Functional trends call for more
effective pet food ingredients
by Andrew Wilkinson
The field of pet nutrition has become more science-based than ever with pet owners continuing to echo trends that that are seen in the food market for humans.
According to the Veterinary Practice News article “Pet Food Nutrition Mimics Human Health Trends”, large petfood companies are beginning to use scientific research for the “provision of food designated for pet consumption that claim to prevent or combat common health problems such as kidney disease, arthritis and cancer”.
Jessica Taylor, writing for PetFoodIndustry.com, claims that obesity continues to be one of the “largest health problems among humans today, and the problem among pets sadly mirrors that”. The trend appears to show that whatever happens in the human food industry is then very quickly mimicked by the petfood industry. “When the human trend in food was low-carbohydrate and high-protein, pet diets followed suit”.
In more recent times, demand has changed once again with gluten-free and vegan pet foods are “emerging from the fringes of human foods once thought to be too expensive, too hard to find or too pointless to purchase as niche markets pet parents are more than willing to pay for”.
Health and how what we eat affects our health are currently at the forefront of the human food movement with novel ingredients and holistic methods being the answer petfood manufacturers have served up. As with human diets, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroprotective elements are also being added into more specialised pet diets in attempt to improve our beloved pet’s health.
In fact, a consumer survey carried out by Packaged Facts in the US, in January 2015 found that 46% of pet owners were concerned about their pet having food allergies or intolerances, compared with 42% last year; an increase of 4%.
There was also a 4% increase in those “willing to spend extra to ensure the wellness of their pet” This illustrates that pet owners are apparently now more willing to spend more if they believe that the products offer health and wellness benefits. Pet owners also want to make sure that the products they are purchasing are tailored to their pet’s individual needs.
“As in the human nutritional products market, ageing is the core market driver, as more pets suffer from age-related conditions such as joint deterioration and cognitive dysfunction,” said David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts.
Also taking a page from human supplements are popular ingredients including glucosamine, omega fatty acids and probiotics, along with trendier ingredients such as bee pollen, green tea and elk velvet antler.
Overall, according to Michael Bush, senior vice president, Ganeden Biotech, Cleveland, OH, the U.S. pet industry alone, pet supplements and natural and organic pet supplies is expected to be “$53 billion in 2013, with the animal nutrition industry accounting for about $4 billion of that”.
“As pets continue to be humanised, the animal nutrition industry will continue to grow,” said Mr. Bush. “Pet owners are examining the nutrition label on companion animal products, and their purchases are reflecting their own healthier preferences.”
Mr Bush also added that “Americans understand the risks related to poor quality ingredients, especially in pet products”. “It is important to pet owners to ensure that their beloved pets are consuming products that are healthy and will benefit their quality of life.”
Erin Hay, national sales representative, Retail Pet Department, Nordic Naturals, Watsonville, CA, agrees that the new fashion for functional pet ingredients has had a very positive influence on the market for pet products. “Consumer awareness and behavior around pet nutrition has accelerated measurably in the pet supplement business”. As a result, according to Ms Hay, sales growth in this sector is “remarkably healthy and on target to continue.”
Most consumers believe what they take for themselves is good for their pets too, according to Ingomar Middelbos, pet market and ingredient manager for Stratum Nutrition, St. Charles, MO. “While there is a large array of ingredients that target top health concerns, the ingredient trends are similar to human supplements. Top categories for dogs are joint health and gut health”.
“You will see glucosamine and chondroitin with new trends leaning toward collagen and other specialty ingredients like eggshell membrane.”