New petfood products follow functional human food trends

New petfood and treat products on display at this year’s major pet trade shows to date follow many of the functional, health and wellness trends in human food.

Global sales of functional human foods and beverages reached US$118 billion in 2012, up 5% from the year before, according to Nutrition Business Journal as cited by A. Elizabeth Sloan in the April issue of FoodTechnology. The US has the largest sales at US$43.9 billion, an increase of 6.9% over 2011, followed by Japan (US$22 billion), UK (US$8.08 billion) and Germany (US$6.4 billion).

If you shift the focus somewhat, to health and wellness products, there is almost unlimited potential globally, Sloan wrote, especially in emerging markets with their fast-growing middle classes, rising disposable incomes, and increasing numbers of working and educated women. For example, she reported that in 2013, China saw the largest expenditure on health and wellness retail products, according to Euromonitor, followed by Brazil, the US, Russia and Mexico.

Similarly, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2014 Food and Health Survey, fielded in March and April 2014, found that 71% of US consumers cited healthfulness as a driver in their food and beverage choices, up from 61% in 2013. Further, healthfulness has almost caught up to price (at 73%) as a factor in food choices.

As goes human food, so goes petfood, almost in lock step these days. Thus, new petfood and treat products on display at this year’s major pet trade shows to date, Global Pet Expo and Interzoo 2014, followed many of the functional, health and wellness trends in human food.

For example, Sloan listed specialty nutritionals as one of the top 10 functional food trends for humans in 2014, with more consumers seeking fortified and functional foods and nearly 90% of US adults trying diligently to consume more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fish/oil/omega-3 fatty acids. In the petfood world, we’re seeing products like WellPet’s Wellness Core Superfoods Protein Bars, introduced at Global Pet Expo.

Another top functional food trend cited by Sloan was the protein evolution, with 57% of US consumers looking for products with more protein to maintain healthy bones and joints, strengthen immune systems and build muscle strength and tone. Pet owners also seem to believe that dogs and cats need ever more protein in their diets, and at Interzoo, petfood exhibitors strongly catered to this demand, with the BARF (biologically appropriate raw foods) concept enjoying a resurgence, at least among German petfood companies. Petfoods touting high meat levels were also on full display, along with concepts like GA Pet Food Partners’ new Freshtrusion process, allowing for higher levels of fresh meat to be incorporated into dry petfoods for its private label clients.

More meat and protein in petfoods usually comes at the expense of any grains. The grain-free trendhas become nearly ubiquitous in the US and Western Europe, as evidenced by petfood company stands at both Global Pet Expo and Interzoo. In fact, the founder of a new line of superpremium foods launched at Interzoo—Christian Degner-Elsner of Essential Foods—said that, although all the products in his line are grain free, the packaging doesn’t even say so because “it's become standard and almost expected for these high-end types of petfoods.”

You could probably count on one hand the number of petfood marketers not offering a grain-free line, making you wonder how consumers can differentiate among all the similar offerings. However, at Interzoo, one new product stood out—not just from other petfoods but also from human food trends: a dog food with a “100% insect protein base,” according to the manufacturer, Jonker Petfood of the Netherlands. Perhaps the private label company has been following recent research on the viability of insect protein (for humans and animals) and decided to lead the pack in using alternative sources as both the human food and petfood industries face protein supply issues. By the way, this dog food also contains grains.

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