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Meat Alternatives and Microbiome Testing Among Pet’s Top Emerging Trends, Mars Petcare Forecasts


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Wild Earth, which uses koji-based protein for its line of dog treats, is an example of a company that offers foods made with alternative proteins.

The latest trends in pet nutrition might have consumers wondering, “Where’s the beef?” And that could be a good thing. 

According to Winson Wong, head of labs at Mars Petcare’s Kinship, companies that offer foods made with meat alternatives and sustainable proteins, as well as pet supplements—particularly those with a focus on addressing common pet health issues—are well aligned with the thinking of many of today’s pet owners. 

“You’re seeing [the alternative protein trend] grow significantly already in human food, with Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats doing extremely well,” Wong said, referencing two growing companies that produce plant-based meat alternatives for people. 

As with so many trends that got their start in the human arena before migrating to pet, foods made with sustainable protein are already resonating with pet owners, Wong said. Pioneering companies in this emerging product category have gained traction recently in startup programs such as Mars’ Kinship, a platform that aims to bring pet-startups, veterinarians, investors, entrepreneurs and partners from all aspects of the pet care industry together, and its Leap Venture Studio, a startup accelerator program. 

“Companies/cohorts under Kinship like Wild Earth, which uses koji-based protein and recently appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and Jiminy’s cricket protein are examples of companies trying to deal with sustainability as a major issue for the food chain in the future,” Wong said. “Other Kinship cohorts/companies, like Shameless Pets, are dealing with this issue through upcycling instead.”

Shameless Pets uses ingredients that farmers and food processors would have otherwise dumped to create natural, grain-free treats.

Pet supplements are also becoming increasingly popular with consumers, Wong reports, as pet owners become more likely to see the value in these often-pricey products.  

“[It’s a] growing category, especially [products] claiming benefits around joints, skin and coat, and digestion, for example,” he said. “The ingredients used in these products are not necessarily new, especially around nutrients and vitamins that are mainly already contained in dog food, but it’s definitely packaged in a new way at a higher price [margin] that pet owners understand.”

However, not every trend forecast to play an important role in the pet world will fit neatly on a pet store shelf. Personalized pet nutrition that takes into consideration the unique microbiome—the collection of gut bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses—of an individual pet might seem futuristic, but it seems the future is already here. 

“Microbiomes is a hot topic currently in the human space, and this has slowly moved towards the pet space,” Wong said, adding that companies are now exploring how to provide more personalized food for pets by better understanding their microbiomes. “Companies like Mars Petcare and Animalbiome are trying to tackle this problem.” 

Animalbiome is a company that offers products that both test and supplement pets’ gut health. 

Wong anticipates that these trends, along with an expanding universe of pet health care-related services, are sure to be major drivers of the innovation that Mars expects to see cultivated on its new pet industry platform, Kinship, which offers programs such as Pet Project, a live pitch event built for entrepreneurs. 

“A part of what Mars does, a huge part, is figuring out how do we support the [pet] ecosystem better, and that’s why we started these programs over the last few years,” Wong said.

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