Premium trends in new small-mammal, bird pet foods 2021

Among foods and treats for small mammals and birds, including backyard hen feed, humanization and premiumization trends manifested themselves in various ways.

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(Alan Tunnicliffe |
(Alan Tunnicliffe |

Trends seen in dog and cat foods appeared in the small mammal and bird foods and treats that debuted at SuperZoo2021. The dominant trends in the pet industry, regardless of species, remain humanization and premiumization. Among foods and treats for small mammals and birds, including backyard hen feed, these trends manifested themselves in various ways.

“Natural, healthy, premium products that support ancestral and instinctive behaviors continue to be relevant trends that have influenced small animal food production and marketing,” Erin Lenz, senior brand manager for Kaytee Small Animal, told Petfood Industry. “In the wild, small animals forage from a range of different ingredients where they are mentally stimulated from the various tastes and textures. To support the mental and physical health of domesticated small animals pet parents are looking for healthy, natural and enriching food and hay that offers a variety of unique tastes, textures, and experiences.”

Kaytee’s new food and hay product line Field+Forest uses these types of ingredients from natural ecosystems, he said, along with added vitamins and minerals. Like other pet products, Field+Forest marketing also promotes what it doesn’t contain, including sweeteners, like molasses, fillers, or artificial preservatives. Each all-in-one pellet features species-specific ingredients that pets and owners can see, smell and taste. Kaytee’s rabbit, guinea pig and chinchilla diets use high-fiber timothy hay as the first ingredient. Hamster, gerbil and rat diets are made with a variety of plant proteins and grains and no timothy hay. The pellets have species-unique shapes to support dental health and prevent selective feeding.

“The demand for premium products for small mammals continues to be strong,” Lenz said. “When purchasing small animal food, pet parents are looking for healthy, species-specific food that use natural ingredients and do not contain added sugar, fillers, or artificial preservatives. Every small animal is different and needs varying levels of protein, fat, and fiber to help them live their best life.”

Like other pet food ingredients, small mammal owners scrutinize the growing conditions of the grasses and other items in their animals’ foods. Pet owners want fresh, high-fiber hay grown specifically for small animals without pesticides, Lenz said. Pet parents want to provide their small pets with mental and physical stimulation as they graze. In addition to aiding in digestive and dental health, offering a variety of hay mimics the variety a rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla would find in the wild.

Humanization and premiumization of bird food

Kaytee also released a line of species-specific bird foods for Macaw, Canure or Parrots. Likewise in pet bird food and even chicken feed, pet owners increasingly examine the origins and nutritional value of everything they feed their pets.

“The knowledge that we have in the bird food industry is fairly new in comparison to other industries,” Chris Alcalde, head of sales for Bird Street Bistro said. “It is going towards more human-grade products or products that are organic in their nature.”

Pet bird foods have changed as makers have learned more about various species’ nutrient needs. Alcalde believes bird food makers are entering a third stage.

“First it was seeds,” he said. “Now pellets. What we did with pellets was we tried to overcompensate for the lack of nutrition with seeds, and now we're seeing the effects of that. Now we're going to what nature gave us. Back to the basics.”

Bird Street Bistro’s new products could be confused for high-end human foods. The packaging would blend in among human items, with clear plastic side walls and bold lettering.

“We want to show to customers that there aren't any fillers,” Alcalde said. “That what they're getting is plainly visible. They can see through the bag. They can see the all-natural ingredients that they are familiar with.”

Those ingredients include quinoa, which birds native to South America might have encountered in farmers’ fields along the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Other ingredients include organic blueberries, grains and dried fruits or vegetables. All oc the Bird Street Bistro foods are meant to be cooked before serving to the birds, like some superpremium fresh dog and cat foods.

The same forces shape many aspects of the pet food industry. Bird, small mammal and even backyard poultry are no exception.

New small mammal and bird pet foods and treats at SuperZoo 2021

These products presented at SuperZoo 2021 exemplified how humanization, premiumization and other trends influence dog, cat and other pet foods.

Earth Animal Wisdom chicken feed – Backyard hens continue to move into the mainstream and occupy a hybrid role as pet livestock. With that comes the premiumization and humanization of chicken feed.

Happy Hen Ultrapeckable Feed black soldier fly larvae or worm protein chicken feeds – Insect-based and other invertebrate ingredients seem natural for hen diets. These products now market insects on the front of packaging, as in dog and cat food and treats.

Flock Pro SuperFlock – Along with vitamins and minerals, this chicken product provides digestive enzymes, prebiotic, probiotics, functional ingredients for immune system heath, all claims familiar from other pet foods.

Volkman Pet Products –These small mammal products looked like high-end soup mixes in clear pouches partly covered by blocks of color and scrolling calligraphy.

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