Are current petfood trends healthy or sustainable?
Consumer demand is driving sales of grain-free, premium and similar products, but that may not be best for pets or the industry over time
It's a business axiom that to succeed, you have to meet customers' needs. But when it comes to feeding pets, is that always true? Should the petfood industry be more cognizant of how current trends like high meat content, no grains, premium and "human grade" ingredients—that, yes, consumers are demanding and buying—affect pets' health and the ingredient supply chain?
In most cases, the results of these trends are positive, but not all are. According to the latest survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, the US pet obesity rate hit an all-time high in 2012: 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats are now considered overweight or obese by their veterinarians. What's worse, many of their owners don't see or acknowledge their pets' conditions: About 45% of these respondents consider their pets to be normal weight.
Pet obesity is a human behavior problem, not just a nutritional disease, said Katherine Kerr, PhD, post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Illinois, in a Petfood Forum 2013 presentation, After all, pets do not pour their own bowls of food. However, Kerr pointed out how energy dense most petfoods are today, as petfood companies have understandably ridden the premium/superpremium bandwagon to increasing sales and margins (p. XX).
With pets, excess energy intake of just 1% to 2% can lead to overweight or obesity, Kerr said. While most petfood labels say to adjust feeding amounts as necessary for each pet, she added,…