2019 was a year of change, growth and accomplishment in the pet food industry. And as it draws to a close, it’s time to switch our focus to what’s next. In this three-part series, we’ll take a look at the emerging pet food trends we expect to see in 2020 and how they might influence the pet food industry.
It’s no secret that human foods have made progress within the past five years. The high-sugar, heavily processed, mass-produced meals of yesterday have been replaced with food that is organic, all natural, gluten-free, sustainable and increasingly plant-based. With such changeover becoming more common, you might be surprised to learn pet food is following closely behind. Here’s why.
According to a National Pet Owners Survey by the APPA, “67% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 million homes”. More than likely, of those 85 million families, the majority consider their pet to be family. Because of that, many pet owners choose to feed their pets high quality and healthy food, just like how they feed their own family.
The human-pet food connection is not new. But the time gap that we are seeing these human trends translate into pet food is increasingly shrinking. “Pet food trends used to follow human trends by three to five years,” says Pet Food Industry. “Now that cycle has compressed due to several factors such as a more demanding consumer with more access to information, increased capital investment, and more robust marketing sophistication. In some cases, like digestive health, such as prebiotic and probiotic supplementation, the pet industry has actually led the human industry. Grain-free or gluten-free pet food caught on even faster than for human food.”
With that in mind, here are three trends manufacturers are embracing to stay ahead.
Organic, Holistic and All Natural
In a study done by Farm Journal, more than 82% of U.S. households in the lower 48 states buy organic food on a regular basis – accounting for 5% of total U.S. food sales in the country. Organic pet food sales closely follow this rise. As with humans, organic foods provide pets with the fuel they need to be active and stay healthy because they contain a significant number of nutrient-dense calories – a fact buyers love. Along with nutrient-dense calories, organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms – ensuring that pets are eating fresh, GMO-free ingredients at all times.
The organic trend has gone hand-in-hand with all natural and holistic pet food sales. When buying a holistic pet food, pet parents not only want food that provides optimal nutrition, they want a meal that supports the overall well-being of their pet. Ingredients rich in Omega 3 and 6 for skin and coat health, along with natural prebiotics for digestion are expected to soar.
Pet food that is all natural is also in high demand. All natural pet food contains minimally processed ingredients and no artificial additives. While the added expense may seem daunting to some, the benefits of buying an organic, holistic or all natural pet food can outweigh those costs for some pet parents – and the demand will only continue in the years to come.
Sustainability – Ingredients, Packaging, Operations
“The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social—also known informally as profits, planet, and people,” says Investopedia. In the pet food industry, manufacturers focus on ingredients, packaging and operations when working on sustainability initiatives
For years, some pet food ingredients have been by-products of the human food industry. Protein sources that are used in pet food are often taken from a part of the animal that is not highly sought after for human consumption, such as kidneys, liver or meat scraps. Because of this, those ingredients have increased sustainability in the pet food industry without impacting the food supply for humans. Manufacturers are continuously evaluating sources and elements to provide a healthy supply of ingredients that are sustainable long-term – and that push will continue in the coming year.
As millennials become the most influential consumer in the pet industry, trends in eco-friendly packaging and products are on the rise. Packaging that uses recycled materials or compostable materials that help reduce our environmental footprint are gaining popularity.
As sustainability continues to be a focus in the pet food industry, manufacturers are implementing operational protocols that positively impact the environment on a daily basis. Pet food manufactures have been taking steps to minimize water and natural gas usage, reduce emissions, and minimize waste – and that trend is expected to continue and grow in 2020.
Humans are naturally drawn to personalization. Who doesn’t feel special with diets specifically tailored to your blood type or workout plans crafted based on your heart rate?
Pet parents are no different in wanting their furry friends to experience the same benefits that come with personalization. As humans continue to find new ways to personalize their everyday life, it’s only natural that the trend migrates toward opportunities in the pet food industry.
The pet food industry has begun to recognize the desire for personalization and is expanding on this with new product offerings. But the need to feel special is far from the only reason this trend is gaining traction. “Pet parents seem to like the experience of preparing food for their pets, as this gives them the feeling of having more control over the ingredients they are feeding their pets,” says one industry expert.
In the upcoming year, we expect to see a growth in home-delivery, customizable fresh or frozen pet food, meal toppers and add-ins all tailored to your pets’ specific needs.
There is a clear relationship between what we eat and what our pets eat. As people care more about what they consume, they care more about what their pets consume. As we saw in 2019, the pet food industry has done a solid job responding to the demand for better pet food options. 2020 will be even better, so if you want to capitalize on these trends, start now.
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