5 natural, 7 scientific traits that pet food buyers want

The list of characteristics that pet food shoppers want in products is long, contradictory and seemingly incoherent, but certain consistent trends can be parsed out.

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Pongmoji | Dreamstime.com
Pongmoji | Dreamstime.com

The list of characteristics that pet food shoppers want in products is long, contradictory and seemingly incoherent, but certain consistent trends can be parsed out, said David Sprinkle, publisher and research director at Packaged Facts, during his presentation at Petfood Forum 2018.

Sprinkle reviewed a list of terms food shoppers want, as determined by a Packaged Facts survey. He then narrowed the list to qualities that were relevant to pet food. He then divided that list into two categories: natural/whole food and scientific/functional.

“There’s nothing that happens in human food that people don’t want to see in pet food,” he said. “And it’s not a coincidence that Blue Buffalo is one of the most successful sorts of specialty brands. Their slogan ‘Love them like family, feeds them like family,’ that is really the right positioning for this pet parent mindset which has reshaped the market.”

Five natural/whole food characteristics in pet food

When consumer’s interest in a particular trend reaches 10 percent, that’s when it becomes relevant to the whole pet food market, he said. At that point, market leaders start to think ahead and prepare to launch products that meet those trends. The problem is, there’s a long list of trends that have hit that 10 percent threshold.

Of those relevant trends, Sprinkle categorized some traits as natural or whole food characteristics. These were the top five on that list.

  1. Fresh - 74%
  2. No artificial ingredients - 40%
  3. All-natural ingredients – 36%
  4. Locally raised/grown – 32%
  5. Organic – 30%

Seven scientific/functional characteristics in pet food

Sprinkle categorized other traits as natural or whole food characteristics. These were the top seven on that list.

  1. High protein – 40%
  2. High fiber – 36%
  3. High vitamin/mineral – 28%
  4. Functional benefits – 24%
  5. Superfoods or superfruits – 19%
  6. High probiotic – 16%
  7. Energy ingredients – 11%

Challenges to meeting consumer demands for pet food

The unrivaled top trait is fresh, said Sprinkle. Along with that pet owners want nutritious, functional foods. However, people also want pet food to be convenient to buy, serve and store, which creates contradictions that pose a challenge for pet foods.

“You want it fresh? Okay. Got it,” he said. “But I want it easy to prepare. So once you start giving it a convenience angle, it often tends to be a little bit less fresh.”

Trying to juggle all the other traits consumers want make it even more difficult, he said.

“So, you want something fresh, natural and sort of untouched by processing, but we also want it to have these functional attributes,” he said. “It becomes very hard to do that and also maintain a low price or be convenient. So you start seeing that these things become very hard to stack up, which is why if you look at any sort of full display of pet food products, whether it’s Wal-Mart, PetSmart or pet specialty shops, you have a lot of SKUs with a lot of competing positions.”

Petfood Forum 2019

Petfood Forum is the not-to-be-missed trade show event for pet food professionals from around the world to network, exchange ideas and do business with one another and with the industry's leading pet food manufacturers and suppliers. Petfood Forum 2019 will take place at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, USA on April 29 – May 1, 2019.

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