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Sizzling Stock: Natural Dog & Cat Food

Natural Diets for Pets Reflect Human Diet Trends



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The consumer focus on healthful and natural ingredients seen in respect to human diets and nutrition has significantly affected pet owners’ preferences in the dog and cat food aisles, insiders reported.

“The single most important influence on the natural diet category continues to be the human food market,” said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Tiki Pets, a brand of St. Louis-based Whitebridge Pet Brands. “‘Natural’ means good, and good means eating whole ingredients, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc. Many of the things we feel good about eating will eventually end up in our pet’s food.”

Dog and cat owners are more educated about natural ingredients and how they affect human health, and they apply that knowledge to their pets.

“We are seeing an evolution of the pet humanization trend, particularly in how pet parents are looking at what ingredients they are feeding their pets,” said Jim Reimann, senior brand manager for American Pet Nutrition in Ogden, Utah. “It’s no longer enough to offer a natural food; consumers want to know about the ingredients being added to and withheld from the food, how the added ingredients are benefiting their pet, and where they are sourced from.”

This is particularly true of millennials, which Reimann said make up “the largest percentage of pet owners and the greatest spending power group.”

“They are driving the trends and demands for natural pet food,” he said. “One of their desires is to have better visibility and transparency into the entire food process. They want to know where ingredients are sourced from, all the way to how it is being made into the final product. This knowledge will help them determine if the brand meets their individual standards and their pets’ needs.”

At A Natural Pet Pantry in Osprey, Fla., co-owner Michelle McConnell said people are educating themselves and choosing natural dog and cat foods that meet each pet’s individual needs.

“We have new customers every day who want to switch to something healthier,” she said.

Grain-free diets remain popular in the natural food category, and there is strong demand for limited-ingredient diets with single-source, natural proteins, said Matt Golladay, president of Lisbon, Ohio-based BrightPet Nutrition Group, parent company of Blackwood, Adirondack and By Nature Pet Foods.

“Even with the recent U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) feedback about grain-free diets, that segment of the market continues to grow,” he said.”

One such benefit is improved gut health, Reimann said.

“One of the trends for innovation is a focus on healthy digestion through ingredients,” Reimann said. “This is being delivered through a variety of ingredients such as fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants to pre- and probiotics being added to the food.”

Looking forward, Reimann said he expects the natural dog and cat diets category to forge ahead in popularity and sales growth.

“We expect the natural pet food category to continue to grow, but it will come through continued evolution and innovation in this space as pet parents seek healthier food options for their pets, resulting in a longer and more enjoyable life,” he said.

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