“The pet market has been transformed by the humanization of pets,” according to David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “The term ‘pet parent’ has increasingly replaced ‘pet owner.’”
At this year’s Pet Food Forum, one of the pre-show workshops focused on consumer insights, and the value they can play as companies develop or tweak products, specifically for the pet food market. Set in a gameshow format – Pet Family Feud – took nearly 200 pet food professionals to school on the thinking consumers exhibit when it comes to their pets. As R&D professionals, as marketers and as pet parents, you’d think, ‘we’ve got this down.’ If someone were to ask you, “what types of pet food protein do dog food purchasers most say they avoid?” How would you answer? Interestingly, most of the teams competing in the Pet Family Feud never came close to unlocking consumers’ insights on what the top five answers were: salmon, shrimp, white fish, chicken, and tuna.
For 45 minutes attendees were constantly reminded of how frustratingly fickle humans can be when it comes to how they choose, and what they choose, when providing for their pets. For instance, the list of main types of ingredients cat owners avoid for their felines could easily be swapped for their own food preferences—no fillers/byproducts, artificial ingredients/colors/preservative free, non-GMO, grain-free/gluten-free, and corn-free.
Consumer awareness of ‘whole food’ items, other than meat, poultry and seafood, called out in pet food product names and descriptions was led by rice at 30 percent, followed by mixed veggies and carrots at 21 and 20 percent, respectively. Further down the list at about 10 percent were apples, eggs, oats, barley, potatoes and pumpkin.
As pet parents increasingly recognize the sensory and nutritional benefits of fresh and “natural” foods, they want the same qualities in food they buy for their pets. With pet food nutrition taking on a human direction, Tree Top’s fruit offerings can aid product developers in formulating pet foods with natural, easily recognizable ingredients. In fact, according to Mintel, a consumer market research firm, adding fruit to pet food recipes appeals to consumers who are more aware of the importance of such healthy foods in their own diet.