What does the future hold for specialty pet foods?

With over 13,000 industry members attending each year, the annual Petfood Forum has been a trusted source of pet food industry market and consumer information for over 80 years.

At this year’s event, data expert Natasha Davis unveiled future trends and key drivers in the pet specialty food industry in her presentation “My pets eat better than me.”

According to Davis, the industry has experienced a transformation since the 1990s, when there were limited options at low prices. The pet food industry today is home to over 30,000 products accounting for over $13 billion in revenue annually. Consumers experience no shortage of options when deciding what food to provide their pet. In particular, one type of consumer has allowed for premium pet food products to emerge throughout all channels, offering an immense range of pet food brands: millennials.

Millennials primarily shop for pet food at the grocery store, where they make 50% of their pet food purchases. They are also leading the way in online ordering (11%) compared to any other generation (4%). These trends will likely continue, as the “number of U.S. households with cats or dogs is steadily on the rise as younger generations opt for pet parenting in place of child-rearing,” Davis says.

The “premiumization” of pet food can be seen in the increasing price and variety of pet foods being produced, according to Davis. In 2011, the average price per pound for pet food and treats was $1.71, compared to $2.55 in 2017 — a 46% increase.

With the current price of traditional dry pet food equating to $1.93 and dry alternatives (preserved) ranging from $3.31 to $32.55, the current average spend per pound is getting closer to the premium range. Furthermore, of the 4,554 new pet food items launched during 2017, there was an average increase of 3% in frozen pet food products, 5% increase in meal enhancers, 3% decrease in freeze-dried, and a 2% increase in dehydrated pet food. This shift highlights the introduction of more premium products into the market place.

The benefits of a few specific human food ingredients are now being touted as healthy for pets, too. These include turmeric (anti-inflammatory, steroid replacement and relief for arthritis pain, gastrointestinal disorders and allergies), coconut (skin and thyroid health, improved digestion and increased energy levels) and honey (reduces allergies, anti-inflammatory, sore throat relief and appetite stimulant).

Looking forward, Davis suggests that human food trends are likely to take hold in the pet food industry. Human ingredients (turmeric, coconut, honey) and preferences (energy bars, sustainability, and ethically source products) are being reflected in pet food products. With the influence of the millennial generation, demands for premium pet food will likely continue to increase.

With the pet food industry continuing to undergo “premiumization” with upgraded ingredients and a whole new level of diversity of options, it sure is an exciting time for pet food gourmets and connoisseurs.

Natasha Davis’s full presentation can be found at the Petfood Forum website.

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