Pet Food Market Trends
"A growing percentage of consumers in the small animal market are interested in ingredients they feel will offer their pets the best quality of life as well as the greatest longevity," says Melissa Ross of Oxbow Animal Health.
On November 11, 2012

Product trends: Small animal and bird food market

Functional formulas and natural ingredients seem to be what every pet owner wants, no matter how small (or feathered) the pet

According to Melissa Ross, marketing operations manager for Oxbow Animal Health, the future for the bird and small animal petfood and treat market will continue to be focused on natural, wholesome ingredients with an emphasis on functional, wellness-based formulas. "As the popularity of small animals as pets has grown, so too have the demands of their owners. Whereas ten or fifteen years ago, the choices in the small animal marketplace were extremely limited, the small animal shelves are now overflowing with options," Ross explains. "Today’s small animal pet parents are dedicated label readers and want to know exactly what goes into the food or treats they’re offering to their animals. This kind of passion not only benefits the overall health of pets, but it holds the industry accountable to use healthy, high-quality ingredients and to present them with an appropriate level of transparency to consumers.

"A growing percentage of consumers in the small animal market are interested in ingredients they feel will offer their pets the best quality of life as well as the greatest longevity," Ross continues. "For some pet owners, there are specific ingredients or characteristics they feel will best benefit their pet. For instance, a growing number of pet owners are interested in organic options for their small pets." For many small pet owners this means choosing a premium food, and they expect the nutrients, minerals and vitamins to provide benefits to their pet's health, especially for the price. "While supplements are commonplace in the dog and cat market, it has traditionally been difficult for small animal owners to source many specific ingredients believed to aid in treating various conditions," says Ross.

With this need in mind, Oxbow Animal Health formulated a novel line of hay-based supplements to enhance wellness in five different categories that mirror what was valued and available in the dog and cat marketplace. Joint, digestive, immune support, urinary health and a multivitamin make up Oxbow's Natural Science line of supplements for small animals. These supplements contain high-quality herbal ingredients believed to enhance pet health. Natural Science Adult Guinea Pig and Adult Rabbit foods are also part of the fortified and functional line and contain three varieties of grass hay and a novel ingredient deck (yellow pea, tomato pomace and canola, for example) that provide a highly palatable alternative while still maintaining nutritional balance, says the company.

Vitakraft Sunseed has introduced two new product lines to the small animal market this year that target rodents, rabbits, ferrets and other small mammals nutritional needs. AnimaLovens small animals treats from Vitakraft Sunseed are made from real vegetables, claims the company. These natural, oven-baked treats are available in Pretzel Sticks, Garden Wafers and Apple Strudel flavors, clearly nodding to the humanization of all things animals. Vitakraft also recently introduced the Vitasmart food line with diets for guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters. Not only are the ingredients in the Vitasmart formulas functionally focused with essential fatty acids, omegas and high levels of vitamins C and E, but the packaging and labeling are akin to human and superpremium petfood labels.

Avi-Cakes from the Lafeber Company are a "work ‘n chew" food—a bird diet specifically designed to enhance foraging excitement and provide pet birds with a variety of beak and tongue sensations. Top avian nutritionists, veterinarians and behavioral consultants worked together creating Avi-Cakes, says Lafeber, and were specifically designed for the nutritional demands of birds: for iridescent feathers, for a strong beak and bones, and for bright eyes. Avi-Cakes are a blend of premium seeds mixed 50-50 with nutritionally balanced pellets all held together with a molasses binder, and are omega-3 and -6 balanced, naturally flavored and naturally preserved, says the company. Real fruits like cranberries, dates, mango, papaya and pineapple have been added to the Fruit Delight Avi-Cakes with specifically mixed tocopherols and citric acid to protect the nutrients.

Higgins Premium Pet Foods offers a line of treats for birds in six different blends in its Snack Attack avian line. Higgins Snack Attack Premium Natural Bird Treats are a convenient way to enhance daily seed-based diets, says the company. Diverse morsels of dried fruits like papaya, strawberry and coconut, seeds, grains, beans, enhanced oyster shell, vegetables, cinnamon, Juniper berries and nuts like almonds and cashews offer wholesome nutrition and variety for finicky feeders. The Snack Attack line hits both marks for the small animal and bird food trends: "natural and human-grade" ingredients and enhancement and engagement for the animal.

PowerPoint: Innovations in small mammal nutrition

Learn the specifics of the uniquely different small animal petfood and treat market in the Petfood Forum presentation, "Innovation in Treats and Nutritional Enrichments for Small Mammals," from Micah Kohles, DVM of Oxbow Animal Health.

Ten or fifteen years ago, the choices in the small animal marketplace were extremely limited; the small animal shelves are now overflowing with options for pet owners.
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