (i.e meat balls, roasted salmon, braised lamb) with no compromise on taste, but also on solutions allowing them to pamper their pet with emerging offers such as do-it-yourself kits and other topping/mixing ingredients to bring the final touch to their pet meal and break the routine.
The extended variety of diets and consumers expectations, will keep on leading brands to bring multiple propositions while also trying to reach the ultimate one-fits-all offer!