We hear a lot about what pet parents don't like to see in pet food, from chemical preservatives to fillers. It's not enough to only remove the most objectionable ingredients, however; we need to add ingredients that pet parents DO want.
It won't come as a surprise that pet parents are looking for a more natural diet for their adored companions. The goal of adding natural ingredients to pet food has historically been about perception more than value. However, today's educated pet parents understand the impact of harsh processing and high temperatures. To actually add value to petfood and increase sales, natural ingredients should be complimented by more gentle processing.
Following is a list of trending natural pet food ingredients based on my personal market research, including online consumer opinions and known sales trends. It refers to fresh, whole foods or gently dried versions (think freeze-dried, not meals).
While some of these ingredients are expensive and probably only suitable for premium brands, others can be very economical. For example, there are many "waste" products in the greens category. Radish greens are often thrown away, yet they're even more nutritious than the root that humans crave.
The following ingredients look good to the average human, but the well-studied pet parent can see their flaws and will alert the online pet community. I've included the natural ingredients that are most recently coming under fire, but you can find long lists of taboo ingredients in petfood with a quick online search. Some of the disdain is actually based on limited understanding of ingredients, processing or the digestive system, but the negative associations are so ingrained in the pet community that it will never recover.
Make sure your online community manager and customer support agents are noting suggestions and concerns. This data can be compiled into a periodic report that can be sent to your research and development department. Monitoring online conversation will provide you with invaluable guidance and countless ideas for developing petfood that doesn't leave a bad taste in a pet parent's mouth.