Interzoo, one of the largest pet trade shows in the world, will take place May 24-27, 2022—in person for the first time in four years. Like many other people in the pet food and pet care industries, I am happy it is happening again and looking forward to participating. (We will also be co-locating our Petfood Forum Europe conference with Interzoo for the first time, on May 23.)
Besides meeting with pet food companies and attending relevant educational sessions, one of my main goals during Interzoo will be to look for pet food trends. Which products, ingredients and formats are showing up, and being talked about, the most at stands throughout the many exhibit halls?
While I didn’t attend Global Pet Expo 2022 (GPE) in March, the reports of several of my colleagues and others in the industry who attended give me an idea of what to watch for at Interzoo.
Collagen: New ‘it’ pet food ingredient?
Several people returned from GPE remarking that collagen seems to be the hot new ingredient in pet treats and supplements, possibly supplanting CBD (though there’s still plenty of that to be found). The up-and-coming collagen trend is no surprise, considering it is big in human food and supplements, and pet food often closely follows human food.
“Many new pet treats and supplements are promoting the term ‘collagen’ on the name or callout,” wrote Greg Aldrich, Ph.D., president of Pet Food & Ingredient Technology and professor at Kansas State University, in his Ingredient Issues column after attending GPE. “In the human packaged goods category, collagen has become very popular in wrinkle and aging supplements, hair care products and osteoarthritis supplements—this may be partly what is fueling demand in pet treats and supplement products by pet parents.
“As a structural protein derivative with ties to chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid, it may fit alongside these ingredients in the geriatric health, joint and mobility, and osteoarthritis market channels,” Aldrich explained.
I’ll be curious to see if the collagen trend has “jumped the pond” and is also prevalent at Interzoo—the same with CBD, for that matter.
Function is where it’s at
When it comes to functional ingredients in general, however, I fully expect to see many of those called out on pet foods and treats on display at Interzoo. After all, this trend has been around a while and, as my colleague Tim Wall pointed out, may be reaching mainstream status or, as he put it, “near ubiquity.”
He cited the many new dog, cat and other pet products containing functional ingredients with claims including joint health, skin and fur support, stress relief and immunity boosting. “Along with pet foods, functional ingredients appeared in supplements, toppers and treats,” he wrote.
Freeze-dried, air-dried still growing
Also continuing a trend that started pre-pandemic, freeze-dried and air-dried raw meat pet foods and treats were prevalent at GPE, according to Wall and others. He cited more than 15 brands showcasing new products in this category.
Sales of freeze-dried pet food increased 31.1% in 2021, according to a report recently issued by NielsenIQ. The report’s data did not include the air-dried subcategory, but a closely related one, dehydrated, recorded 25.9% growth. Granted, both subcategories are still small relative to others within pet food—for example, grain-free pet food registered sales of US$4.1 billion in 2021, compared to US$324.8 million for freeze-dried and US$387.6 million for dehydrated—but the growth rates are multiples higher than that for grain-free, at 4.3%.
From what I recall of Interzoo 2018, the last time the event took place in person, freeze-dried, air-dried and dehydrated pet foods and treats were not in abundance; rather, “alternative” formats to the dominant ones (kibble and wet) included baked and cold-pressed. It will be interesting to see if these other formats are becoming more common in other parts of the world.
Europe led on sustainability then, but now?
What was prevalent at Interzoo 2018, I wrote then, were pet foods and treats touting sustainability and similar claims. Europe has always seemed to lead in this area, but in the past few years, pet food and treat makers, along with suppliers, in the U.S. and elsewhere have started to catch up.
Indeed, sustainability ranked as one of the top two drivers for innovation among pet food companies, according to 300 leaders of those companies surveyed by CRB Group, a provider of sustainable engineering, architecture, construction and consulting solutions to the food and beverage and life sciences industries.
The survey report, “Horizons: Pet Food,” showed sustainability and improving product consistency were each ranked as the top innovation driver by 9% of respondents, topping other drivers such as achieving a clean label/ingredients and “pets as family” considerations, each ranked number one by 8%. (Note that the report didn’t cite the geographic locations of the respondents.)
Yet drivers such as clean label are still key, as are ones like sourcing ethical ingredients, ranked number one by 7% of respondents. These rankings tell me that pet food manufacturers are definitely in tune with consumer trends and demands, using them to guide the pet food and treat products we see at shows like GPE and Interzoo and, shortly after, online and on retail shelves.