New research from Kerry, a global leader in taste and nutrition, reveals that half of pet ‘parents’ are willing to pay extra for products with functional benefits, with healthy aging a top concern for animal lovers. As the humanization of pet food continues, there are opportunities for manufacturers to add value to products through premium, science-backed ingredients while maintaining freshness.
The research surveyed 1,868 owners of dogs and cats in the U.S. and Canada to determine current and emerging next-generation consumer beliefs and attitudes to pet health, digestion and immunity, pet food and food waste and ways food can help deliver the best lives for pets.
Pet owners ranked health and nutrition (including healthy aging and nutritionally balanced food) as their top concerns. The research found that 85% agree that high-quality foods are effective in preventative healthcare for their pets, and almost 80% believe science-backed ingredients are important and will provide the best benefits; with half willing to pay more for products with functional benefits. The insights provided in this report should be of significant interest to pet food manufacturers worldwide and are contained in an interactive eBook entitled Navigating the Modern Pet Parent.
Commenting on the research, Erin Klipstein, senior product manager at Kerry, said: “The trend toward the humanization of pet food continues. To keep pets happy and healthy, owners–many of whom view themselves as parents–are turning to a combination of human-quality natural and functional foods, vitamins and science-backed ingredients and supplements. Four out of five pet parents want science-backed ingredients to support their pets’ overall health, and that’s one of the most important research findings for pet food manufacturers to note.”
Adding functional ingredients—e.g., science-backed immune support, probiotics, supplements, prebiotics, or added protein—can be a valuable way to attract pet parents. On-pack claims for functional ingredients have been shown to boost sales and consumer interest in human food/beverages and it’s a product development and packaging strategy that will have the same impact on owners. Taste is a key concern, and the use of authentic, natural ingredients in products that offer clean labels remains a key preference for both pets and their owners. This is especially true for cats, for which the research shows increased pickiness (versus dogs) when it comes to taste preferences.
Shelf life and food waste are major concerns for pet parents
As premium and refrigerated options become more common, there is growing consumer concern around maintaining convenient shelf life. Not only are consumers worried about wasting money by having to throw out pet food, but they are also concerned about the impact it has on their family’s food-waste footprint. The research shows that 62% are concerned about human/pet food waste and shelf life, while 72% of those who read product labels pay attention to recommended expiration dates.
Despite their concerns around food waste, pet owners are not willing to compromise on ingredient labels or benefit claims. Manufacturers can appeal to these consumers by using clean label preservation ingredients to extend shelf life, while reassuring pet owners by using the familiar ingredients they desire.