3 emerging human food trends for pet food to track

What could be the next big thing in pet food? Up-and-coming human food trends can lead to new products and business opportunities for pet food brands.

Andreykuzmin, Dreamstime.com
Andreykuzmin, Dreamstime.com

While the lag time between human food and pet food development continues to decline or, in some cases, no longer exist, following human food trends still can offer insights into what could be the next big thing in pet food.

In a September webinar, James Restivo, client director and pet lead for Nielsen, covered current, popular trends in both human and pet foods — think clean label, superfoods and other functional ingredients, proteins and plant based — and highlighted up-and-coming trends in human food that may also emerge for pet food:

  1. Where does it come from? Increasingly, many considerations factor into consumers’ food-buying decisions. They’re thinking more and more about where the food and ingredients come from — where are they sourced? Is the food made sustainably? Such considerations show in rising sales for foods with claims related to sustainability and animal welfare, particularly grass fed and free range. In pet food, those claims still comprise very small categories but are starting to grow, by as much as 156 percent a year for grass-fed proteins.
  2. Healthy indulgence. The trends of clean label and functional ingredients are appearing even in categories like snacks, desserts and candy. Similarly, though Nielsen’s data show U.S. sales of dog treats are flat overall, ones with claims like natural, grain free or ingredients such as omega fatty acids, glucosamine or probiotics are seeing healthy growth.
  3. Back to basics. Similar to clean label, this emerging trend focuses on recognizable ingredient names and less processing. For pet food, Restivo linked the trend to fast-growing, so-called alternative categories: raw frozen and freeze-dried.

For pet food brands looking for new product and business opportunities, Restivo recommended to:

  • Recognize the complexity of today’s marketplace and the decision-making process for health-conscious consumers, including their needs for transparency and information. Is there a way for you to lead in this area, such as with technology?
  • Ensure you understand how your marketing claims and especially the ingredients in your formulations will resonate with various segments of your customers — all within the framework of their seeking to manage their pets’ health and well-being.
  • Then, clearly communicate the claims and ingredients that are important to your customers, keeping in mind trends that continue to grow like clean label and “free from” claims.
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