Plants in 2020 pet food products driven by health

Pet owners’ concerns for their own health, and that of family including pets, may drive continued growth in functional ingredients, including fruits, vegetables and other plant-based ingredients.

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As dog, cat and other pet food formulators develop new products, some pet food ingredients rise in prevalence and popularity while others reach a state of maturity or even decline. Market analysts with Mintel observed certain fruits and vegetables appearing more frequently in new products during the ongoing pandemic. Pet owners’ concerns for their own health, and that of family including pets, may drive continued growth in functional ingredients, including produce.

For example, new pet food products made with pumpkin and squash increased by 500% between June 2018 and May 2021.

“Interest in pumpkin is being driven by both its nutritive value and its novelty,” Jeannie Swedberg, director of customer development and marketing for Tree Top Inc., the pet food ingredient company that sponsored the Mintel study “Pet Food Market Trends July 2021.” “Pumpkin is nutrient dense and offers a wealth of wellness benefits, immunity support, for one. It contains high levels of immunity-boosting nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin A. It also contains folate and iron, which can help strengthen the immune system by supporting physical barriers such as skin and boosting production of antibodies.”

On the other hand, the number of new pet food products made with apples declined from 39 to 29 over the past three years, measured from June 2018 to May 2019 and June 2020 to May 2021. However, this doesn’t mean pet owners demand fewer apple ingredients or that the fruits are unpopular.

“Interest in apple ingredients hasn’t necessarily diminished,” Swedberg said. “It would be more accurate to say, interest in apple ingredients in new products is at a more mature stage than pumpkin. That’s a natural progression for any ingredient use in new product development – fruit or not.”

Increasing demand for produce in pet products

For both rising and established pet food ingredients, the ongoing pandemic may have increased interest in those fruits and vegetables that provide phytonutrients and other health benefits.

“Knowledge of the nutritional benefits of specific fruits ultimately drives demand for them,” Swedberg said. “Fruit is naturally label-friendly. Relating a fruit to wellness benefits, such as digestion or immunity affirms its label acceptance among consumers.

“Just as with consumer food and beverage products, the pandemic has increased demand for immune-boosting and other functional products in the pet sector,” she said. “Because people spent more time at home with their pets, they became more aware of their behaviors and needs. This prompted them to buy more products to keep their pets healthy and promote their overall wellbeing.”

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