Healthy for us, healthy for our pets

Qoday’s consumer is not only concerned about their physical and mental health, but also their pet’s health. In June 2022, Euromonitor International identified the top five trends in pet care. Both premiumization and well-being are on that list. The report revealed humanizing pets, owners are increasingly eager to provide them with high-quality, premium food and products. Premiumization involves giving pets foods made from ingredients people will accept on their own plates. As consumers are seeking for specific benefits from the products they purchase, brand owners are expanding their premium products with the aim of achieving higher margins.

More than ever the nutritional value of pet food and snacks is top of mind for consumers. A spotlight has been shone on our mind-body since the pandemic. Increasing demand for functional and natural ingredients is expanding from our packaged food to pet care. A shift from general well-being for pets to specific functionality drives ingredients that address digestive, joint, heart, dental and skin health, as well as mental health.

Food claims

Euromonitor International reviewed the top health-related claims made by pet food brands. High protein was the most common, appearing in nearly 12 per cent of products with claims available online. Natural claims were the second most frequent with more than eight per cent of products claiming to be natural. Other top claims were related to vitamins, antioxidants and immune system health. In mature markets, the mental health of pets is also receiving attention, as consumers become increasingly concerned about the stress that they observe when leaving pets alone, especially following home seclusion during lockdowns.

David Pastor, national sales director, Tender and True Pet Nutrition, Omaha, Nebraska, agreed. “Pet parents love to see their pets grow up healthy. They eat healthier and want to share healthy treats they know are better for their pets. In the same way they feel happier about feeding their kids a healthier diet. Many of our pet parents follow an organic diet and want the same for their pets. The key benefit of our pet food is the high-quality ingredients. We have organic recipes; limited ingredients recipes and all our meat proteins are Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Certified. The recipes are for all stages of life, so it is not necessary to change recipes as the pet ages. Our products are available for sale online and at Canadian grocery retailers including Longo’s, Sobeys, and Whole Foods,” he said.

Pet parents want to provide their pets food made with ingredients they would eat. Photo © hedgehog94/ Adobe Stock

Freshpet

Pet food ingredients mimicking human food ingredients is increasing in different formats, delivery and storage systems. Freshpet has been a leader in the refrigerated format. Freshpet recipes are a blend of fresh meats, vegetables and fruits farmed locally and made at their kitchens in Bethlehem, Penn. All food is prepared in small batches at lower temperatures to preserve the ingredients’ natural goodness. Freshpet foods and treats are kept refrigerated from the moment they are made until they arrive at Freshpet fridges in local markets.

The global health crisis has emphasized consumer behavior of pursuing functional, wholesome ingredients that signal a health halo, not only for humans and pets, but also for the entire planet.

“We’ve been on a journey to accelerate our commitment to creating products that are not only better for our pets, but are also kinder to the planet. The relaunch of Nature’s Fresh is fundamental to the future of our business, helping us achieve our ambition to reduce our environmental impact and make every bowl matter. Helping create a more sustainable world includes how food is produced for pets, and that pet parents can feel confident that with Nature’s Fresh they’re selecting the most sustainable pet food,” explained Scott Morris, president and co-founder, Freshpet.

trendy

Food waste reduction continues to be part of the good for us (pets included) and the planet theme. As a result, it has driven revised practices across the entire food value chain. Trendi, a Canadian robotics agri-tech company based in British Columbia is dedicated to stopping food waste at the source and feeding more people (and pets). Trendi’s ingredients (purees, powders, and flakes) are made from upcycled produce at the source via their Biotrim units.

Founded in 2019, an early stage venture in the pet food ingredient space, Trendi is gathering insights and piloting their ingredients.

“Our ingredients retain over 90 per cent of their nutrients. We’re working with pet food and animal nutrition experts, who recognize that our ingredients are valuable and nutritious for pet food innovation. Positive feedback from these experts includes the taste, color, aroma, nutrition and that the rescued fruits and vegetables lead to clean ingredient decks,” said Christine Couvelier, president, Trendi.

“We believe the industry has come a long way in the development of health-conscious products as customers increasingly ask questions about what is good for their pet and what is not. There are more products coming to the market with healthy ingredients, better for pets and often more palatable. There is an increased focus on transparency. Knowing what is in our food is paramount for humans, and pet parents want the same transparency for the food and treats they buy for their furry family members. With pets increasingly viewed as members of the family, the overall concern and emphasis on health is reflected in dedicated pet lovers’ buying decisions for their pets. If people are not content eating low quality, unhealthy foods and snacks, they will most likely not be content giving their pet something of a similar nature,” concluded Karen Rushton, vice-president, merchandising, Pet Valu Canada.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of Food in Canada.

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