Our dogs and cats are part of our families, and many of us enjoy pampering them as pet humanization flourishes. The development and sales of pet foods reflect this evolving trend. Today, many pet parents seek the same wellness benefits for their dog and cats that they want from their dietary choices, including natural, organic, high protein and nutritionally balanced foods.
Pet humanization also is leading to more premiumization of pet food, as consumers pay more for “healthier” food. Recent launches for dog and cat foods and snacks overwhelmingly take a health-focused market position.
The terms “natural” and “organic” remain popular, and the humanization trend also drives pet foods without additives and preservatives and those that are GMO-free and gluten-free. Dry, wet and raw food that tout benefits such as grain-free and with added vitamins and minerals continue to interest pet parents, as do those for specific needs such as age, skin sensitivity and digestion ease.
“Clean label” or limited ingredient foods are made with fewer ingredients and those that are easily identifiable. There is an emphasis on ingredients with nutritional function, such as prebiotics. Superfoods, such as pumpkin, kale and apples are popular in premium pet foods.
Human grade, a term used in the marketing of pet food, does not have an official definition in feed regulations. For some, human grade means all the ingredients in a food are safe for human consumption. For others, human grade means that the pet food is manufactured or cooked in facilities that are licensed to produce human food. Only a handful of pet food manufacturers use the term “human grade” on their labeling, but innovation in pet food continues in all categories.
Enhancers and Snacks
Sales are growing for meal toppers/enhancers and snacks that are marketed with health benefits.
Dry, wet and liquid toppers and mixers equaled about $84 million in sales in 2018 for pet specialty retailers. (source). That’s a 21 percent increase over the previous year for these pet food enhancers that increase palatability with extra flavor and texture while often providing valuable nutrients.
Pet snack sales growth appears aligned with humans snacking more between meals. Dog and cat snacks that sell well are positioned as natural or high-protein and those that have functional benefits, such as joint health and dental care.
• Limited-Edition Food: There seems to be a market for foods with seasonal flavors, especially during the fall and the winter holidays.
• Wet Dog Foods: Sales are climbing for those wet foods that are marketed as natural.
• Sustainability and Environmentally Friendly: This is a hot topic with millennial pet owners interested in the source of ingredients, processing and packaging. A growing number of manufacturers promote their foods as sustainably and locally sourced, made in the USA and packaged with eco-friendly materials.
As the year progresses, new trends will emerge, and expect them to be the by-product of pet humanization.