Cat trends at SuperZoo: A microcosm of dog food trends

As cat ownership increases and pet owners become more particular, trends familiar in the dog space showed up at SuperZoo 2019 in the cat products market, too.

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Andrea Gantz
Andrea Gantz

SuperZoo 2019 was, as always, a fruitful show when it comes to getting an overview of current and upcoming trends in pet food. What was particularly interesting this year was the near-100% overlap in new cat products mimicking those trends seen in dog food and treats.

According to the data, it’s not surprising that cat owners have cat food and treat manufacturers upping their game: While dog ownership is flat globally, cat ownership is increasing, according to Euromonitor International. The results of the 2019–20 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey show that in the U.S., cat-owning households trend slightly more to owning multiple felines (1.78 cats per household) than do dog-owning homes (1.53 dogs). And while cat food will probably never beat out dog food in terms of pet food sales, it does make up one-third of said sales (US$9 billion) in the U.S.

These statistics mean more cats (and more potential furry consumers) all around, as the coveted millennial generation puts off home ownership and kids for apartment rentals and pets — and continues to realize that cats are more portable, more likely to be allowed in rentals and more independent than most dogs (particularly large dog breeds, which are taking a particular hit in the pet ownership sphere).

Top SuperZoo trends in the cat food space

CBD: In spite of the fact that the legality of cannabidiol (CBD) in pet products is murky at best, the trend has quite clearly taken over the pet food (mostly treats) industry and is, in fact, enjoying a boom in terms of new products and companies entering the fray. While I’ve been seeing plenty of dog options for the last few years, this year brings more cat options to the forefront: Rover’s Pet, which offers a whole line of “Rover’s Relief” CBD-infused products for dogs, has added a CBD oil for cats that claims to help with anxiety, hip and joint pain, seizures and cancer symptoms. Reilly’s HEMPVET brand, which also has an extensive dog products line, showcased its new line of broad-spectrum hemp soft chews focusing on “CBD + support for cats” aimed at promoting calm and comfort, joint support and immunity support.

Mixers: Combination feeding is becoming more and more popular as pet parents increasingly want the experience of putting together a meal for their pet rather than simply putting some kibble in a bowl. Manufacturers are now offering dry and wet recipes that can be combined, as well as a plethora of mixers and other toppers designed to make a pet’s meal more customized. Again, this is something that has been leading the dog food space for a while now, but the notoriously picky cats are getting some love, as well: Alongside its Raw Boost Kibble formulas for cats, Instinct offers mixers for those pet parents just beginning to explore raw and freeze-dried options. These new mixers also have functional benefits such as skin + coat and digestive health.

Potato/pea/lentil-free formulations: Grain-free has long since expanded to include the undesirable starches of the day, and potato/pea/lentil free formulations have been popping up in dog food formulations as the trends — or current events — dictate. At SuperZoo 2019, Blue Buffalo expanded on that trend and showcased its Carnivora “optimal prey nutrition” wet and dry line for cats, including regular adult cat formulas as well as more specialty formulas such as kitten and weight control. The overarching themes of these formulations are that they’re grain free (“0% grains, peas or potatoes”) and heavily focused on protein sources (such as dried and fresh raw chicken, saltwater fish, organ meats, turkey and duck). Hound & Gatos also presented some new dry cat formulas that highlighted “no peas, lentils, chickpeas or white potatoes” as well as the standard “grain free” language.

Briefly: SuperZoo pet treat trends

  • Honey as an ingredient
  • Fish as an ingredient for dog products
  • Rawhide alternatives
  • Jerky/grain-free/single meat focus
  • Novel proteins and presentations (water buffalo, sweet Carolina pulled pork)

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