At the end of August 2017, Diamond Pet Foods released the results of a company-commissioned survey about how pet owners view pet nutrition. Unsurprisingly, in the Golden Age of pet humanization, nine out of 10 pet owners said “it’s important to feed their pets food as healthy or healthier than the foods they feed themselves,” according to Diamond.
“We know pet owners’ relationships with their dogs and cats continue to evolve, so every day we listen to their requests and try to better understand how those changes influence what foods they place in their pets’ bowls,” said Diamond Vice President of Sales John Kampeter of the study, which was conducted online by an independent research firm in August 2017.
Evolving pet nutrition demands drive pet food industry growth
That people are demanding more and more of their pets’ food is no surprise. According to Packaged Facts research (US Pet Market Outlook 2017–2018), US retail channel pet food sales have seen steady, if modest, growth since 2012, hitting US$31.35 billion in 2016. More notably, much of that growth has fallen outside of the core mass market — it’s not volume sales driving the industry’s successes right now, it’s the increasing number of pet owners stepping away from the bulk inexpensive options to see what’s on offer in the premium aisles, even if those options mean pulling out a larger wallet.
Now, that’s not to say that the mass market is doomed: according to Packaged Facts, it still holds the largest share of US retail channel sales of pet food (23 percent in 2016, versus pet specialty chains’ 20 percent), and there are more and more industry players taking versions of their premium brands out for a spin in mass market aisles to see how shoppers might feel about premium pet foods when they’re under the same roof as regular groceries. But for now, premiumization continues to rule, and pet owners are all in on getting the best for their dog or cat.
Variety is the spice of a pet’s life
Most people don’t want to eat the same thing for every meal, and they don’t want their pets doing it, either. According to Diamond’s survey, “pet owners want food their pets enjoy and they think the pet finds tasty. They also think it’s important that pet food companies offer a variety of food options.” And, according to the survey, that variety must be of high quality: People who said in the survey that they “spoil” their pets are most concerned with the specific nutritional qualities of the food (78 percent) and how healthy the food appears to be (73 percent).
The pet food industry is certainly responding! With everything from novel proteins (wild salmon stew, anyone?) to blends of kibble and freeze-dried raw (AKA, “kibble+”) to ready-to-grab variety packs (is Fluffy feeling more like chicken and pumpkin or chicken and beef?), new products are hitting the shelves seemingly every day that try to speak to some aspect of this consumer desire for “different” and ”nutritious.” We’ve yet to see when too much will just be too much, but it’s a good bet we haven’t hit that wall yet, because customers are still clamoring (with their wallets) for the latest and greatest for their pets.
Briefly: pet owners paying attention to protein
According to the Diamond survey, pet owners are keenly interested in the amount and type of protein contained in pet food:
- 61 percent evaluate the source of protein
- 42 percent evaluate the amount of protein in the food
- With owners of “spoiled” pets, 80 percent evaluate the protein source and 55 percent the protein amount