The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic influenced insect-based pet foods much as it did other dog and cat foods and treats. From the onset of the pandemic, sales of Jiminy’s dog food and treats made from crickets were far beyond expectations, Anne Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy's, told Petfood Industry at SuperZoo 2021. Growth had already been strong, but the pandemic shifted sales growth to online. E-commerce expansion was only one consumer trend working for insect-based pet foods.
Dog and cat foods made from crickets, black soldier fly larvae and other insects meet a range of pet owner demands, she said. During the pandemic, pet owners have had more time to focus on the reasons why they buy specific foods or treats, which has helped insects.
“If you’re looking for humane reasons, we were an option,” she said. “Looking for a hypoallergenic treat? There we were again. Sustainable? Fights climate change? Pre-biotic? We were an option for all of these consumers.”
Especially among millennials and Gen Z, sustainability and social awareness has become a guiding principle for purchases.
“When you’re getting hit day after day with news of wildfires, droughts and drying rivers, there’s motivation to find products that hit back,” Carlson said.
As livestock, insects use fewer resources compared to the water, feed and land needs of mammals or birds. Crickets may meet pet food consumers’ demands for humanely raised protein sources. Crickets naturally live in groups and instinctually prefer dark, warm places, Carlson said in a previous interview, which are precisely the conditions found on a cricket farm.
“Our dogs don’t care what protein they’re eating,” she said. “They just want it to taste good. Why are we complicating that?”
Logistics challenges to insect-based pet food and treat shipping
Like many others in the pet food industry, Jiminy’s has experienced difficulties in shipping products, especially overseas.
“We did have an interesting issue with shipping earlier this year when we exported Jiminy’s to South Korea,” she said. “Our importer there wanted to order enough of our food and treats to fill a 40 foot container. At the time though we only had enough product to fill a 20-foot container, so that was the amount we agreed to send. Arrangements were made with the pallets sent to the west coast for shipping overseas. But they couldn’t locate a 20-foot container anywhere! They were impossible to find. Eventually, the importer secured a 40-foot container and sent it half empty along with our food and treats.
Stories like these have become common as the pandemic and the disruptions it caused continue to affect the global pet food industry. Nevertheless, insect-based pet food ingredients may continue growing in popularity.