Attitudes toward pets have changed in general over the last few decades. More than ever before, consumers today view their pets not just as animals, but as part of the family.
Pet food that meets human standards
To today’s pet owners, it’s only logical to give a beloved pet the same highquality food and drink that they enjoy themselves. There’s a feeling that it’s not fair or right to feed our animals any food that is lower quality than our own. This mindset is driving a number of changes in the pet food industry, which follow similar lines as consumer demands in the F&B industry.
Humanizing Pet Food
How F&B trends are penetrating the pet food market
Paleo and Raw
The paleo diet began back in 1970, and really started to take off in the early 2000s. By 2013, the Paleo Diet was Google’s most searched diet term. The international paleo food market is predicted to rise by a steady 5% CAGR till 2021. Today, paleo foods can be found in every product line, from paleo cheese to paleo pizza crusts, and paleo chocolate.
The paleo diet is driven by a desire to return to a time of simpler, cleaner foods. Paleo aficionados want to eat more naturally and believe that early humans ate a healthier diet without processed foods. Paleo is further fueled by the general trend against mass industry and mass-produced foods. The proponents of paleo claim that its followers will regain their physical energy, mental focus and general sense of well-being, whilst its opponents claim the diet is unsustainable and expensive.
Paleo is still very much emerging in the F&B arena, with steady but growing interest amongst consumers, and new products are expected to follow this cadence. In contrast to gluten-free, this is still very much an emerging trend, with similar levels of maturity across traditional F&B categories. For now, this is very much a niche offering, unlike its gluten-free friend.
Paleo Market Offerings versus Consumer Discussions in Various F&B Categories
These are the same issues that drive the demand for raw foods in the pet food arena. Raw is the leading feature discussed by customers, with consumer discussion outstripping product offerings by at least 400%. There is a heightened sense of awareness around raw pet food, with much of the discussions centered on form, format and preparation methods. Grain free and raw are the most discussed features amongst pet owners over the last two years, ahead of high protein and organic.
Top Features Discussed by Consumers in Pet Food (US, UK, Aus Data, Nov. 2016-Nov. 2018)
Pet owners want to draw on their pet’s natural origins in the wild, feeding them the same foods that their ancestors would have eaten. Raw pet food, together with products made from whole prey and wild-caught ingredients, connects to this belief. Raw pet food is made up of primarily uncooked meat, edible bones, and organs. Pet owners want pet food that is “unprocessed” and natural, shunning mass-produced, mass-industry products. Raw pet foods are minimally processed, adding a sense of transparency and authenticity to the product.
Consumer Unmet Needs in Pet Food (US, UK, Aus Data) Nov. 2016-Nov. 2018
Raw pet food brings its own challenges
Less processing means that products are more at risk of decay, losing their freshness, or becoming contaminated. Pet owners worry about compromising their dog’s health with contaminated ingredients, even though they want to serve a raw diet.
Advances in packaging and preparation methods offer some solutions. One of the main solutions is freeze-dried or dehydrated pet food. These products take minimally processed ingredients and use an industrial freeze-drying method to remove all the moisture which caused decay, without affecting the level of nutrients.
Stella and Chewy’s raw meat patties capitalize on the trend. They promise all-natural, hormone-free ingredients from single-source protein, freeze-dried to maintain all the nutrients.
KOLs endorse this enthusiastically. Many pet owners use freeze-dried raw food as a base for their homemade pet meals, or a way to make sure that their dogs and cats get all the nutrients they need.
Perpetual innovation, both in F&B and pet food, shows there’s plenty of room for the market to expand. Human-style treats, new healthy foods that bring proactive benefits for wellbeing and nutrition, and new ways of preserving and packaging pet food products, are just some of the ways that this shift is currently manifesting itself. As people ‘humanize’ their pets, it’s caused a critical shift in the pet food industry. As trends cascade cross-category, the pet food industry should keep a close eye on adjacent traditional F&B categories to understand what changes will most likely be next.
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