The Humanization of Pets

December 2016

There isn’t much that people won’t do for their pets these days. And while the ‘Humanization’ of our pets is not exactly a new trend, the speed of change is accelerating. Where it once might have taken 5 years for an ingredient trend in human food to show up in treats for our furry friends, these days it typically happens in less than two years now.

Consumer belief that pets are full-fledged members of the family continues to grow. With the shift, owners are aligning their personal food and nutrition preferences with their pet food purchases.

Consider the following from Mintel:

  • According to the American Pet Product Association, the pet business is projected to reach nearly $63 billion in 2016, up a substantial 25% since 2010
  • 90% of Canadian pet owners agree that having a pet improves a person’s quality of life
  • European pet owners are spoiling their pet children with snacks and treats, creating a growing problem of obese pets
  • Over 60% of Europeans treat their pets with the same care they would treat a child

 

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Recently, we are seeing a shift in pet owner attitudes about nature versus science when it comes to pet food purchases. Since most pet owners don’t really know their pets’ specific nutritional needs, historically they have favored brands that position themselves as “scientifically” formulated to optimize animal health.

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But consumers around the world are increasingly pursuing more natural ingredients in their own food purchases, and this is translating to the pet arena as well.

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Source: Mintel 2015

With the continued rise in consumer demand for more natural, less processed ingredients in human food, we should expect to see the shift to simpler ingredients accelerate in pet foods and treats as well. This creates opportunity, but what are some of the specific ways that brands might capitalize?

Here are 5 Pet Food predictions for the next few years:

1.

INCREASED USE OF NATURAL COLORS FROM PLANT SOURCES

In the past few years, we have seen a large increase in the use of natural colors in pet treats and snacks. In regions like Europe, colors from natural sources are already standard in human food products. The trend is spreading to North America and emerging markets like China rapidly, and I would expect it will migrate over to kibble launches quickly. Additionally, the human food brands conversion to coloring foods in Europe and consumer preference for plant-based natural colors in North America is likely to influence pet owners looking to provide the same benefits to their four legged family member.

2.

PROVENANCE WILL MATTER MORE

The big pet food recall in 2007 still terrifies many owners. When you consider pet “parents” are not consuming the same food, it is easy to understand why hesitation still exists when it comes to making a purchase selection. A “Made Domestically” claim can be powerful, and we expect brands who are sourcing ingredients locally to leverage this advantage successfully.

3.

SEASONAL OR LIMITED TIME ONLY OFFERINGS

If a pumpkin spice latte is the perfect break in a hectic day for us, then why not a Christmas biscuit for Fido? Seasonal in-and-out line extensions are an appealing way for pet food manufacturers to cut through the clutter and gain additional impulse purchases. In some human categories like chocolate confection, much of total growth is being driven by such launches, and I would expect to see more in the pet aisle.

4.

ONGOING INNOVATION IN PET SNACKING

With offerings such as sweet potato chips, beef hide lollipops, and vegetable chews, pet snacks are increasingly resembling human snacks and indulgences in both form and occasion. The increase in pet snacking sheds some light on pet obesity problems , but, nevertheless, expect more snack delights for pets to come.

5.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS FOR PETS

On the more fun side is an emerging trend taking place at local boutiques and restaurants to create special moments and occasions for the more doting pet owners. Bluebird, a London restaurant, launched a limited time pop-up restaurant “Bites and Bones” for dogs. On the menu was a three course puppy centric brunch. We expect to see more special occasion events designed to capitalize on the humanization trend.

The Food Safety Challenge

When it comes to ingredients overall, and natural colors in particular, navigating the various regulatory requirements on a global scale can be daunting. Currently, there is little consistency from region to region as each has their own regulatory body in place. Sensient’s global footprint helps us stay up to date with the changing rules and regulations and ensures our solutions are compliant with local requirements.

More than most food categories, pet food continues to be extremely sensitive to food safety concerns. This is no surprise since experts now estimate that possibly 8,000 pets died from renal failure and other medical issues due to contaminated ingredients. While the transition from synthetic to natural colors to meet pet owner requirements is a positive development overall, the conversion will increase the burden on manufacturers to ensure appropriate testing and supply chain visibility is in place. Sensient guarantees the safety, authenticity, and quality of our natural color solutions through our Certasure™ program. Brands should make sure their colors from botanical sources go through a similar type of protocol.
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It is an exciting, albeit challenging time to be in the food industry. Change brings about opportunity, especially from a global perspective.

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