Hill's Pet Nutrition's recent recall is a reminder that safety remains one of the driving forces in the U.S. pet market today. A 2018 survey by market research firm Packaged Facts reveals that 57% of dog owners and 55% of cat owners agree that "fear of pet food contamination/product safety is a key consideration in the dog foods/cat foods I buy," while more than 60% of dog and cat owners agree that they are concerned about the safety of the pet food, treats, and chews they buy. The findings were published in the January 2019 report, Pet Food in the U.S., 14th Edition.
Despite consumer concerns, pet food safety ultimately begins at the manufacturer and marketer level.
"No pet food industry participant then in business will ever forget the Great Pet Food Recalls of 2007, which encompassed over 100 pet food brands and resulted in the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.
In the aftermath of the recalls, stringent new pet food safety initiatives were signed into law, including authority for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to order mandatory product recalls, Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for all animal feed facilities, more frequent plant inspections, and a zero-tolerance policy for pathogenic bacteria. Packaged Facts' research reveals that the 2007 recalls caused pet owners to trend up to pet food varieties they considered to be safer, such as those marketed on claims like natural, organic, limited ingredient, human-grade, Made in the USA, free-from China-sourced ingredients, non-GMO, and "clean." As a result, sales of such products surged, and most continue to outperform regular pet food.
Despite the improvements and the upgrades, more than ten years later the pet food market still faces safety concerns due to contaminants such as Listeria, Pentobarbital, and Salmonella, among others. Ironically, the most recent wave of recalls involved not a pathogenic bacteria, but rather an oversaturation of vitamin D—an essential nutrient for dogs that in large doses can be toxic or even fatal.
"There's no doubt that stricter government oversight has shed a spotlight on issues that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. But there's still clearly an opportunity to do better," says Sprinkle.
In December 2018, the FDA issued an alert to pet owners about food from eight different pet food brands that potentially contained toxic levels of vitamin D. The alert has only continued to expand during the first two months of 2019.
On January 31, Hill's Nutrition, which specializes in the types of prescription and specialty pet foods that consumers increasingly traded up to after the 2007 recalls, became the latest brand added to the list. The company voluntarily recalled over 20 different varieties of canned dog food from its Hill's Prescription Diet and Hill's Science Diet lines for excessive levels of vitamin D.
Drawing on more than 20 years of experience in analyzing the pet food industry as well as Packaged Facts' broad cross-category expertise, Pet Food in the U.S., 14th Edition pinpoints strategic directions for current and prospective pet food marketers, with a forward-looking focus on high-growth product segments and market drivers. Covering foods for dogs and cats, the report examines trends by form (dry, wet, semi-moist, and frozen/refrigerated), ingredients, and product claims across the full retail spectrum including mass-market outlets, the pet specialty channel, online retailers, and other channels. It provides a comprehensive overview covering historical market size and projections (2014-2023); cross-market trends; consumer expenditures; market opportunities; mergers and acquisitions; channel trends including e-commerce and omnichannel; the Millennial impact; and new product and marketing trends.
View additional information about Pet Food in the U.S., 14th Edition, including purchase options, the abstract, table of contents, and related reports at Packaged Facts' website: https://www.packagedfacts.com/Pet-Food-14th-Edition-12099406/.
A companion report, International Pet Market Perspectives: Trend and Opportunities in Pet Food, is available for purchase: https://www.packagedfacts.com/International-Pet-Perspectives-Trend-Opportunities-Food-12116962/.
New shelter data casts doubt on whether the pet population and pet ownership are truly growing.
While the pandemic caused unprecedented suffering worldwide in 2020, the disruptions to dogs, cats and other pets adoption numbers may normalize in 2021.