New petfood products and ingredients are often said to follow closely behind trends in human food, though I would argue that petfood is often in lock-step with human food any more. Case in point: A brief report issued recently by Innova Market Insights showed that in 2013, petfood accounted for 15.1% of global launches of all products containing omega-3 fatty acids.


In fact, petfood was the third largest category for such new product launches, ranking only behind human baby food at 25.5% and meat, fish and egg products at 22%. (Rounding out the new products were sauces and seasonings at 9.5% and dairy products at 8.3%.) “Continued interest in the potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is reflected by the recent increase in new product launch activity, with a wide variety of health claims used associated to omega-3s,” said NutritionInsights.com, reporting the Innova data.


While all the new product launch examples in the report were for human food, it was noteworthy—and a testament to our industry’s strong product development—that petfood launches were included in the data. The figures also demonstrated regional differences. North America had almost 3.5% of new product launches carrying omega-3 claims, compared to 1.7% in Western Europe—a reflection, Innova indicated, of varying regulatory environments regarding heart-disease-related claims for humans.


Interestingly, growth trends in the launch of products with omega-3 claims somewhat tracks growth in the petfood industry, with many of the same developing markets, such as Eastern Europe and Latin America, registering the largest increases for both. In terms of new omega-3-containing products, Eastern Europe enjoyed the biggest rise in 2013, at 75.8%, followed by the Middle East at 47.4% and Latin America at 43.8%. However, Western Europe also had strong growth, at 40.5%, while North America saw a decline of 4.6% in the launch of these products. That’s somewhat the opposite of petfood sales growth.


The slowdown in new omega-3 product launches in North America also seems counter to other data that continues to show strong US consumer interest and purchase of functional foods for both humans and pets. I would speculate that perhaps US consumers are turning to other functional ingredients, except that five of Innova’s 12 human food examples of new product launches containing omega-3s are from the US! Go figure.


The Innova report also keys on two sources of omega-3 fatty acids that are becoming more popular, flax and chia seeds. From 2010 to 2013, global launches of products containing flax seed have enjoyed a 19% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), while new products with chia seed have grown a whopping 90.5% (albeit from a much smaller base). As we know, flax seed has become an increasingly common ingredient in natural petfoods, and chia seeds are starting to show up, too, especially in pet treats.


More information about consumer trends in natural pet products will be available in a Petfood Industry webinar on October 15, presented by Eric J. Pierce, director of strategy and insights for New Hope Natural Media. The webinar, which is sponsored by Trouw Nutrition, requires registration but is free.

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dphillips@wattnet.net