Combination feeding a popular option for pet parents

More pet food companies are providing everything from complementary product lines to specific advice on how to combine wet and dry food in pet diets in order to cater to the combination feeding trend.

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(Pixel-Shot | Shutterstock.com)
(Pixel-Shot | Shutterstock.com)

More and more pet parents want to be actively involved in their pets’ meals. They’ve moved far beyond scooping dry kibbles into a bowl twice a day to the concept of “combination” or “mixed” feeding, where different types of pet food (dry and wet, gravies and toppers, solids and liquids) are incorporated to provide a complete diet for a dog or cat.

“Wet with dry combination feeding is growing in popularity because it offers the combined nutrition benefits of both wet and dry food recipes while also adding variety, enhancing palatability and making meal time exciting,” said Natalie Asaro, nutrition scientist for Petcurean.

That excitement is something many pet owners crave, wanting to be as interactive with their pets’ dinner as they are with their own.

“We feed dry kibbles to our dogs, and I know from consumer research that there’s a real guilt factor that comes into feeding just dry pet food, because you feel like [though it’s complete nutrition] it doesn’t look very appetizing, and doesn’t feel as if you’re giving the best experience to your [pet],” said Dave Brown, co-founder of Brown&co, a digital-based multi-discipline branding agency that recently came up with pet food-focused idea PawOver. “We know that consumers tend to combination feed — so they’ll add wet product to dry. At the end of the day, owners who really love their pets get involved in the mealtime experience.”

Catering to the idea of combination feeding

Pet food companies are listening to their customers, and the space is evolving to accommodate a new normal for feeding time. Some companies are creating lines that complement one another and are at their best when fed in a combined form.

“Our GO! SOLUTIONS line of wet and dry recipes for dogs and cats, plus meal mixers for dogs, was specifically formulated to support wet with dry combination feeding,” said Asaro. “The wet food recipes are fully integrated and align with GO! SOLUTIONS dry food recipes, and they can be served as a treat, topper, or as a complete and balanced meal on their own. For dogs, our GO! SOLUTIONS meal mixer recipes are also integrated and aligned with the other recipes in the line, including both wet and dry.”

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Petcurean has created dry and wet pet food lines that complement each other specifically to make it easier for pet owners to combination feed their pets. | Courtesy Petcurean

PawOver is an IP (intellectual property) created by Brown&co in response to the combination feeding trend.

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Brown&co took advantage of the combination feeding trend to create a pet food brand idea that includes various types of superpremium toppers and gravies to add excitement to pet feeding. | Courtesy Brown&co

“As an agency what we tend to do is look at opportunities in the market, where we take consumer insight and look at trends and how things have evolved, and see where there might be potential for new IP or a new brand or idea,” said Brown. “So about 15% of our time is innovating and generating new IP in different categories, and it just so happens that [a couple months ago] it was pet food.”

The PawOver concept is a line of superpremium marinades, gravies and sprinkles designed to add either wet or dry elements to mixed feeding. While the idea was an opportunity to show Brown&co’s creative and innovative capabilities, the team of pet lovers was already keen on the pet space, according to Brown.

“We figured there was an opportunity in the luxury retail segment (e.g., Harrod’s, specialty pet care stores), and thought that if anthropomorphism is becoming more of a trend in pet, why shouldn’t pet food be deemed to look and feel a little more like some of the luxury human food brands you see out there?” said Brown. “After all, many people spend a fortune on their pets and treat them like members of the family.”

Guiding pet owners in their decision to combination feed

Arguably, one of the most significant challenges in meeting this trend is doing so in a way that will maintain the nutritionally balanced diets pets need to stay happy and healthy. To that end, pet food companies have gone all in on consumer education, providing multiple ways to get the knowledge of how to properly combination feed across to pet owners.

Instinct has an online feeding guide that “makes it easy to know how much to feed your pet — especially if you like to feed a variety of proteins or if you like to add or mix in raw or wet.” The step-by-step guide asks questions about the owner’s dog or cat including current weight status, percent of dry vs. wet food typically fed and which product lines are used for each. It then calculates an estimated daily energy need (kcal) and a custom recommendation on dry vs. wet feeding amounts.

Petcurean makes it a point to provide educational options on multiple fronts.

“We fundamentally believe it’s our job to support pet parents in making decisions about what to feed and how to go about doing it,” said Asaro. “We do this by offering various blogs and social media posts to inform pet parents, and we also provide complete nutrition information about each recipe on our website, including detailed nutrient profiles. So whether our customers like bite-sized pieces of information through social media, meatier content through blogs or a deep-dive into nutrient profiles, we’ve got them covered.”

Pedigree also offers plenty of information on the brand’s website, providing guidance on the benefits of wet and dry food both separately and together, benefits of mixed feeding and a guide on how to transition to mixed feeding.

The future of the combination feeding trend

As with most trends in the pet food industry, those involved expect combination feeding to become increasingly nuanced as it grows in popularity. It’s not the newest trend out there, but it will evolve.

“Various pet food companies have been playing around with this idea of toppings, customization and getting the owner involved in the experience; that’s been knocking around for quite some time,” said Brown.

Petcurean plans to continue expanding to meet the trend, providing more offerings to pet parents looking for variety in their pets’ diets.

“As more and more humans consider their pets to be full members of the family, it is likely that combination feeding will continue to grow in popularity,” said Asaro. “This is because it is a great way to ensure pets are getting the added benefits of both wet and dry food recipes together, such as promoting good hydration and supporting oral health. Combination feeding is also a great way to make mealtime interesting, by offering different textures and formats to promote palatability and respond to changing pet preferences over time.”

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