5 ways to succeed in pet food product innovation

LIVE FROM PFF: To develop health-focused pet foods and treats, companies may benefit from focusing on five key aspects of new product development.

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(auremar | BigStock.com)
(auremar | BigStock.com)

Human health and wellness trends, such as probiotics and superfoods, strongly influence what pet owners seek in the products they buy for their animals, said James Restivo, director of client development at Nielsen. Restivo delivered the opening session of the Petfood Innovation Workshop on April 23, 2018, the day before Petfood Forum 2018.

“New pet food products need to be designed for the modern pet, who has a modern owner,” Restivo said. “Pet health and wellness is really important these days.”

To develop health-focused pet foods and treats, Restivo suggested that companies focus on five key aspects of new product development.

5 ways to succeed in pet food product innovation

1. Size the opportunity early

“You need to understand if your company is ready for the new modern pet,” said Restivo. “This is a very competitive industry, and we need to use analytics.”

Before jumping into new product development, use analytics to drive decision making.

Look for pockets of growth within the wider human food industry to see where trends will translate into pet food. One major pocket of growth that Nielsen’s analysts have identified is health, wellness and clean label.

2. Capitalize on emerging consumer trends

Restivo noted three examples of emerging trends in human health and wellness foods that also hold for pet food. One is natural foods. He noted that pet foods with natural claims are growing as quickly as baby foods making similar claims. That means that natural pet foods are growing faster than many segments of the human food market.

A second important trend is the growth of “free-from claims.” For pet food that includes listing meat as the first ingredient. Forty-six percent of pet food now lists meat as the first ingredient

Avoiding artificial ingredients is a third trend moving into pet food from human health trends. Although some consumer products, such as detergent, haven’t strongly followed this trend, pet owners are increasingly unwilling to make trade-offs when it comes to artificial ingredients, he said.

“They want to know what is in this food and what is not,” Restivo said.

Even if a company develops a product that meets these three trends, the company needs to get their product on the market before too many competitors do.

“If not, you’re just a me too,” Restivo said.

3. Target core consumers

With health and wellness pet foods and treats, a pet food companies need to avoid a mass market approach, he said. The health trends that appeal to one consumer may not attract another. The pet food market is highly segmented, and new product developers need to think about select groups’ interests and motivations.

4. Boost premium perception with package design

The design of a pet food or treat can boost consumers’ perception of that products’ health and wellness benefits. Restivo mentioned the example of Milk-Bone Brushing Chews that come in a box designed to look like human toothpaste.

5. Activate in a way that accentuates the core proposition

Even a kale-infused, freeze-dried, raw, grain-free product could fail, although it appeals to key health and wellness trends, Restivo warned. Ultimately, a pet food company needs to keep their specific consumers in mind and position their product to meet those consumers’ desires. There is a wide spectrum of pet owner demands, and not all trends appeal to all consumers. To succeed in new product development, that new pet food or treat needs to be marketed in a way that focuses on what a defined consumer group wants.

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