Tap Leading Consumer Trends to Create Breakthrough Pet Food Products

Chad Wethal | 9 June, 2020

lab eating from bowl

Pet food trends are increasingly drawing from human food trends. Here are three worth exploring as you grow your innovation pipeline

Pet food manufacturers introduce more than 7,000 new products to the global pet food and treat industry annually, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. However, it is well known that anywhere between 70% and 90% of new consumer retail product launches fail. Predicting which new pet food products will sink and which ones will swim can be daunting.

To help forecast tomorrow’s hot pet food trends, examine the factors influencing the food and beverage purchases consumers make for themselves. While human food and beverage trends won’t always serve as a direct correlation to pet food trends, they can provide a clear glimpse of consumer values and help kickstart ideation for new products. We’ve identified three such consumer trends already beginning to influence purchasing decisions related to pets, which may help inspire your next launch.

Trend 1: Moving from physical health to holistic wellness

Consumers are increasingly aware of how their life choices impact their health and are taking a more holistic approach to managing their wellbeing. According to Mintel’s '2018 Healthy Lifestyles Report' and Kerry proprietary research, 77% of U.S. adults claim to be actively trying to improve their health in some way, while 65% of consumers seek added functionality from everyday food and beverages.

Holistic wellness, or the look at finding balance between the body, mind, and spirit, is shifting the way consumers think about their food and beverage choices and changing the definition of ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’. Rather than simply avoiding products with synthetic ingredients, consumers are adopting the perception that their bodies are an ecosystem that should be nourished in a way that supports overall health and wellness. This sentiment is beginning to influence purchases made by pet consumers, too.

To capture opportunities in the holistic wellness space, pet nutrition manufacturers should consider focusing new pet product development opportunities around ingredients with perceived proactive and functional benefits such as:

  • Digestive health: power up a healthy gut with prebiotics, probiotics, and even postbiotics
  • Immune support: strengthen immunity with ingredients such as antioxidants, probiotics, yeast beta glucans, and Vitamin C
  • Weight management: enrich diets with added fibre to help curb appetites and offer reduced-sugar treat options
  • Healthy ageing: provide proactive health for dogs and cats as they reach the 7-year mark and targeted nutrition for senior pets to support mental cognition and joint health
Trend 2: The ‘me, myself and I’ mentality

According to the Mintel-identified ‘make it mine’ trend, consumers are adopting the mindset that personalization is a right, not a privilege. And, the ability for consumers to have input in what they buy has affected every industry in nearly every part of the globe. The pet market is no exception, with Mintel reporting that 61% of U.S. pet consumers are willing to pay more for food customized for their pet’s specific dietary needs. When generational differences amongst pet consumers are evaluated, younger shoppers (18-34) are significantly more likely to pay more for customized pet foods/treats than older shoppers (55+), which tells us that this trend toward customisation will continue to grow as younger shoppers begin their pet parenting journey and gain more buying power.

Customisation can take shape in many forms, but some considerations for future pet food innovations include:

  • Making multiple varieties of meal toppers and mix-ins to be served with every meal, not just on special occasions
  • Creating unique aromas inspired by global flavours or regional taste trends
  • Providing complete and balanced diets customised to a pet’s breed, DNA or activity tracker data
Trend 3: 3-meals per day are out, mini-meals are in

As consumers live a more active and on-the-go lifestyle, traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner mealtimes are taking a backseat to more fluid and flexible arrangements, a trend coined as ‘snackification’.

Mintel’s Snacking Motivations and Attitudes in the U.S. report showed a staggering 95% of American adults snack daily and 70% do so two or more times per day. And, the number of “super snackers” (those who snack four times per day) is also on the rise, suggesting the snack trend will grow and evolve into an expectation for pet parents.

When it comes to snack selection, consumers are seeking safe products that are flavourful, above all else, with cost and calorie content also being key decision drivers. We already see this trend begin to play out with pet parents, particularly within the treat category, as 62% enjoy giving their pets new flavors and varieties of food and treats.

Pet food manufacturers can prepare for this trend, by:

  • Providing more variety pack options for treats and snacks
  • Offering snack-sized or single-serve prepared meals in easy-to-use containers to nourish active pets on the go
  • Balancing indulgence with health such as a peanut butter or yoghurt treat coating enhanced with functional ingredients such as probiotics

Our team of experts can help brands meet consumer demands and turn insights into tomorrow’s next breakthrough pet food or treat. Browse our website to learn more about our portfolio of pet wellness and nutrition solutions, or contact us to discuss ways to partner.