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Working Overtime to Help Overweight, Senior Pets

Yet another example of human trends is crossing over into the pet world: Like we the people, our pets are getting fatter. For several years, the overweight pet alarm bells have been tolling, and inherent in this trend is good and bad news.


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If your pets are among the growing numbers of corpulent dogs and cats, the news is pretty grim, as those extra pounds put pets at higher risk for several life-threatening conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese. As on the human side, it’s a trend that often dovetails with getting older; approximately 40 percent of dog- or cat-owning households have a pet age 7 or older, according to a Packaged Facts consumer survey conducted in November 2015.

If, on the other hand, you’re a pet product marketer or retailer, the trend whereby our pets are getting rounder and grayer spells opportunity. Packaged Facts’ new market report, Senior, Weight Management and Special Needs Pet Products in the U.S., estimates this market at $3.6 billion in 2015, with targeted foods for dogs and cats accounting for 83 percent of this amount. According to national consumer survey data from Simmons, as of 2015, 25 percent of dog- or cat-owning households purchased senior or weight management pet foods. Not surprisingly, these households are more likely than dog or cat households overall to purchase pet products that pamper their pets and to pay more for more healthful products, according to the Packaged Facts survey. They also are standout consumers of organic, limited-ingredient, holistic and veterinary/prescription pet foods.

If human food trends continue to hold sway, an ounce of pet food prevention might be increasingly worth a pound of cure. This means more competition for senior and weight management foods, but it also means ongoing solid footing for a broad spectrum of superpremium pet foods able to command, and merit, significantly higher price points.

These tendencies highlight another pet market trend currently taking a page from the human side: Increasingly, pet food marketers and owners are focusing on “whole food” diets that are less likely to pack on pounds and more likely to support health in general. For example, Wellness, a brand of WellPet based in Tewksbury, Mass., is touting its Complete Health natural recipes featuring whole ingredients to help pets maintain a healthful weight throughout their lives. The Honest Kitchen in San Diego embraces lean, single-source proteins and healthy fats, and eschews refined carbohydrates, salt and processed ingredients; 55 percent of pets with weight problems saw an improvement after switching to its foods, the company claims.

Though not labeled as being for weight loss, many of Tampa, Fla.-based Halo, Purely for Pets’ natural pet food offerings meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ “light” criteria. This trend might be taking some of the steam out of the more specialized foods. The 25 percent purchasing rate for senior and weight management pet foods is about the same as it was five years ago, and mass-market sales of these foods slipped 7 percent during the 52 weeks ending Nov. 1, 2015, Packaged Facts estimates based on global market research firm IRI’s multioutlet data.

If human food trends continue to hold sway, an ounce of pet food prevention might be increasingly worth a pound of cure. This means more competition for senior and weight management foods, but it also means ongoing solid footing for a broad spectrum of superpremium pet foods able to command, and merit, significantly higher price points.

 

David Lummis is the lead pet-market analyst for Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com. He supervised and edited Packaged Facts’ new report, Senior, Weight Management, and Special Needs Pet Products in the U.S., 2nd Edition (March 2016).

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