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Pet Scoop

2020: Year of the Pet 

February 3, 2021 | 4 min read

No pandemic paw-se for pet segment

During all the grim economic news caused by the pandemic in 2020, the petfood segment managed not only to hold its own but actually continued its 10-year growth trend – a welcome silver lining. Despite everything, petfood innovation activity and sales rose during the past year. Through July of 2020, petfood and treat sales were up 4.3% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Nielsen data. And in 2020, new petfood and treat launches increased 11% from 2019, according to the Mintel GNPD. Further evidence this sector is surviving the pandemic was highlighted in Petfood Processing survey of petfood and treat processors where 73% reported their sales were not adversely affected by COVID.

One positive pandemic shortage turned out to be pets available for adoption. As more people started working from home, they decided to adopt fur friends. This gave animal shelters the welcome problem of not enough adoptees. Naturally, it also contributed to the increase in petfood sales and treats. Meanwhile pets with owners who suddenly started working from home got a lot more attention. And as a Petfood Processing article recently noted, pets were promoted from family member to coworker. (Not certain whether I’d consider that a promotion, nonetheless it does show an indication of spending more time together.)

Since pandemic snacking became a thing, increasing snack occasions during 2020, it’s logical to conclude that valued family member/coworker pets might also have increased their snacking. I haven’t seen any data on this yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if pet parents reported snacking more with their pets in 2020. Stay tuned.

Treating them well

To give some market perspective on treats, according to Euromonitor International, U.S. treat sales were nearly $6 billion in 2019. Dog treats and mix-ins increased 12%, while cat treats and mix-ins rose 8.8% from 2018 to 2019. Many of the same trends seen in human treats are mirrored in pet treats from health & wellness to convenience to multiple textures to superfood ingredients. While healthy ingredients with functional benefits like strengthening immunity or joint health are trending in people products, they are important for pets too. Pet parents want the best for their companions and that means selecting treats that are healthy for them and meet their physical and emotional challenges.

Here’s a look at some interesting new treat product trends in 2020.

  • Treat bars for active, on-the-go dogs – yep, energy bars for dogs, when they need a quick meal away from home or fuel to chase squirrels or play in the surf. There are several versions: protein packed, made with fruit & vegetables, meat containing, no meat, freeze dried, easy to carry, no need for a bowl.
  • Jerky treats, 2020-style – feature novel protein sources. Top of my list for novel is the dried black soldier fly larvae jerky treat. I am not sure I will share this treat with my furry friends. Although, there is no doubt it’s a sustainable source of protein and most dogs don’t mind eating a fly or two. There’s also jerky formulated for energy and vitality in chicken & mango and beef & banana, which fits into the next trend.
  • Health & wellness – these treats come in many forms and address a catalogue of concerns from dental health dog chews to calming treats for emotional wellbeing, and others for skin health, gut health, mobility issues, allergies, and environmental stress. Pet treats are even being formulated with hemp oil and CBD for various wellness properties.
  • Superfoods – immunity-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-containing ingredients are finding their way to prominence on treat labels, i.e., fruits for their antioxidant properties, turmeric, chaga mushrooms, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, blueberries, broccoli, and more. Fruit & vegetable content is also being called out on front of packs.
  • Texture-forward treats – brands are introducing multi-textured treats for cats and dogs. Think crispy outside, creamy inside or a biscuit with a flavored coating. Creamy, lick-able smoothies and treat/toppers packaged in tubes, or the latest introduction from Ben & Jerry’s who introduced a line of frozen dog treats called Doggie Desserts made with the same ingredients it uses in its non-dairy desserts. Makes it easier than ever for our 4 and 2 legged coworkers to have an ice cream break together.
  • Pet parent friendly labels – people want to be able to give their pets the same quality of food they eat. There’s definitely a move to appeal to younger pet owners who are willing to spend more for organic and other premium products. This has led to ‘small batch oven-baked biscuits’ and callouts about the number and simplicity of ingredients, organic fruit & vegetables, alternative proteins, ingredient sourcing info and dietary restrictions (vegan, grain-free) on products. Many new products also point out the absence of ingredients from artificial flavors to allergens. 

Tree Top Innovation

No doubt all this talk of new product development has you wanting to jump into 2021 with your own innovations…and you might say this is our sweet spot. Start off the new year with new ideas using wholesome fruit ingredients with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Organic options are available too. Check out some of our products. Or, check out what Matt Panasevich, Ph.D., Senior Nutrition Scientist, Blue Buffalo Co., had to say about the use of fruit and fruit fiber in pet food applications. He is featured in the second half of the Fruit in pet food formulations webinar.

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