2018 is shaping up to be a crucial year for the pet food industry as changing attitudes and purchasing practices by pet-owners conspire to affect the $26 billion pet food market in unforeseen ways.
“Much of the growth in the pet food market can be attributed to the rapid acceleration of online sales, particularly with behemoths Amazon.com and Chewy.com.,” according to David Sprinkle, research director for market research firm Packaged Facts. “Internet sales of pet products are out-pacing and even stealing sales from other channels, notably pet super stores, not to mention the emergence of Millennials as prominent pet market consumers. But there are other, perhaps even at times under the radar, developments that are driving pet food growth.” Let's take a closer look at five of 2018's most influential trends.
1) Online Ordered & Home Delivered Pet Food
Home grocery delivery is one of the hottest trends of late but don't assume pets aren't participating... well, not directly but you get where we're going. Don't think we're referring to pet food as something lumped in with home-delivered “people food”, by the way.
Niche pet food retailers including PetPlate, The Farmer's Dog, JustFoodForDogs, and Just Right by Purina have realized that pet-owners interested in custom-made, fresh & raw, high quality dog and cat food are often tech-savvy and very comfortable with online shopping. Currently almost one-fifth of pet owners are opting for home-delivered pet food and we can expect this trend to increase in popularity in 2018 and beyond. (image via PetPlate)
2) Pet Owners Seek Out Foods with Proactive Health Benefits
The rise of GMO awareness and a societal move towards being proactive when it comes to health care issues has many Americans wondering about their pets' health – and how their pets' food may be affecting them. “Garbage in, garbage out” is an old but values maxim in this case: assuming that eating well can result in better health for us AND our pets) has become a common sense attitude.
The Packaged Facts February/March 2017 National Pet Owner Survey shows that 76% more dog owners and 71% more cat owners than in previous years of the survey agree with the statement “High-quality dog foods/cat foods are effective for preventive health care.” You'd better believe these changing attitudes toward quality foods are playing out when it comes to purchasing pet food. (image via Life in Pleasantville)
3) Micro-targeted & Functional Pet Foods
The pet food market has splintered into a multitude of fine niches beyond the aforementioned trend toward pet food embodying preventative health benefits. Pet food marketers are not only aware of this trend, they're actively encouraging it in a “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole” dynamic. The result will be a pet food market split into, to quote Packaged Facts, “many fine slices, all serving specialized target consumers with specific nutritional needs. These sub-groups include age, breed, size/weight, activity level, indoor vs. active, type of fur, as well as allergies and other chronic health conditions.”
This trend echoes a similar evolution in attitudes toward human food, perhaps as a consequence of people feeling more strongly than before that their pets are parts of their families. Expect to see a greater variety of specialized pet foods highlighting the inclusion of nutraceutical ingredients such as probiotics, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. Packaged Facts predicts this expanded range of micro-targeted and functional pet foods will keep growing at an above-average rate through 2018. (image via Healthy Pets/Mercola)
4) DIY Pet Food
Pimp my pet food? You betcha! Pet food hasn't exactly been known for its plate presentation and while our dogs and cats care less about such things, it hasn't stopped pet parents from supplementing, customizing, and dare-we-say “personalizing” their pet's meals. Homemade toppings, sauces and side dishes like grilled meat, home-cooked and other favorite indulgences soothe pet-owners' consciences and are usually welcomed by our pets. Think of the veggie-hating child getting the broccoli off his or her plate by feeding it to their partner in crime, the family dog.
Pet food manufacturers are well aware of this behavior and have begun to address it in hopes of luring consumers looking for convenience and savings. These new "additions” products offer pet-owners an easy way to personalize their pets' dinners whether used on their own or when combined with other food products. These products are especially appealing to those who prefer to feed their pets raw and dehydrated foods as some degree of preparation is usually required and as such, involves further food customization by pet owners. (image via Why Cat Why)
5) Primal Proteins and Ancestral Ingredients
Paleo diets... not just for primates anymore. The push for added protein in our diets is gradually making its way into the pet food market as pet owners seek to share the perceived benefits of a “primal” diet with their pets. Pet food manufacturers are already rushing new enhanced-protein products to market and will continue to innovate in order to meet consumer interest in protein. Some of the probable venues, according to Packaged Facts, include “varieties of single-proteins, proteins as the first ingredient, multiple proteins, and exotic proteins.”
So-called “ancestral formulations” are intended to at least evoke, at best recreate the original and natural diets of dogs and cats prior to domestication. The ancestral niche lies cheek-by-jowl with complementary trends toward raw and whole prey pet foods perceived as the most effective way of providing pets with a wild animal diet. Look for pet food manufacturers and marketers to focus on “ancestral/wilderness imagery” when introducing new high-protein and enhanced-protein pet foods in the coming year and moving forward. (image via Farmina)