Petfood and pet supplements have always overlapped in terms of ingredients, but now the marketers making the products are becoming interchangeable. The line is being crossed from both sides, as more supplement marketers edge into food with function-infused chewable tablets and treats—as Nutramax has recently done with its joint health Dasuquin soft chew—and as more petfood marketers delve into nutraceutical foods and treats. No surprise, therefore, that condition-specific foods are a growth area in the petfood market and that nutraceutical treats are the current bright spot in the pet supplements market.
According to Packaged Facts’ March 2011 report, Pet Food in the U.S., 9th Edition, sales of nutraceutical treats for dogs and cats rose 13% in 2010, more than double the 6% rate posted by traditional supplements. The top segments are joint/senior and skin/coat, with weight-related products also picking up steam. In the veterinary channel, other conditions subject to targeted nutrition include cognitive health, eye health, cancer and diabetes.
Petfood marketers large and small continue to launch products boasting functional ingredients including omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, L-carnitine, MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane), glucosamine, chondroitin, dietary fiber, probiotics and antioxidants. Iams’ new ProActive Health Canned Cat Food, launched in 2010, features prebiotics FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and is promoted with the copy, “Feeding a diet with prebiotics helps promote good bacteria to aid in digestive health and support a cat’s defenses.”
Also in 2010, NestlÃ© Purina re-introduced Purina One SmartBlend, with the Premium Adult Cat Food featuring omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants and the Healthy Kitten Formula featuring DHA. Del Monte’s new Everyday Healthy Dog Snacks, extending the Milk-Bone Essentials Plus+ line, include Hip & Joint Crunchy Bites (glucosamine and chondroitin), Oral Care Crunchy Bites (parsley leaves and spearmint) and Optimal Health Biscuits (antioxidants, glucosamine, calcium and fiber).
Support for senior dogs is an especially hot area in functional petfoods. During 2010, Mars added Pedigree Healthy Joints, which contains glucosamine and chondroitin, and Healthy Longevity, which contains fish oils rich in DHA and omega-3s and is “specially formulated to provide adult dogs with the special nutrients they need to support their hearts, minds and immune systems.”
Also in 2010, Hill’s added Science Diet Healthy Mobility Adult Dry Dog Food in Original, Large Breed and Small Bites varieties. The product contains omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate from natural sources and is touted as “Tested nutrition to enhance active mobility in just 30 days.”
Some petfood marketers are moving straight into the pet supplement fray. Most notably, during 2010 Iams teamed up with Nutramax to introduce a new line of supplements bearing the Iams brand name along with established brand names licensed from Nutramax. The new Iams Premium Protection supplements, which are sold in both pet specialty and mass-market outlets, come in three varieties: Cosequin Joint Health, Dermaquin Skin and Coat and Cosevite Multi-Vitamins.
During 2010, the supplements were being test-marketed in selected Walmart and Target stores, with plans to take the product national as early as 2011. “Pet nutrition has evolved in recent years, giving pet owners different food formulas for older or indoor animals—even specialized right down to breed in some cases. This is the next level,” Katy Nelson, DVM, a veterinarian in the Washington, DC, area and spokeswoman for Iams, told The State (Columbia, South Carolina).
NestlÃ© Purina has also made a direct move into pet supplements. After launching the condition-specific Purina Veterinary Diets line into the veterinary channel in 2009, the company introduced FortiFlora—a probiotic supplement—into the channel. Designed to support GI tract and immune system health, the product contains a strain of probiotic proven to promote intestinal health and balance.
Also crossing directly into pet supplements from petfood is Merrick Pet Care, which in 2009 debuted Elements Daily Supplement Mix. Available in Vision, Joints and Breath Formula varieties, the supplement is both sold separately, so it can be added to food, and included in the production of some of Merrick’s petfoods.
For supplement marketers concerned with the additional competition, the bright spot is that—as huge petfood makers like NestlÃ© Purina, Mars, Iams and Hill’s continue to invest heavily in novel ingredients—more pet owners are exposed to supplements like glucosamine and omega fatty acids, helping them gain legitimacy and establish a track record of safety. Ironically, functional petfoods and the top dogs behind them could be an important touchstone in pet supplements’ quest for regulatory recognition and increasing consumer acceptance.