A question arising in the Latin American pet food industry is, to what extent have COVID-19 lockdowns transformed the nutritional requirements of pets, or what pet owners perceive to be the requirements? Internet search results may help provide some answers.
Considering that the lockdowns reduced the number of visits to veterinarians and, even more importantly, that vet practices were forced to close temporarily, dog owners became increasingly concerned about the nutrition and well-being of their pets. And, with the boom of online shopping during confinement, pet owners conducted more internet searches for a key emerging ingredient in pet food: probiotics.
According to a LinkedIn post by Lumina Intelligence, a British firm specializing in food, drink and nutrition market insights, the lockdown provoked two effects in consumers while moving to the online shopping environment. On one hand, established users of probiotics for dogs who usually get these from their veterinarians seemed to try to procure their probiotics online instead. On the other hand, as people spent more time with their pets during the lockdowns, pet well-being and elimination troubles became paramount.
Specifically, Lumina said, searches for “probiotics for dogs with diarrhea” increased between March and September 2020, both in English and Spanish languages. “The unpleasantness of being cooped up indoors with a diarrhetic pooch means consumers are quickly turning to the online probiotic space in their quest for a remedy and that this trend has been greatly accelerated by COVID,” said the Lumina LinkedIn post.
Ewa Hudson, director of insights at Lumina, added that Spanish-language searches worldwide for probiotics amounted to an average of 4,400 per month worldwide. Mexico led searches with 29.1%, followed by Spain with 22.5%, Colombia with 14.5% and Chile, 13.8%. Spanish-language searches originating from the U.S. registered at 4.8%, while other countries collectively reached 15.3%, according to Hudson.
Currently, just a minor portion of dog and cat food products, at all price points, contain probiotics. For example, in Mexico, that includes brands such as Prime Nutrition, Choice Nutrition, Vital Pro, Campi Can and Zoopreme Cat, all manufactured by Campi Alimentos. Or Tier by Pronua and Hi-Pro by Albapesa.
It is still unclear to what extent other producers will join the probiotics wave with their pet food formulations. Yet, one thing is certain: Pet owners got a more profound knowledge of their pets’ nutritional requirements during confinement, a factor that will likely inform and shape the next trends in pet food demands.
Iván Franco is the founder of Triplethree International and has collaborated on hundreds of research projects for several consumer goods industries. He was granted the Global Consultant of the Year award by Euromonitor International and authored the book 17 Market Strategies for Growth (in Spanish).
Pet owners want a lot from their pet food brands. They want primary proteins that suit what they believe is best for their animal. They want grains or they don't. They want something customized, but it has to be easy to understand.
Constraints and crises, like those experienced in 2020, help drive innovation and sustainability offers context.