The Rapid Evolution of Pet Foods

Research and sustainability shape pet food innovation

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Pet Food Goes Premium – Natural, Specialized, and Customized Nutrition

The global pet food market continues its explosive growth, expected to reach $158 billion by 2025 according to Euromonitor. As pets become increasingly integrated into families, pet parents seek out premium nutrition tailored to their animal’s dietary needs and health conditions. With over 77 million pet dogs and 58 million pet cats in U.S. households alone, pet food brands must stay on top of emerging trends and innovations to capture consumer attention and spending in this competitive market.

Major shifts towards natural, specialized, and customized formulas stand out as winning strategies. A survey by Packaged Facts found 87% of pet owners in the U.S. prefer purchasing pet foods with recognizable, natural ingredients. Incorporating quality proteins like chicken, salmon, or novel meats provides both nutritional and marketing benefits.

The Rise of Natural Pet Food

Natural pet food sales make up over $8 billion globally according to Statista, with projections of 10%+ growth annually. These formulations feature simple, wholesome ingredients and avoid artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. Pet parents want transparency into what their pets are eating – a Packaged Facts survey revealed 60% look for natural food labels when shopping.

Brands like Nature’s Variety, Castor & Pollux, and Wellness Pet Food lead the natural pet food market. Their recipes highlight real meats, fruits, and vegetables on packaging. For example, Wellness CORE formulas feature a high meat content exceeding 60% protein from turkey, chicken, salmon, or boar.

Specialized and Life Stage Nutrition

Alongside natural ingredients, brands increasingly cater to pets’ life stage, size, breed, or health conditions. Specially formulated recipes provide tailored nutrition that meets unique needs.

For example, Hill’s Science Diet offers dog and cat foods for puppies, kittens, seniors, and breeds of different sizes. Boutique brand Open Farm makes recipes specific to dogs at peak life stages with high energy, mobility, or digestive requirements.

Market research by Packaged Facts indicates around 60% of pet owners are willing to pay more for foods adapted to their pet’s health status. Specialized nutrition also aids pets with food sensitivities. For example, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets offers formulas to manage skin allergies and food intolerances.

Leveraging Scientific Research and Expertise

Leveraging scientific R&D and veterinary expertise gives brands a competitive edge. In a survey by Packaged Facts, 74% of pet owners said veterinary recommendation makes them more likely to purchase a pet food brand.

Pet nutrition companies invest significantly in research. For example, Mars Petcare has 100+ scientists, veterinarians, and nutritionists on staff and has conducted over 200 clinical trials and feeding studies. Formulations backed by evidence-based research appeal to owners looking to mimic home cooked meals with commercial pet food.

Alternative Proteins and Sustainable Ingredients

Sustainability matters too. More brands offer unusual proteins with a lower environmental impact compared to traditional meat production.

Brutus & Barnaby report sales lifts up to 28% for their dog foods featuring black soldier fly larvae protein. Other insect-based pet foods show similar promise. The global market for insect protein in pet food is projected to reach $1.3 billion by 2030 according to Fact.MR.

The plant-based food trend also expands to pets. Veggie-based formulas from Wild Earth and Nature’s Recipe appeal to vegetarian and vegan pet parents. Sales of plant-based pet foods jumped 51% in 2020 according to SPINS data.

Image courtesy of Jiminy’s

The Rise of Customization and Personalization

Pet food customization and personalization represents perhaps the biggest emerging opportunity. Companies like NomNomNow, Ollie, and Evermore allow consumers to personalize recipes, portions, and prepare fresh pet foods tailored to each animal.

Packaged Facts reports over 45% of pet owners are interested in customized food based on breed, age, or health conditions. Meal delivery services for pets take off too, with an expected global market value of $12 billion by 2026 according to Global Market Insights.

Direct-to-Consumer Brands Gain Traction

These trends open doors for smaller, direct-to-consumer pet food brands to gain market share through online channels.

Personalized pet food company Tailored Pet reported 300% sales growth in 2020. Other DTC companies like The Farmer’s Dog, Spot & Tango, and JustFoodForDogs deliver customized, fresh pet foods directly to consumers. These brands now challenge traditional retailers.

Key Opportunities in the Pet Nutrition Market

The takeaway is that pet food has moved far beyond generic kibble in a bag. Consumers want food as specialized for their pets as they buy for themselves.

Capitalizing on nutrition science, specialized formulas, novel proteins like insects, customization, sustainability, and transparency provides immense opportunities for growth. Pet food brands must think beyond marketing gimmicks to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pets’ health and wellbeing.

The opportunities are tremendous for those investing in meaningful nutrition advances today and in the future of the nearly $200 billion global pet food marke

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