“If I can't reinvent the category with a leap forward that offers clear superiority in health optimization, animal enjoyment and value for the consumer and business partners, I won’t be in that business,” declares Anthony Bennie, founder of Clear Conscience Pet, maker of the new petfood enhancer, SuperGravy. Bennie recently spoke at Total Pet Expo in Rosemont, Illinois, where he pointed out that petfood shelves are over-saturated with brand proliferation—especially, he points out, in the "all-natural" category. “This hurts independent retailers by diluting their messaging and consumers then tend to default to marketing and advertising influence rather than retailer recommendations," he says. "This dilution through over-saturation allows mass and grocery to encroach on independent specialty market share. That's why I say that I never want to just add products to the market. They must serve a new purpose heretofore unfulfilled or not properly or optimally conceived.”
And where did Bennie see that gap in the petfood and treat market? “When I looked at the category of petfood toppers, I found it to be absurdly lacking in healthfulness, logic and value,” he says. “But the concept of adding a healthy gravy to petfood for a reasonable cost had great appeal for me after selling millions of bags of petfood and still hearing from a certain percentage of pet guardians that their animals were never really enthusiastic about food, or even worse—didn't eat well regularly at all.”
SuperGravy for cat and dog food was Clear Conscience Pet’s answer to this problem, and it seems other pet treat and food makers have also been busy developing their own topper, gravy, "mix-in" and "add-on" solutions.
Meow Mix has taken the topper concept and actually added it directly to their wet catfood line, PatÃ© Toppers. Made for both kittens and adults, the cat food is a smooth pate topped with flakes of fish or poultry creating two distinct tastes and textures for finicky feline palettes. Flavors include Real Tuna topped with flakes of tuna and whole shrimp, Real Salmon topped with flakes of tuna, Real Whitefish topped with flakes of salmon, Real Whitefish topped with flakes of tuna, Real Chicken topped with shreds of chicken and Real Chicken topped with shreds of chicken and turkey, and a Seafood and Poultry variety pack are available.
Similarly, Mixables by Variety Pet Foods is a wet dog food specifically designed to mix with any dry dog food. All Mixables recipes come in easy-to-use, single-serving pouches and can be fed as is, poured over an animal’s usual dry dog food formula for enhanced palatability, or served in single servings as a treat or energy boost for pets on the go. Ingredients are diverse and include beef, ham, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, egg noodles, sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots and peas. Mixables varieties include Grandma’s Country Stew, Outback BBQ, Cape Cod Picnic, Colorado Cookout, Greek Banquet, Tuscan Grille and three different Variety Packs.
Could this be the NPD sweet spot? Or are there other consumer trends to consider more carefully?
Pet obesity is a huge issue in the US and other developed petfood markets like Western Europe. Critics often point out that all petfoods should be required to list their nutritional content (including calories) on the label so pet owners can better monitor their pets' intake of food. That being said, do products like gravies and supplemental toppers add to that problem? Are petfood enhancers purely for palatability or do they provide added nutritional content? These are certainly questions consumers will have on their minds when perusing the pet aisle, so your product should address these concerns directly.
“Dogs eating hydrated diets have less stomach issues and well-hydrated food helps to prevent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and related symptomologies,” claims Bennie. “SuperGravy provides trace compounds such as phytonutrients from air dried super veggies, omegas from chia seed, and natural A and B vitamins and taurine from the liver and heart. But we designed it to provide the most palatability for the least caloric intake and no dietary disruption, not as yet another supplement.”
FFD Pet, a pet care brand under the foufouBRANDS family, has released Top It Up, a natural petfood enhancer for both cats and dogs that consumers simply grind onto their pet’s daily meals. “By freshly grinding the formula over each meal, it releases a burst of natural flavors, oils and essences,” states the company’s press release. Each Top It Up formula is completely vegetarian, and is wheat-, soy-, corn- and gluten-free. Top It Up is available in Canada in four formulas: Digestion, Immune, Omega and Feline Frenzy.
Blue Wilderness Wild Cuts Trail Toppers are also now available from Blue Buffalo in Chunky Salmon, Beef, Chicken and Duck. These meal toppers are meant to be added to dry dog food or to be given as a snack, says the company website. All of the Topper formulas are 100% grain- and gluten-free, free of chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, and free of corn, wheat and soy.
NestlÃ© Purina recently added Purina Pro Plan Savor Additions PurÃ©es to their vast petfood and treat catalog of SKUs with flavors like Chicken & Pumpkin, Beef & Carrot, Berry Blend and Oatmeal & Apple for dogs. The purÃ©e, which is meant to be squeezed onto dry dog food and then stirred in gently to coat the kibble, comes in a mess-free, easy-to-use, resealable pouch. The purÃ©es include prebiotic fiber, are made with human-grade ingredients, are formulated without corn, wheat or soy, and have no added artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, according to the company.