Functional petfoods: Breed-specific and life stage formulas

So-called “functional” petfoods—breed-specific, age-specific, weight-related and condition-specific products—are expected to continue growing at above-average rates in the near future, and petfood companies are taking advantage of that growth.

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Petfood sales in the US have been relatively flat in 2014, with sales growing just 1.1% to reach US$28.5 billion, according to Packaged Facts’ latest report, “Pet Food in the US 11th Edition.” Finding new ways to grow this mature market in 2015 will be key for industry players, and it’s no surprise that the focus should turn to premium petfoods—an increased focus on pet health and the human-animal bond have consumers looking for the very best products for their pets.

Among these premium petfoods (a category that accounted for 42% of petfood sales in 2014, according to Packaged Facts) are so-called “functional” petfoods: breed-specific, age-specific, weight-related and condition-specific products designed to target a pet at every important part of its life for optimal health and happiness. This category, unlike some of the others, is expected to continue growing at above-average rates in the near future, and petfood companies are taking advantage of that growth. Several new life stage and breed-specific products have come out in the last year, showing that the industry is well on track in this segment.

Breed-specific petfoods, particularly robust in the dog food segment, focus on the idea that each pure breed has unique needs. Physical build, energy requirements, predisposed lifestyle; these foods aim to provide formulas designed to address each need in a way beneficial to the individual breed or breed.

Annamaet Petfoods Inc. (, for example, offers its Small Breed All Life Stages petfood, formulated to address the energy needs of smaller dogs. Small breeds, according to the company, need a more nutrient-dense food because they eat smaller amounts of food per day than larger dogs. The food is corn- and wheat-free, with antibiotic-free chicken and several other ingredients designed to support cognitive function, digestibility, the immune system and nutrient needs.

Royal Canin ( offers a continually expanding Breed Health Nutrition line, which provides formulas for both puppy and adult versions of various dog breeds. The food focuses on the best protein sources and other nutrients for each animal, and includes tailor-made kibbles designed (through shape, texture and size) to benefit breeds no matter their size. Some of the recent line releases include Boxer Puppy, Poodle Puppy, Dachshund Puppy, Beagle Adult, West Highland White Terrier Adult, Pug Puppy and Miniature Schnauzer Puppy.

Lifestage-specific petfoods  have a firm hold on the industry, and the aging pet population in particular is one reason Americans are spending more on pets, according to Packaged Facts. According to an April/May 2014 Packaged Facts Pet Owner survey, 42% of dog owners have a dog age seven or older and 45% of cat owners have a cat in the oldest age bracket (see Table 1). The growing population of older pets means more companion animals are suffering from age-related conditions, including joint, coronary, cognitive and immune system issues, as well as diabetes and cancer. Senior-targeted pet products, therefore, serve multiple outlets, covering all of these needs as well as routine daily concerns.

UK-based Canagan (, which also offers small and large breed-specific formulas, has a Light/Senior Dog food that is grain-free and appeals to multiple needs of an older dog. The dog food is formulated with a lower fat and calorie content for older and/or overweight dogs while maintaining proper protein levels for strong muscles. Since senior and overweight dogs can suffer from joint problems, Canagan has added joint health compounds glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin to the formula. Ingredients include free-range chicken, sweet potato, seaweed, marigold, cranberry and chamomile.

Germany-based Christopherus ( has also combined grain-free and senior health with its Grain-Free Duck Senior + Potato dog food formula, part of its Life Formula dog food line. Grain-Free Senior focuses on the lower caloric needs of older dogs as well as possible diet sensitivities and intolerances. The line, tailored to meet the needs of dogs at any life stage, includes formulas for puppies, juniors, adults and seniors.

Ark Naturals ( offers a Gray Muzzle line of treats for old dogs that focuses on things like joint health, brain health and heart health. Old Dogs! Happy Joints! are “senior friendly” bite size soft chews containing glucosamine, turmeric, green-lipped mussel, chondroitin and egg albumin to help increase joint mobility and flexibility. Brain’s Best Friend! treats provide cognitive support for disorientation, recognition, memory and learned behavior. Heart Healthy! Wags Plenty! senior dog treats help promote healthy, normal heart function, healthy heart muscle, heart rhythm, blood pressure and circulation.

It’s not just senior pets getting love in the industry. Some companies are aiming to provide all life stages with a single appropriate formula. Dr. Tim’s ( RPM Grain-Free dog food has been reformulated as an “all life stages” formula, focusing on grain sensitivities as well as things like digestibility and immune system health. Pork meal and salmon meal are rich in proteins, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the company, all things important to a dog leading a long, healthy life.

As the pet humanization  trend continues to weave its way through the petfood industry, consumers will increasingly look to foods formulated to meet their pets’ specific needs. Whether that involves catering to a breed or an age—or both—it’s a safe bet that the functional petfood segment will only grow.

Petfood Industry Knowledge Center

Online course: Nutritional needs and care of senior pets

This three-module online course provides complete information about the nutrient needs of senior pets, as well as the basic physiological changes that occur with aging and how these changes can impact a pet’s nutritional needs.

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