3 tips for advancing insect-based pet food

Scientists synthesized information on insects in dog and cat food, then developed recommendations to advance insect-based ingredients.

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(kozorog, BigStock.com)
(kozorog, BigStock.com)

Scientists synthesized information on the use of insects in dog and cat food, then developed three recommendations for the pet food industry to advance insect-based ingredients.

“The insect-based pet food market is growing fast, and it is expected that this increase will continue,” the scientists wrote in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology. “The recent regulatory approval in the USA will push this growth and will also be pulling along some of the Asian markets.

The researchers suggested that insect-based pet food companies:

  1. adopt systematic marketing,
  2. produce more scientific evidence and
  3. actively communicate and partner with veterinarians to improve the consumer perception of claims used on insect-based pet foods.

The scientists identified 43 brands selling insect-based pet foods. Currently, 35 of those brands operate in Europe. The first European insect-based pet food appeared in 2015.

Black soldier fly larvae and mealworms were the most frequently used species of insects in these brands' formulations. Marketing claims used for insect-based pet foods included hypoallergenic, sustainable, gut health/digestion, immune health or antioxidant activity, and brain health for aging dogs. Of these, the researchers noted that consumers have connected with sustainability, hypoallergenic and gut health claims. Although pet owners are willing to feed insect-based pet foods to their animals, that willingness differs by insect species. The scientists suggested that neophobia, or the fear of new things, may be reduced if insect-based pet foods are suggested by veterinarians.

3 most reviewed insect-based pet food marketing claims

The research team previously studied pet owners’ reviews of insect-based pet foods sold on the European market. Out of five marketing claims commonly used by insect-based pet food brands, three received the most mentions by pet owners in reviews of the products. 

“A large majority of claims indicated that dogs and/or cats liked the product,” the researchers wrote in their earlier paper also published in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology.

The most frequently mentioned attribute in reviews was the sustainability of insect-based pet foods. Thirty reviews mentioned sustainability. Following sustainability in prevalence were nine reviews that included reference to insect-based pet foods as hypoallergenic. The third most frequent category of marketing claims related to gut health and digestibility with seven mentions in review. Besides the three top claims, immune health or antioxidant activity were mentioned in reviews three times. Brain health for aging dogs was included in one review.

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