Dogs get a lot of the love in the pet food world. New products and options for dog food and treats are never in short supply, and dog owners have aisles upon aisles of food options to peruse for their pooches. Cats have not necessarily gained an equal amount of the spotlight; however, with certain segments of the human population gravitating towards urban lifestyles and pet ownership trends focusing on the rise of smaller pets, it seems like a good time to give cats the stage.
“We expect the number of cats people own to increase as America’s pet-owning population continues to be fueled by today’s millennials,” said Health Extension President Brad Gruber. “With America becoming more urban, cats adapt extremely well to living indoors and unlike dogs, they don’t need to be taken out for a walk.”
In addition, according to Gruber, as more cats live longer and healthier lives, cat owners are going to look for products that enforce their personal and social values in feeding their families, which include their pets. That means keeping their cats happy and motivated, even between mealtimes.
“With this continuing change in ownership of cats, cat owners will be even more driven to use treats as a way of expressing affection to them,” said Gruber. “Part of this personal and social responsibility of cat ownership and treating them as a member of their family has greatly increased the concerns these pet parents have with regards to health and wellbeing. This is fueling the presence we see in the offering of cat treat products that are more wholesome and nutritional with functional ingredients.”
Trends in the cat space largely mirror dog food trends
Those looking to expand in the cat space who are already well-established in dog food are largely building off trends they’ve already been following for the dog segment.
“There is an increasing trend towards healthier foods for cats that are oriented around wellness,” said Alisha Brassard, Petcurean’s new product development and innovation manager. “Now, more than ever, cat parents are aware of the quality of the food that they are eating themselves, and that same level of care and discernment goes into finding the right food for their cats; one that aligns with their own food philosophy. Cat parents are also looking for more and more options. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all mentality. Cats can be finicky and have varying nutritional needs. One cat may require a grain-free diet, while another may suffer from food sensitivities and require a limited ingredient diet. The more options a cat parent has to choose from, the better.”
Petcurean’s grain-free cat stews can be served as treats, toppers, or complete and balanced meals, providing cat owners with the flexibility they want to customize their pets’ diets. | Courtesy of Petcurean
Petcurean focused on the need for healthy cat food options when it launched new grain-free cat stews and patés under its Now Fresh brand. The products, in Tetra Pak cartons, are created with fresh, human-grade ingredients and omega-3 and -6 oils in a nutritionally dense bone broth. Overall, Petcurean’s philosophy is to try to reach cats of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ages. “Whether your cat needs quick energy that comes from eating whole grains or does better with a grain-free recipe, we have a gamut of recipes that has something for everyone,” said Brassard.
Caru Pet Food is recognizing the same types of trends, according to Adrian Pettyan, company CEO and co-founder, and those trends led Caru to enter into the cat food space for the first time.
Caru has expanded in the cat food space with cat stews, which the company based off its popular dog stews. The company says the stews have so far been the perfect complement to Caru’s cat treats. | Courtesy of Caru Pet Food
"We’re seeing that pet parents are becoming more conscious of the ingredients in their pet’s food,” said Pettyan. “They want ingredients they recognize that are sourced in the US and contain the vitamins and nutrients essential to nourishing their pets. Since our dog stews (the company’s dog stews line is known for being made in the US from human-grade and non-GMO ingredients) have been so well received, we thought it was time to offer cats a tasty option of their own. These grain- and gluten-free recipes will provide hydration and taurine, both of which are essential for feline health, and will even appeal to picky eaters or cats with sensitive stomachs.”
New cat food products in established brands
Top nutrition and the customer desire for more options have driven those already in the cat segment to expand their existing brands to accommodate current trends. American Nutrition, for example, recently included cat food in its new superpremium brand, Nature’s Source.
American Nutrition plans to add plenty of new formulas in treats and cans for both cats and dogs in 2019, in addition to new kibble formulas falling in line with unique ingredients and trends. | Courtesy of American Nutrition
“Nature’s Source is a control brand that will be available to only select retailers across the country — not all retailers,” said Steve Mills, senior vice president of customer brands and co-manufacturing at American Nutrition. “Many national brands offer both dog and cat food formulas under their brands, and we thought it was appropriate to follow suit. Cats, like dogs, are very important members of our families and deserve the best nutrition available, just like dogs do. Many of us have both dogs and cats in our families, and we want each to live happy, healthy lives.”
According to Mills, pet food is evolving into something never seen before, creating significant opportunities for those who want to be innovative or perhaps take things in a different direction.
“As a manufacturer for national and retail brands we have helped develop many new formulas for cats and dogs over the years, but the last few years have been unlike any others before that,” he said. “We now purchase unique ingredients from all over the world, as well as blends of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, prebiotics, probiotics and many other ingredients that we did not use in the past.”
Those looking into the cat treat space are also responding to trends, increasing product offerings in the hopes of enticing customers to treat their pets as they’d treat themselves.
"With the humanization of pets as members of the family, giving treats is just one of many ways pet parents show their pets how much they care about them,” said Gruber. “As a result of this growing trend, manufacturers of cat treats are increasing their offerings and assortment of products and retailers are increasing the amount of shelf and floor space dedicated to cat treats. We have introduced two cat treats which are our first venture into the cat treat segment. One is a buffalo jerky treat while the other is a pure freeze-dried chicken treat. Both of these are made with only one ingredient and protein source. We believe pet parents will look at these single-ingredient products as an immeasurable feeding component in ensuring a long and healthy life for their pet.”
For Health Extension’s first foray into cat treats, the company focused on single-ingredient meat snacks featuring either buffalo or chicken. | Courtesy of Health Extension
The future of cat food trends
As pet food overall continues to evolve, those who venture into the cat food space will find plenty of spillover from dog owners to cat owners and how they view their pets. Companies already focused on cat food or treats say that they will continue to follow the trends that so closely match those in dog food and treats. And everyone, whether they’ve already made space for themselves in the cat world or are just beginning to expand into it, agrees that keeping a close eye on ever-evolving customers’ demands for their humanized pets is the only way to succeed.