- Pet food trends are following human consumers' tastes, according to a recent article on Bloomberg. Popular dog food brands are introducing quinoa, ancient grains, blueberries, pumpkin and spinach — among other superfoods — as ingredients.
- Experts have found that domesticated dogs, about 70 million of which living in American homes, can live well on a vegetable-based or a lower-protein diet, which is highlighted in these new dog food recipes. However, the ingredients themselves are not as important as the nutrients offered in the food.
- Vegetable and plant-based proteins have not been as popular as ingredients in cat food. Cats need certain amino acids found only in meat, and when they’re added to a vegetarian kibble, cats generally aren’t interested in eating it.
As consumers actively try to eat more healthfully, they’re pulling Fido in as a partner in better eating. Pet food is increasingly mirroring trends in human food, and their owners are buying it.
Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd. offers a chicken and quinoa ancient grains recipe. Nestle Purina’s Beneful has dabbled in adding blueberries, pumpkin and spinach. Honest Kitchen Inc., which uses only human-grade ingredients, has been selling a chicken and quinoa recipe since 2006 and now offers beef and chickpea, duck and sweet potato, and fish and coconut blends as well.
Consumers value the health benefits they receive from these superfoods, and want to share the bounty with man’s best friend. However, pets' nutritional needs are quite different than those of humans.
Research has shown that labradoodles and schnauzers don’t need a high-protein diet like their wild wolf cousins. They can get their needed nutrients from a plant-based low-protein diet, which sounds like a potential ringing endorsement for these new quinoa-spinach recipes. However, dogs can get their nutritional needs met with out-of-style soy or corn as well as trendy quinoa. But Spot isn’t the one picking out his dog food.
According to Harris Poll, in 2016, 95% of U.S. pet owners considered their animals part of the family — up 7 points from 2007. Consumers love their pets and want to give them the best food they can afford. A higher price tag doesn’t always mean a higher quality food, but pet owners are willing to shell out more money for a perceived better product. Sales of premium pet food went from $5.7 billion in 2001 to $14.5 billion in 2015.
As CPG sales are lagging, pet food sales are increasing at a far more rapid rate. Considering the ever-increasing parallels in ingredients and nutritional profiles, more food manufacturers may soon start wondering if it’s time they got a dog in this fight.
There are already some food manufacturing giants who have a strong presence in the pet food space. Pedigree, Mars' budget-friendly brand, is a top-selling dog food, bringing in $1.6 billion in 2016. Nestle's Purina represents 23.5% of the $30 billion pet food market.
And Mars has doubled down on its interest in the pet-related field by expanding into pet care with the $7.7 billion purchase of VCA, an animal hospital chain.