Pet food innovation trends for 2017

Image credit: Georgie Pauwels via Flickr

Modern pets (or, rather, their owners) are more discerning than ever. The last decade has seen the pet food industry grow at a phenomenal rate, driven by both a burgeoning pet population and their owners’ unquenchable desire to spoil them rotten. In the US pet food industry, growth has been focused very much on the top end of the market, with the demand for premium pet foods doubling since the turn of the millennium.


Since a recent Mintel survey indicated pet owners would rather cut back on their own food than see their beloved pets go without, it seems clear that the market for pet products, particularly at the high end, will continue to grow. 


In light of this, we’ve had a look at the market to pull out four pet food trends that we think will power further growth in 2017.


Personalised diets


Dog food used to be just that: dog food. It came in various flavours but still catered to the average hound. Then came the first wave of segmentation, with puppy food and senior food. This was swiftly followed by small dog food and large dog food; then active dog food and low calorie dog food. The split continued further into food for stiff joints, food for a sensitive stomach, food for a glossy coat. Alongside this came food for Labradors, food for Boxers, food for Dachshunds and food for Terriers…


2017 could be the year that truly personalised pet diets take off. Companies such as Tails.com and Pawtions are offering the ability to tailor food for an individual dog. Thanks to their subscription models, owners can ensure that personalised food, complete with their dog’s name on the packet, is delivered to their door on a regular basis.


Free-from


Tails.com will ask you whether there are any ingredients you’d like to avoid in your dog’s food. The list of options will be familiar to anyone who spends time in the free-from aisle of the supermarket, including such staples as egg, dairy and wheat free. Notably Tails.com don’t ask about allergies – their offering is entirely about choice.


The pet food industry has begun allowing owners to exclude certain food groups from their pet’s diet in the same way they can with their own. Opted for a dairy free lifestyle? Your dog can join you. Prefer that nobody in your household eats soya? Not a problem. Whilst the ethics of making your dog go vegan are sure to be debated for some time to come, niche dog food manufacturers have got you covered here as well.


Pet food vs human food


The growth in free-from pet food is underpinned by a realisation amongst many pet owners that they should devote the same attention to their pets’ diet as they do to their own. 


This revelation has come from design choices like Bob and Lush’s packaging for their subscription dog food service, which calls to mind the pages of a food magazine or cookbook. It celebrates the fact that the ingredients are both recognisable and appetising to pet owners.


2017 will see increasing parallels in the way that pet food and human food are marketed. Let’s compare Lily’s Kitchen with Ella’s Kitchen. Both cater to a demographic that cares deeply about the food they feed to their dependents – pets or children respectively. Both focus on the ‘good stuff’ in their products, with an emphasis on organics. Both use a tone of voice which is friendly and accessible, and put their ingredients up front, making it clear not just what is in the packet, but also what isn’t. Finally, both offer products that sound like something the owner or parent would want to eat themselves – both offered Christmas Dinner, while chicken paellalamb hotpot and campfire stew are also on the menu.


Rise of the vegetable


As trends in pet food and human food converge, 2017 may well be the year of the vegetable for dogs and their owners alike. The vegetable butchery trend is being boosted by a growing ‘flexitarian’ approach to dining (essentially ‘semi-vegetarian’), driven by animal welfare concerns and a recognition of the environmental impact of meat production.


The unique nutrition opportunities presented by vegetables are also showing that dogs, like their owners, shouldn’t live on meat alone. Lily’s Kitchen already offer vegetable-only meals to allow your dog to take part in meat-free Monday, but the majority of their range augments meat with fruit, vegetables and botanicals to boost the nutrient profile. New entrants in the pet food space are following suit –Apple, Banana & Carrot dog ‘ice cream’, anyone?


The Internet has yet to reach a consensus on whether domestic dogs are omnivores or carnivores, but 2017 is likely to see the belief swing to the former, with even pre-prepared raw menus supplementing meat and fish with fruit and vegetables.


So there we have it. Innovation and growth will continue at the top end of the market in 2017, with pet food trends closely following human food trends. To keep ahead of the game, brands should look at restaurant menus rather than Rover’s bowl to see where the future lies. The challenge is marketing pet food that the owners almost want to eat themselves…


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