Close and go directly to story >>>

Tree Top Ingredients Newsletter

Sign up to receive our monthly blog full of industry news and insights designed to keep you informed – delivered to your inbox.

Tree Top

Pet Dietary Patterns Mirror Owners' Habits

11/15/2018  By Jeannie Swedberg

Pet Dietary Patterns Mirror Owners' Habits 

Since plant-based eating is on the rise among pet parents and people in general, it’s really no surprise interest in plant-based pet treats and foods is growing as well. A mere 0.1 percent of petfood is vegan today, but the niche is up 24 percent. And vegetarian petfood is only 0.4 percent of the petfood market, growing at 12 percent1.

We treat our animals as part of our family (95 percent of pets are considered family2) and so of course, we want them to be healthy and eat the same types of food we do—plant forward, clean label, free from artificial ingredients, added functional ingredients, no preservatives, etc. Furthermore, half of Americans say their pet is like their best friend, and 49 percent claim their pet is like their child, according to Mintel.

The pet treat market includes kibble toppers and inclusions. To give you some background, here are a few pet treat market facts from Mintel:

  • 56 percent of U.S. consumers give their pets treats daily
  • 27% of consumers look for pet food and treats with a limited number of ingredients
  • 37% look for all-natural pet food and treats
  • 18% look for organic pet food and treats
  • 26% look for treats with superfood ingredients
  • 20% look for treats with plant protein
  • More than half of U.S. consumers look for treats with added nutrition
  • 35% look for treats that help maintain cognitive function

Taking on toppers

Recently, I attended the 2018 Petfood Research and Development Showcase in the Little Apple—Manhattan, Kan. (Home to Kansas State University and AIB International, as well as a great little ‘foodie’ scene.) The theme of the Petfood R&D Showcase was treats, toppers and inclusions. While there was lots of market and trend info shared, the best part was a hands-on learning session led by Tree Top where attendees were able to formulate their own plant-forward petfood toppers.

The breakout sessions were designed for attendees to create healthy toppers for kibble in a liquid base. To be clear, toppers are wet mixtures poured over dry kibble—for cats, dogs or any other kibble-munching pets. Participants had the option to use sample formulas or freestyle their topper. At each formulating station, there were organic fruit and vegetable purees (apple, butternut squash, cranberry, spinach, carrot, strawberry, blackberry, pumpkin, pear, and sweet potato) and a couple of grain options (oats, quinoa) to use. There was a lot of mixing and matching going on and tasting as well—without the kibble, though. Finished products were packaged in pouches with twist off caps, making them easy to open, apportion and store any leftovers.

The group was also given an array of fruit and vegetable powders with which to formulate. These could be mixed and matched to provide pets with different benefits—organic, plant protein, superfoods, antioxidants, etc. Yes, all the same benefits we’re used to seeing in people foods. Powdered toppers can be sprinkled atop kibble or mixed into wet foods.

Check out the healthy topper sample formulas here.

Contact us at to find out more about using fruit and vegetable purees and powders in your petfood formulations. 

To request a sample, click here for the sample request form.

1 Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, xAOC+Pet 52 weeks ending 03/03/2018

2 Harris Poll, Survey Fielded in 2007 and 2015 from James Restivo, The Nielsen Co., presentation at The Pet Food Forum Innovation Workshop, April 22, 2018.