Pet food experts have clear ideas and expectations for the trends and changes our industry can expect this coming year. What about human food’s influence? Among Innova Market Insights’ top 10 trends for food and beverages in 2017, three might be instructive for pet food.
1. Clean supreme. Moving beyond clean and clear labels, Innova’s top trend incorporates ingredient origin and processing (or lack thereof). “These are now the rules of the game,” said Lu Ann Williams, Innova’s director of innovation. While “no additives or preservatives” is still the most common natural-related claim on food and beverage product launches, it’s “not a differentiator, more of a given.” Since 2011, the Innova database has shown double-digit growth in clean label claims on new products worldwide, including supply chain claims such as environmentally friendly (72 percent compound annual growth rate) and animal welfare (45 percent).
While a natural claim is the ultimate goal, Williams commented, it’s not well defined, even by regulatory bodies. We know that applies to pet food, too. “The industry’s looking for a more narrow focus to define their food,” said Jennifer Adolphe, PhD, Petcurean senior nutritionist, quoted in Natural Pet News. “Grain free is an example.”
2. Disruptive green. Plants appear in almost every type of food and beverage product: the number of new products launched globally with a plant-related claim leaped from 100 in 2011 to nearly 700 in 2016. “It’s truly mainstream now,” Williams said. For pet parents, that extends to their furry family members; yet does it compete with the hyper-focus on meat and animal proteins that has consumed many pet owners? “Even if you have an animal-based product, you can still work in plants and take advantage of this trend,” Williams said. Thus, dog food labels that prominently proclaim proteins like lamb or chicken but also dandelion greens.
3. Seeds of change. In human food, this trend also encompasses ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, spelt and millet. Meanwhile, pet food keeps going grain free: Maria Lange of GfK reports grain-free sales in the US pet specialty channel are still growing 20 percent a year. Yet, pet food companies have embraced consumer interest in healthy ingredients like chia seeds, which show the biggest spike in claims on new human food products, from 100 to 2011 to nearly 800 in 2016. Perhaps pet food will soon go the ancient grain route, too.