The most recent "Market Report" column from Packaged Facts discusses how petfood and treat marketers continue to focus on health and wellness in their new product development, a strategy that keeps paying off because the message seems to resonate with today's involved consumers who treat their pets as family members.

 

As Packaged Facts says, "Trends including natural, no wheat, no gluten, hypoallergenic and meat first combine in one of the hottest holistic health-related trends in petfood today: grain free." Of course, we're all well aware of these trends; we need only to look at the seemingly never-ending stream of new grain-free or similar products hitting the market -- or perhaps you could even look to your own company's latest product launches.

 

But now, thanks to Packaged Facts, we have some data about the trend. According to its Pet Food in the US, 9th Edition report (March 2011), through July of this year, 35 petfood lines representing 167 SKUs carried grain-free claims. That's compared to nine reports comprising 45 SKUs for all of 2010. And in 2007, probably about the time the trend began, there were only two such lines with eight SKUs.

 

Not everyone is sold on grain free. For example, Tim Hunt, DVM, a small-animal veterinarian, Iditarod racer and owner of his own petfood line, Dr. Tim's Pet Foods, offers his opinion on grain-free foods for cats. Hint: He's not a fan, which would explain why his line doesn't include any grain-free products.

 

But considering the rapid acceleration of grain-free products to date this year, it appears the trend has struck a chord with pet owners and is here to stay -- at least until the next big thing comes along?