Numerous new niches are springing up throughout the global
petfood market. Consider this partial list: fresh chilled; raw;
organic; grain free; human-quality ingredients; natural; exotic
ingredients; superpremium; ultrapremium; home-cooked meals
fortified with supplements; meat-centric and protein-focused
diets. There are also niche diets for: skin health; gut health;
dental health; urinary tract health; weight management; puppy
trainability; large breed puppies; performance; seniors; and
pets with allergies. What's your next niche?
Recent interviews of petfood professionals by
have elicited the following comments about the upsurge of new
- Pet owners' desire to treat their pets especially well
will lead to even more niche markets.
- The intense communication of pet owners via the Internet
is leading to groups of customers with very specific
- The industry will become more fragmented as pet owners
seek out customized dietary solutions for their pets.
- A broad cross-section of nontraditional ingredients are
now popular in dry petfoods.
- In Western Europe, companies are noticing a shift from
leading brands to niche products.
- Unearthing new needs and selling value-added pet products
will expand the total Japanese market.
More evidence: "The demand for health-oriented products will
have developed extensively in terms of sophistication by 2010,"
predicts Euromonitor. This trend will be amplified "by
manufacturers' efforts to generate growth in mature markets
through product innovation." Put another way, the number of new
petfood niches will multiply.
recently talked with Sean Delaney, DVM, DACVN
(www.dvmconsulting.com). When asked about future new niches, he
predicted: "I anticipate a growth in the number of foods that
are perceived as natural or organic by the consumer. In
addition, foods that use novel ingredients will continue to be
a popular niche.
"At the same time, the number of foods that have some
functional qualities beyond meeting known nutritional
requirements will grow," Delaney continued. "Much of this
growth will be spurred by developments in nutritional genomics
where foods can be tailored to specific breeds' and even
individual's genetic needs."
We also asked Delaney about formulating
petfoods for various health conditions. He pointed out that
such formulation "relies on the strength of the supporting
science. One must feel confident that the nutritional
intervention will result in good and not cause harm." In
addition, he said, "The formulation must be feasible and
palatable. The best theoretical formulation isn't going to help
any pet if it can't be made and won't be eaten."
US estimates indicate over 2.5 million dogs and cats receive
the majority of their calories from home-cooked foods (do it
yourself processing). They're often deficient in key nutrients
like calcium, iron and taurine, which can lead to problems like
fractured bones, anemia and heart failure.
Delaney and software engineer Aniel Santos have developed a
product called Balance IT (www.balanceit.com). It is a way to
feed fresh human food to pets-using Internet based software and
all-in-one supplements. The line includes two retail products:
Balance IT canine & Balance IT feline, which can be used to
create thousands of different recipes. There are also
supplements for dogs and cats with liver or kidney disease.
Manufacturers will increasingly be testing the skills of
petfood formulators. As new science and pet humanization lead
to new niches and competition becomes more complex, formulators
will be asked to fill more niches.