What pet food trends should producers focus their development efforts on in 2023/24?
As a design agency that frequently handles innovative pet food packaging projects, our team turned its attention to the pet food trends producers need to know, to stay ahead of the pack. In this blog post, you’ll find all of our insights consolidated into an easily digestible format (uh oh, we’re drifting into on-pack parlance) to help you finetune your development strategy and keep your customers coming back for paw more.
Pet owners are increasingly concerned about the overall health and well-being of their pets. Taking a holistic approach that encompasses some of the same elements, we prioritise when addressing our own health needs. Personalised pet food that addresses pet wellness concerns is already a key area of growth within the sector and this is set to continue. There are four main dietary drivers progressively affecting decision-making in the pet food aisle:
- Gut health
- Mental health
- Reducing obesity
Below, we’ll share some of the headline pet food trends taking place within each of these four areas. Then we will move on to look at three additional, auxiliary trends (who doesn’t love a bit of bonus pet food trend content?).
Kefir gains kudos as a wonder ingredient for improved immunity and gut health
Innovative products for gut health and immunity frequently include the kefir probiotic as an ingredient. Widely hailed as a more powerful probiotic than any yoghurt, kefir has antibacterial qualities and is known to help balance the gut, helping with a variety of digestive disorders. As a large percentage of the immune system is housed in the gut, kefir is also recognised as an immunity booster, making it somewhat of a wonder ingredient. It’s particularly popular in the form of meal toppers, treats and supplements, providing a versatile and convenient nutrient boost.
Pet parents spend more on foods that support their pets’ mental health and brain function
With life getting back to normal post-Covid, consumers are returning to offices and pets may be at risk of developing or displaying signs of separation distress, anxiety and fear of loneliness. The general consensus in the wellbeing space is that the body and mind are inextricably linked and therefore have an effect on each other. It’s unsurprising that many pet owners are turning to nutrition as a potential remedy for behavioural problems.
Pet foods that are free from simple sugars and chemical additives are performing well, particularly where the packaging design successfully positions and promotes these benefits. Antioxidants, protein, probiotics and Omega 3 have also been shown to play an important role in brain development and cognitive health. These are progressively sought out by pet owners scouring the store aisles for food that can deliver behavioural benefits.
Although it is still situated in something of a legal grey area, CBD is also being explored as an ingredient for pets. For example, Agronomed Pharmaceuticals has a pending patent for a dietary supplement composition for overcoming anxiety and fear in pets. It’s described as a cannabinoid (CBD) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) formulation that comes as an oral, chewable supplement.
Pet food brands take the initiative to help overcome obesity in pets
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s (APOP) 2022 State of US Pet Obesity report, pet obesity rates have been steadily increasing for decades. Pet food brands are taking the initiative to help overcome the issue. For example, a pending patent by MKB Pet Food Shanghai Co relates to a nutritional food for the weight loss of obese sterilised cats. The claimed food comprises quinoa, chicken, fish meal, oil (fish, rapeseed), fruits, vegetables, starch, beer yeast powder, taurine, L-carnitine and soybean protein. It claims to improve protein and fibre intake and reduce fat and sugar intake, thereby improving glycolipid metabolism that leads to weight loss.
Bonus pet food trend 1: Environmentally conscious pet owners increasingly seek sustainable pet food
For brands and consumers, the impact of pet food production on the environment is becoming an area of increasing interest, along with the sustainable sourcing of pet food ingredients. As a result, foods with plant-based protein and foods made with insect protein (dried mealworm) are gaining traction and are a key pet food trend this year. Singapore-based start-up FeedWerkz is to launch insect-based pet food in Australia and claims to be more sustainable than alternatives from conventional animal proteins.
Carbon emissions may also begin to feature more prominently on the front of packs, as adopted by Edgard & Cooper Feed Me Real Chicken Complete Adult Cat Food, which displays the carbon emissions (2.2kg of CO2 emissions per kg) on the front of pack, while the recyclable paper pack is printed with water-based inks.
Bonus pet food trend 2: Subscriptions to pet food delivery services soar
Convenience is the name of the game, and subscription boxes are a key player – particularly those that offer hand-cooked, freshly prepared meals based on a cat or dog’s specific profile. Some use questionnaires to pinpoint the pet’s taste preferences and are flexible enough to change. Customers who want personalization or are concerned about a rise in food-related allergies in companion animals will find this appealing and in alignment with their needs. According to Forbes, these are some of the most popular services, combining convenience and nutrition.
Bonus pet food trend 3: Tech-enabled personalization infiltrates the pet food industry
That’s right; we’re talking apps! According to Mintel, “Technology allows consumers to track and maintain their health more closely via personalization, and a similar trend can be expected in pet food as personalized meal plans start to address pets’ dietary needs.” Some notable apps already on the market include iKibble, which helps pet owners find out whether certain foods are safe for their dog to eat, and Buddies, which helps users track their pet’s appointments, medications, and more.