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Petfood follows organic food trends of pet owners

Recent trends in organic food have carried over from the plates of pet owners to the bowls of their pets. Big-box pet retailers and pet specialty stores are increasingly stocking shelves with premium, organic, locally-sourced, free-range, minimally-processed and raw petfoods to follow this trend, says a recent Los Angeles Times article.

"If there's a trend in human food and supplements, you'll see it on the pet food aisle," said Bob Vetere, president of American Pet Products Association. "Gluten-free, vitamin supplemented, breed-specific, senior formulas — all of these have taken over the pet marketplace, and we're seeing the competition increasing."

Pet owners are spending more to feed their pets, as retail petfood sales were up 2.8% from 2009, to US$18.4 billion in 2010, according to the Packaged Facts. The market research company predicts that sales of natural foods will surpass overall petfood sales within the next five years, despite the fact that these foods can be more expensive than commercial petfood brands.

Many pet owners seek food they believe is more wholesome and natural compared with large commercial brands. Some pet owners switched to specialty foods after a 2007 recall of petfoods tainted with melamine, though there is no guarantee that specialty petfoods foods cannot also be contaminated, experts warn. In some cases, veterinarians say, legitimate pet concerns, such as meeting the nutritional needs of old age or treating allergies, are reasons pet owners switch to feeding a specialty food.

Dr. Nancy Scanlan, a veterinarian and executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, says experimentation may be the best method of finding the right petfood. Scanlan encourages pet owners to talk to their veterinarian, read petfood ingredient labels and look at studies in peer-reviewed journals.

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