Is the next big thing in petfood based on a relatively old thing? In the December issue of Pet Product News International, David Lummis of Packaged Facts speculated that the next petfood trend could be "biologically appropriate." This harks back to a term and acronym that were widely used about a decade ago, BARF (biologically appropriate raw food), when the raw petfood segment was getting started. (For the latest research and controversies regarding raw petfood, see Petfood Insights on p. xx.)
Now several Canadian petfood companies are using the term as a marketing tactic for products featuring existing trends such as high meat, no to low grains and low carbohydrate/low glycemic, Lummis said. Like most petfood trends, this new, encompassing one seems to follow closely behind-almost in lock-step with-human food trends forecast for this year. For example, at Food Ingredients Europe in November 2013, Innova Market Insights introduced its top 10 food and beverage trends for 2014. While not all apply to petfood, some might be worth considering.
Waste not want not, the first trend, is about the current focus on food waste around the world, especially in developed markets. Though petfood waste is not a large problem, the fact that human demand for protein, grain and other types of ingredients and food may soon out-strip readily available and affordable supplies affects petfood, too, because our industry is competing for many of these same ingredients.
Three of the Innova trends speak directly to petfood:
- You can trust us-restoring and ensuring consumer trust with transparency in ingredient origins and sources and ingredient traceability;
- Look out for the small guy-innovation seems most prevalent among small companies in the human food industry, according to Innova; this has been true in petfood for some time, too. Innova said these companies are developing high-quality, distinctive products and have more opportunities to develop markets for their products thanks to social media;
- Health is more holistic-just as consumers and even, finally, health professionals are realizing and affirming that good health starts with good nutrition, they're extending the same beliefs to their pets. Some veterinarians are adopting that philosophy, too.
Food trends for 2014 specific to the US came from Phil Lempert, who bills himself as the Supermarket Guru. The list is based on a survey of his website's consumer panel on behalf of ConAgra Foods and includes some trends that seem to resonate for petfood:
- Brands reach consumers locally through cause initiatives-Lempert's survey showed that 62% of US consumers appreciate and want to support companies that donate to social causes;
- Click to cook-as US consumers are using their mobile devices while shopping for foods and ingredients, so might pet owners access apps and other digital information sources for everything from calorie counts in petfoods to appropriate serving sizes for a pet's breed, size and lifestyle;
- The retailer becomes the brand-while private label petfoods represent only 4% of the US market, more retailers are adding their own petfood products, including premium offerings. According to Lempert, 53% of US consumers shop at particular retailers because they like their store brand products;
- Packaging evolves to share more with consumers-people want more information on products they're considering, but a packaging label can fit only so much (oh so true in petfood); new codes and other digital enhancements allow consumers to use mobile devices to find information such as ingredient origins, the company's history, product preparation and ratings.
Watch pet trade shows and store shelves this year to see if these projections come to pass.