Sizzling Stock: Aquatic Food
Fish Foods Offer Frozen & Novel Formulas
In the aquatic arena, despite the popularity of traditional foods such as flakes and pellets, manufacturers and pet specialty retailers report that frozen and all-in-one foods are on the rise.
“Frozen foods are seeing the most action,” said Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif., adding that there is a lot of “activity on the marine side for all-in-one foods.”
Kreig LeBlanc, manager and co-owner of Aquariums West in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, agreed.
“We rely on a lot of frozen diets,” he said. “Frozen offerings make up the bulk of our foods. Probably 90 percent of the food sales we do are frozen.”
Marcia Martin, co-owner of Coastal Aquarium in Richmond Hill, Ga., said saltwater owners, in particular, favor frozen.
“Flake foods are still a bigger seller on the freshwater side of the hobby, but not so much when it comes to saltwater,” she said. “We do a lot of saltwater, so we probably sell as much frozen food as we do flake food, if not more.”
Paul Nixon, owner of Slither and Swim in West Haven, Conn., has also noticed that experienced fish keepers are increasingly transitioning to premium foods.
Jonas Sternberg, owner of Sierra Fish and Pets in Renton, Wash., reported a similar trend at his store.
“I would say flake food makes up a majority of sales, but it’s changed,” Sternberg said. “It’s evened out dramatically. Revenue is higher for gourmet foods or alternative foods, such as frozen foods.”
Furthermore, aquarists are demanding variety and novel ingredients in high-quality diets, according to insiders.
“The most prevalent current trend with consumers is to feed their fish a mix of foods to avoid having their aquatic pets get bored with a specific food,” Clevers said. “Secondly, consumers are always looking for novel ingredients they think their fish will like.”
To accommodate hobbyists’ demand for variety in the fish food department, Steven Bayes, owner of Reefers Direct Aquatics in St. Cloud, Fla., said he recommends flake and pellet diets to supplement frozen offerings.
At Pet Zone Tropical Fish, which has two stores in San Diego, co-owner Roger Ma reported that many hobbyists are switching to brands “using complete protein sources from sustainable sources that the fish can benefit from and also easily digest.”
“Many of the fish food brands are also adding probiotics to their ingredients,” he added.
Hikari is one such brand.
“We have recently expanded our inclusion of probiotics into some of our diets outside of the koi offering,” Clevers said. “Most recently, we have introduced Saki-Hikari Marine Carnivore and Saki-Hikari Marine Herbivore.
“We studied a wide variety of probiotic strains to pinpoint the one that offers the best benefit to the fish it will be fed,” he said. “It’s easy to add a probiotic to a fish food, but if you don’t include one the fish can utilize, there is no benefit.”
Both retailers and manufacturers reported a pervasive shift toward high-quality aquatic diets.
“The general trend in foods has been a dramatic shift away from dry foods, either flake or pellet,” said Jimi Casper, owner of Jimbo’s Gumbos in Virginia Beach, Va. “Professionals and hobbyists are understanding the benefits of mixed frozen foods that meet all the nutritional requirements of the fish eating them. … Without a doubt, this is the biggest trend in aquarium foods and pretty much across the board in the pet industry. Dogs, fish and all pets are now eating healthier than ever before.”