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The Growing Importance of Pet Diets

The bond between owner and pet frequently morphs into a family-like connection. Having a pet as a companion can not only decrease depression and loneliness, but it teaches valuable lessons like responsibility. For children, pets can further the development of motor skills and even improve behavioral issues. More and more owners began splurging on their companion’s needs, as three in five owners believe an excellent pet parent buys only the best for their pet. With an increased focus on pet diets, their health, and well-being, manufacturers must be prepared to meet consumer demands.

Humanization of Pets and the Impact on Pet Diets

As pets are increasingly viewed as family members, a laser-sharp focus on their diets and wellness has emerged. In a recent study, 60% of pet owners felt no limit to what they will spend to take care of their pet’s health. Many owners are willing to pay 2 to 8 times more on raw, minimally processed food when it comes to pet food. Most importantly, the industry has seen a convergence of similar ingredients among human and pet food.

Alternative Pet Diets

As pet parents prioritize their pets’ diets, we continue to see product innovations aimed at meeting their needs. From all-natural to plant-based, pet owners are increasingly avoiding preservatives and focusing on healthier options. We’ve highlighted five notable alternative pet diets and examples of brands differentiating themselves in each space.

  1. Fresh Food – Feeding pets a fresh food diet provides numerous benefits. Not only do pet owners know what their pet is consuming, but this diet can lead to higher energy levels, improved digestion, and even allergy relief. Brands like Ollie, PetPlate, and Farmer’s Dog build market share in the fresh-food space by providing subscription services of customizable meals. All meals are made in the U.S. with human-grade ingredients and delivered directly to consumers’ doorsteps. FreshPet is an in-store line of fresh, customizable and preservative-free dog food serving meals in various forms, such as meat rolls and single-serve containers.
  2. All-Natural and Clean Products – Maintaining all-natural and clean ingredients are critical as consumers seek transparency in pet food. Organic foods provide pet owners with a piece of mind and pets with countless benefits like improved digestion and energy levels. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish brand embodies all-natural ingredients as well as a sense of openness. The brand’s tagline centers around ‘real recipes, real ingredients, real food’ with simple and wholesome ingredients. Each recipe and its ingredients serve a unique purpose, ensuring that the product is nutritious and safe.
  3. Protein-Packed Diets – Ancient grains, superfoods and high-protein meals are rising in popularity as pet owners tend to be inspired by the same health and wellness trends that they see for themselves. Higher-protein diets can promote weight loss and improve overall body composition. More protein is also crucial for ageing dogs to maintain their muscle and mobility unless they have chronic kidney diseases.
  4. The Raw Dog Food Diet – The controversial Raw Dog Food Diet emerged as a healthier and more natural alternative to traditional pet foods. This diet consists of meats, bones, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Although this meal plan can lead to healthier skin and higher energy levels in dogs, there is a risk of disease and a potentially unbalanced diet. Research found that for 57% of owners, controlling the composition and quality of ingredients was the main advantage of this diet. Providing pet owners with a sense of involvement in their pets’ diets is a crucial trend that manufacturers should accommodate.
  5. Meatless Pet Food – With rising concerns about meat consumption and its impact on the environment, vegan and animal-free products plan to hit the shelves shortly. When correctly made, meatless pet foods are beneficial to all parties involved as they provide pets with healthy perks and look out for the environment. Bond Pet Foods and Because Animals are two pioneers in the space who are working towards selling products by 2022 and 2023. Bond Pet Foods is currently creating cultured chicken protein through genetics and fermentation. This chicken protein is dried and blended into a variation of products. Similarly, Because Animals is producing cultured meat for cats and dogs grown from harvested animal cells.

Building Strong Relationships with Consumers

Pet food manufacturers should remain agile in how they create and market pet food and treats, shifting to the changing needs of their consumers. As consumer preferences evolve, keep in mind which attributes can be incorporated in future product innovations:

  • Fresh or Organic
  • Meatless
  • High in Protein and Fiber
  • Customizable
  • Sustainable
  • High-Quality and Safe

Most importantly, ingredient transparency is critical. By remaining transparent and straightforward with product ingredients and the manufacturing process, companies will be more likely to maintain consumer trust and loyalty which translates into their willingness to try new food alternatives. With various pet food diets on the market, manufacturers should keep in mind which values their consumers gravitate towards and how that drives successful new product launches.

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Coauthor and contributions by Rachel Ruth