At the outset of 2020, the pet food market, like the rest of the U.S. economy, was humming along. According to Mintel, the U.S. has the highest per capita spending on pet food in the world and is the largest market by value. And while both the pet food segment and the overall food market remain bullish, consumer dynamics have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with disruptions to both work and school for most people.
Does this mean consumers will alter their pet food spending habits? Will it change their preferences for clean label, natural ingredients and premium products? That remains to be seen, but if history is any guide, people are often willing to sacrifice spending on themselves to ensure they have what they feel is best for their pets. After all, pets are important members of their families. While pet parents may eventually have to cut back on spending, they are not likely to change their preferences for products with natural, organic and clean label ingredients.
Opportunities in innovation
For the record, the following info from market research firm, Mintel, was gathered prior to the global pandemic. In the Mintel report, “A YEAR OF INNOVATION IN PET FOOD AND PRODUCTS, 2020,” released in March, analyst Mikolaj Kaczorowski catalogues exciting innovations in pet food and pet treats, giving them context related to overall trends. In the section of the report focused on the Americas, Kaczorowski called out three opportunities:
Target younger pet owners
Millennials and older Gen Z pet owners have been buying natural and organic foods for their pets (just as they prefer to do for themselves). This offers an opportunity for brands to capitalize on with organic and all-natural ingredients.
Target pets in different life stages
This is fairly self-explanatory. By formulating foods with age-appropriate nutritional profiles, pet parents can be assured they’re giving their beloved pets the nutrition they need to help them feel their best. I see this extending into pet treats for specific conditions, such as joint health, stress and cognitive function.
Take action on environmental concerns
Many consumers, but younger ones in particular, are interested in patronizing companies that are sustainably minded. This encompasses reducing their environmental footprints to upcycling ingredients and cutting food waste. Pet food manufacturers that are consciously committed to sustainability will find a market with receptive pet parents.
Tree Top trendsetting
Upcycling is near and dear to Tree Top. In fact, Tree Top was started as a way to give a home to homeless fruit or fruit that might otherwise have gone to waste. Since 1960 – well before the term upcycling originated around 2000 – Tree Top was taking fruit unsuitable for the fresh market and turning it into delicious and nutritious fruit products and ingredients. Check out our video on it here, “Reducing Food Waste”.
Before signing off, I want to mention another company in the U.S. using upcycled ingredients, Shameless Pets. They claim they have a line of dog treats made with 40% upcycled ingredients. Of course, my favorite is Applenoon Delight, which uses leftover apple pulp from cideries.