Over the Top
Mix-ins and toppers trend spreads
The pet food topper and mix-in segment are gaining momentum fueled by new product activity and consumer interest. Toppers and mix-ins give pet parents the ability to add that something extra to their everyday kibble. While I honestly don’t think most dogs and cats look at their food and think, “oh no, not kibble again.” I do believe pet parents are concerned about feeding their pets the same thing day in and day out, and this is part of the reason why the topper/mix-in market is starting to gain traction.
Growth in the topper/mix-in segment is tracked together with treats. In the U.S., dog treats and mix-ins grew 12% and cat treats and mix-ins posted 8.8% growth from 2018 to 2019, as reported by Euromonitor International. A further examination shows the purchase incidence of toppers and mix-ins is modest, especially in comparison to pet treats. According to Lightspeed/Mintel, 78% of dog owners buy treats, but only 17% purchase dog food toppers. There are similar numbers for the feline set where 67% buy treats and 16% buy cat food toppers.
What’s interesting about the topper/mix-in segment is its promise. In the combined treat/topper category, toppers are helping drive growth – topper purchases are climbing, and new product activity is robust. A recent Pet Food Processing article attributes topper/mix-in category growth to three key trends:
While I don’t disagree with their assessment, I’d amend it to include health & well-being. These crossover consumer trends are influencing pet food offerings in toppers and contributing to increased sales. Why are people food trends so common in the pet food world? It’s simple, pet parents want the same things for their pets as they do for themselves and the rest of their family.
Humanization – this explains why all these consumer trends are making the leap from human foods to pet foods. Pets are valued family members, co-workers and companions. This elevated status has pet parents investing more in their care and well-being, which serves to strengthen their emotional bond.
Dietary customization (personalization) – toppers give people the opportunity to supplement a pet’s diet. This can be because of activity level, life stage, health management, or simply as a treat.
Variety – as mentioned earlier, pets may not be as interested in dietary variety as their humans. But it’s the humans who are buying the food, and that’s why labels have fanciful names and photos reminiscent of restaurant menus. Toppers offer hydration, indulgence, functional benefits, and diet diversity.
Health & Wellness – This is where I really see the category starting to take off. Just as more and more people are realizing their diet influences their overall health, this awakening goes for their furry friends, as well. Good pet nutrition can help keep pets healthy and happy. Managing a pet’s health through diet can help avoid costly vet bills. Toppers and mix-ins are great delivery vehicles for functional-/supplement-type products with benefits for digestive health, coat health, joint health, stress relief, cognitive health and more. As people look at dietary choices as a way to maintain their own health as they age, they want to be able to do the same for their best friends.
Formulating to boost nutrition
Since toppers are added to a meal, it’s important to be mindful of calorie counts when formulating. The way to cater toppers to a health & wellness shopper is by adding nutritional value or a functional benefit.
Toppers have natural appeal here at Tree Top (as you can tell by our name.) We’ve been exploring different combinations using our organic fruit purees, plus veggies, and grains, with an eye toward maximizing nutritional content. One example is our recipe for a Berry Pear Oat Organic Fruit & Veggie Blended Topper. It has a rich array of nutrients – antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber – along with attractive label ingredients. This particular topper was formulated with antioxidant boosting in mind. It contains blackberries, strawberries and pears, as well as oats.
For the Berry Pear Oat Organic Fruit & Veggie Blended Topper formulation and others, see our information sheets here.
Let us assist you with your next formulation. Contact us today.