Cat food expanding as innovations grow in the segment

Learn about the latest trends in the cat food space, including current innovations from those expanding into cat for the first time.

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Cute gray funny baby kitten in gray cloth
Cute gray funny baby kitten in gray cloth

Dogs tend to rule the shelves in pet food — trends, innovations and overall options are broader, and these days a dog owner would be hard-pressed to not find what they’re looking for when it comes to their pet. Cats, on the other hand, have lagged behind in terms of product offerings, even though cat owners care more about their animals’ well-being than ever (for example, the American Pet Products Association’s latest National Pet Owners Survey found that pet insurance purchases among cat owners have nearly doubled).

However, cats may finally be getting some of the love they deserve, as pet food companies innovate and expand into the space.

New product releases focus on specific cat needs, innovative formulations

Functional formulas are nothing new to pet food, but it’s safe to say that those formulas are much more diverse in dog food than in cat food. Fortunately for cat owners, pet food companies dealing in the cat segment are looking to change that.

“[We’re seeing demand for] functional and customizable products focused specifically on the needs of individual cats, not just universal food that is a one-size-fits-all-solution.” Said Dana Paris, CMO of Canidae. The pet food company recently unveiled a new cat food line, Goodness, an addition to the dog food line of the same name launched in 2020.

Canidae Goodness

Canidae's Goodness line expanded to include cat formulations that focus on the specifics of feline health needs. | Canidae


“One of the big insights behind this line is that cats and dogs are not the same,” said Paris. “We worked closely with a team of experts including a vet and board-certified veterinary nutritionists to develop formulas that used scientifically proven ingredients focused on the specific health needs of cats.” The new formulas focus on joint health, skin and coat, digestion and indoor cat needs.

Functionality and the feeling of personalization are important to all pet owners, and cat food options are catching up to the idea.

“We know from research and consumer feedback that cat parents (similarly to dog parents) are looking for personalized formula options,” said Greg Cyr, CEO and president of Mid America Pet Food, manufacturer of VICTOR superpremium pet food. “We were excited to utilize this feedback when formulating our new cat kibbles, knowing that VICTOR would be offering a cat kibble lineup that meets unique needs across a diverse cat population. Looking at our new formulas, we have offerings for multi-cat households, active cats and kittens, weight management needs and a formula specifically for maintaining a healthy skin and coat.” 

Mid America Victor New FormulasMid America Pet Food’s VICTOR line offers formulations catering to multi-cat households, kittens and indoor cats with particular functional needs. | Mid America Pet Food


Premiumization is also alive and well, according to Paris, which led Canidae to create its Balanced Bowl line for cats.

“Consumers are also looking for high-quality, complete and balanced meals that taste delicious and are reasonably priced,” said Paris. “We launched Balanced Bowl as an answer to that. Balanced Bowl flavors are inspired by a well-rounded meal that we would serve ourselves — a delicious protein like salmon, tuna or chicken, a veggie and a starch or grain.”

The ability to offer premium options to cat owners was also part of the VICTOR line expansion, according to Cyr. “VICTOR has very loyal dog food consumers who also have cats, and they have been asking us to expand our feline offerings for a long time,” he said. “We are in a place now where we can offer them the right product using a similar approach to our successful dog food — every ingredient serves a purpose and our superpremium nutrition comes at a commonsense value to consumers.”

If you add innovation and premiumization together, you get Catit’s Nuna, a new insect-based cat food from pet supplies company Hagen Inc.

Catit Nuna Product With Cat

Catit’s Nuna line hits an innovative note by using insect protein in its formulations. | Catit


“For several years our customers have asked us to expand upon our food and treats lines,” said Jeff San Souci, director of marketing at Hagen. “We knew we wanted to develop something different and in a thoughtful way, and Nuna hits all those marks. The food is full of nutrients and includes whole Hermetia Illucens grubs — a true superfood bursting with protein — as well as omega-6, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals. Nuna [also] includes taurine for heart health, sunflower oil, omega-3 in dried algae, and vitamins in yeast to promote healthy skin and coats.” 

Cat options will continue to diversify as trends lead the way

As might be expected when a segment grows, industry experts expect options in cat food to continue to diversify, both in dry and wet, food and treats.

“Given the nutritional benefits and wide range of flavor and texture options, we expect that wet food will continue to be a priority for pet food companies,” said WellPet’s Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of marketing communications and consumer experience. We know that cat owners want to purchase high-quality products conveniently and for a fair price. Additionally, consumers want to see exactly what ingredients are being used and what functional benefits each element can have for their pet. For these reasons, transparency and a commitment to premium ingredients will be key to the success of future cat foods.”

Wellpet Kitten Formulas

WellPet’s Wellness line has expanded to include formulas that meet the particular needs of kittens. | WellPet


WellPet’s cat food sales have increased by 38% in 2021, and wet kitten products in particular have grown 48% — in fact, the company recently released its Wellness Complete Health Wet food for Kittens. “With the cat food space growing and a bigger population of pet parents, we knew now was the time to perfect our kitten recipe and create a balanced formula,” said Leary-Coutu.

Specific ingredients, such as seafood, will always be of particular prominence in the cat food world, and companies are aware of and making an effort to continue that trend. Omega Plus is an established brand in New Zealand that has broadened its market to the U.S., officially debuting at SuperZoo 2021.

Omega Plus Treat Line

Omega Plus offers treats featuring king salmon, a versatile ingredient that fits into the functional ingredient trend. | Omega Plus


“One thing we’ve noticed is that trends in the pet food space are continuing to mirror those we’re seeing in the human food space,” said Simon Thomas, divisional manager for Omega Innovations. “For instance, the inclusion of superfood ingredients that provide a variety of nutritional benefits. Our New Zealand king salmon is densely rich in long-chain omega-3s and supports joint mobility, brain health and a shiny coat. Additionally, food and treats are being made with the highest-quality meat, poultry or fish.”

This plays into the functional formulas trend, which Thomas said will continue to evolve. 

“When it comes to cat food and treats, I think we can expect to see more single- and limited-ingredient products come to market, as pet parents continue to seek out recipes that are highly nutritious and contain only ingredients that are there for a purpose,” he said. 

Salmon is a solid choice to meet this market need due to its diversity as an ingredient.

“We’ll continue to see more food and treats made with seafood ingredients, especially salmon, thanks to the many benefits it can provide in a pet’s diet,” said Jonathan Brown, founder and CEO of Snif-Snax. The company uses Scottish salmon in its cat treat recipes. “Salmon is an especially good alternative for cats who may be allergic to chicken, beef or other common proteins. It’s also less likely to contain mercury, a heavy metal that could cause health problems for pets and humans, compared to other fish products. Of course, cats love the taste of salmon, plus it’s easy to digest, which helps cats with sensitive stomachs.”

Snif Snax Cat Treats

Snif-Snax offers Scottish salmon as a treat ingredient, as well as other superfoods that cater to cat needs. | Snif-Snax


The cat space has plenty of room to grow as cat owners catch up to what dog owners have been saying for years: functional, personalized options are a must. Fortunately, the pet food industry seems to be working in earnest to give pet parents what they want.


Two more top trends in cat food  

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