Written by pet expert Melissa Kauffman. Melissa has spent 25 years following her passion for animals as a writer and editor in the pet publishing industry. Prior to starting her career in publishing, Melissa spent eight years working in veterinary hospitals where she assisted veterinarians as they treated dogs, cats, rabbits, pocket pets, reptiles, birds and one memorable lion cub.
Becoming a pet parent during a global pandemic could be the best thing you could do for yourself. Pet owners have reported experiencing stronger bonds with their furry BFFs. They have kept them safe, sane, and productive. Pet care, especially what pets eat, is a crucial discussion. Experienced parents worry about their pet’s well-being. New parents demand sustainability. They want manufacturers to show concern for animal welfare. Both new and experienced parents are switching to more economical ways of meeting their pet’s feeding needs.
Here’s a look at the pet food trends shaping conversations in 2021 and beyond.
Low Cost, High-Quality
Without a doubt, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has hit pet owners hard. Research shows that many pet owners felt that their furry friends experienced a significant deterioration of lifestyle. The lifestyle change led to new behavioral problems for both the animal and the owner.
Many pet parents have sought creative ways to feed their pets without bursting their pockets. They are turning to lower-cost, less known store brands and private-label brands.
Pet owners are not only finding the quality of the lesser-known brands to be similar to national brands, but they are also buying more of the former.
A survey by Packaged Facts in 2020 revealed that 47% of pet owners were buying lower-cost store brands more frequently. We could see new brands disrupting some of the old guards in the market. But price is not the only thing that is causing this shift. Here’s what else is trending in the pet food arena.
The impact pets have on the environment also influences how pet owners buy pet food.
The book “Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living,” by Robert and Brenda Vale, describes a gross picture of the environmental impact of feeding a pet. The authors suggest that sustaining a medium-sized dog could leave the same ecological footprint as driving a large SUV.
Pet owners, like most American consumers, want to be eco-friendly in everything. They demand and are willing to pay more for sustainably-produced products.
Pet owners are asking the following questions more frequently before they buy:
- What is the manufacturer’s reputation regarding environmental sustainability?
- Do the manufacturers hold their suppliers and contractors to environmentally safe standards?
- Do the manufacturers make public claims about their environmental stance?
As pet owners demand stricter environmental accountability, they are scrutinizing the social standards of pet food suppliers.
Concern for Animals Beyond Feeding
Besides having a strong stance on environmental safety, pet parents also want to know whether the manufacturers care for animals beyond profits.
- Do they care for animals beyond the ones they feed?
- Have they adopted an animal shelter or contribute to animal welfare in the community?
- Do the manufacturers ensure that ingredient suppliers treat other animals humanely?
According to the study by Packaged Facts, 69% of pet owners were concerned about how animals bred for use as ingredients in pet foods were treated and handled.
A Bias for Felines
Over the years, the pet food industry has been a canine field. Perhaps it was because dogs were considered man’s best friend. Or they are not as particular or independent as cats.
However, despite a rising dog ownership rate, there has been more focus on feline food needs and variety.
The survey by Packaged Facts revealed that cat owners felt sidelined by pet food manufacturers. They voiced these feelings, and the manufacturers responded. Today, you are likely to encounter:
- More cat feeds processed from natural ingredients.
- Foods for cats with specific conditions like aging.
- Better chewy hard foods
- Better canned foods and food topper products.
- A wider variety of cat treats
Diet and Health
For a long time, diet-induced health issues were not a big deal for pet owners. However, recent publications such as the recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a potential connection between pet diet and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) have transformed the industry.
Consumers are shunning traditional chemical-filled pet foods, and manufacturers are paying more attention to the pet-food ingredients.
The modern pet parent is turning away from grain-free pet foods. They are also shunning feeds filled with grains such as corn and wheat. But they are embracing feeds rich in traditional grains such as sorghum, amaranth, and millet.
Pet parents are also demanding better quality and veterinarian-recommended feeds that suit the specific needs of their pets.
To conclude, pet food trends affect the well-being of our furry friends and our relationships. If you are a recent pet parent, learn how to make your new-found furry friend feel loved. Also, devour as much as possible about how to keep your pet fit and healthy. You will know which trends are worth riding.