Adventures in Pet Food

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry, shares her insights and opinions on all things pet food, addressing market trends as well as news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other hot topics for the industry.
Pet Food Market Trends

2014 human food trends that could affect petfood

At last week's Food Ingredients Europe in Frankfurt, Germany, an annual show described by organizer's as the "global meeting place for all stakeholders in the food ingredients industry," Innova Market Insights introduced its top 10 food and beverage trends for 2014. While not all apply to petfood (and only five of the 10 included descriptions), some might be worth considering for petfood manufacturers and marketers.

For example, the first trend, waste not want not, is all about the current focus on food waste around the world, especially in developed markets. Though we don't often (if ever) hear about petfood being wasted, the fact that human demand for protein, grain and other types of ingredients and food may soon out-strip readily available and affordable supplies affects petfood, too, because our industry is competing for many of these same types of ingredients.

Three of the trends speak directly to petfood, in my opinion:

  • You can trust us -- about restoring and ensuring consumer trust with transparency in ingredient origins and sources and also with traceability of all ingredients.
  • Look out for the small guy -- innovation seems most prevalent among small companies in the human food industry, according to Innova; this has been true in petfood for some time, too. Innova says these companies are developing high-quality, distinctive products that have "small-scale appeal but big-trend potential," and the companies now have more opportunities to develop markets for their products thanks to social media.
  • Health is more holistic -- just as consumers and even, finally, health professionals are realizing and affirming that good health starts with good nutrition, they're extending the same beliefs to their pets. Some veterinarians are adopting that philosophy, too.

Rounding out Innova's top 10 are simpler pleasures, "new" superfoods, rise of the hybrids, protein horizon, new stealth strategies and alternative alternatives. The names alone are intriguing enough to warrant further investigation; I'll update this post if I find descriptions.

A similar list of food trends for 2014 specific to the US also came out last week. Created by Phil Lempert, a food marketing expert who bills himself as the Supermarket Guru, this list is based on a survey he did of his website's consumer panel on behalf of ConAgra Foods, he said. Some of the trends that seem to resonate for petfood include:

  • Brands reach consumers locally through cause initiatives -- Lempert's survey showed that 62% of US consumers appreciate and want to support companies that donate to social causes.
  • Click to cook -- as US consumers are using their mobile devices while shopping for foods and ingredients, so might pet owners access apps and other digital sources of information for everything from calorie and carbohydrate counts in various petfoods to appropriate serving sizes for a pet's breed, size and lifestyle.
  • The retailer becomes the brand -- while private label petfoods represent only 4% of the US market, more and more retailers are adding their own petfood products, including premium offerings. According to Lempert, 53% of US consumers shop at particular retailers because they like their store brand products.
  • Packaging evolves to share more with consumers -- people want more information on the products they're considering buying, but a packaging label can fit only so much (oh so true in petfood, too); new codes and other digital enhancements are allowing consumers to use their mobile devices to find more information, such as ingredient origin, how the product was prepared, the company's history and even product ratings.

Watch pet store shelves in 2014 to see if these and other projections come to pass.




Popular Stories