BY LINDSEY GETZ
Life stage feeding uses a diet ailored to the nutritional needs of a dog as it ages. Not
surprisingly, puppy and senior
foods are the two most popular
categories in age-specific dog
foods. As pets live longer, owners show more interest in feeding the best possible diet for their
pets’ specific needs at all stages
The grain-free trend continues to steer dog food trends
in general. Sherry Redwine,
co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, said that puppy food always
will be in demand so she makes
sure to keep grain-free varieties
available in that category.
“Since grain free is gaining
the market share, it is good to
have a couple grain-free puppy
formulas,” Redwine said. “Cus-
tomers do ask us about senior
foods, but we educate them that
a high-quality diet is good for
Brook Bickford, owner of
Gone to the Dogs Boutique in
St. Pete Beach, Fla., said he also
steers customers toward a grain-
free diet, “particularly in that
middle-age stage of life.
“It’s even more important to
switch to grain free as dogs become less active,” Bickford said.
MK Stock, senior brand
manager for Central Garden &
Pet Co. in Walnut Creek, Calif.,
said the continued interest in
grain-free products is driven by
consumer desire for ingredient
avoidance—both for quality in
terms of filler avoidance and for
allergies and food sensitivities.
In addition to the interest in
Ages and Life Stages
grain-free products within the
life stage diet, Bryan Nieman,
brand director of Fromm Fam-
ily Foods in Mequon, Wis., said
he’s seeing more demand for
variety, even within age-specif-
ic diets. What consumers seem
to like most about age-specif-
ic dog foods is that they “take
the guesswork out of selecting
“Today’s consumer often
looks toward a brand or their
retailer to help identify the right
food for the stage their pet is
in,” Nieman said. “Finding pre-
mium brands that offer options
for small- and large-breed dogs
in early life, adolescence and
senior years helps the pet par-
ent transition their dog through
Manufacturers offer foods to satisfy the needs
of dogs at various life stages.
EDUCATING THE CONSUMER
When it comes to diet, consumers always have a lot of questions. Brook Bickford,
owner of Gone to the Dogs Boutique in St. Pete Beach, Fla., said that most consumers are concerned about the size of the kibble. There has been growing interest in
small and toy breeds, and Bickford said most of the food questions he receives are
about size—even more so than about age. The ability to answer questions goes a
long way, as dietary needs can become very confusing to pet owners.
Diane Dewberry, owner of The Healthy Animal in Pembroke, Mass., agreed. She
said that selecting dog food is a “whole new ballgame” from the days when there
were just a handful of choices. When consumers come in with questions, her goal is
to simplify the process for them.
“The choice can become overwhelming for the consumer, so we try to keep it
simple,” Dewberry said. “In terms of educating, it comes down to answering questions.”
Like so many others, Dewberry said she believes in a grain-free diet. But above
all else, she promotes high-quality diets with healthful ingredients.
“We don’t get into a ton of age-specific options, and, in fact, the only senior
NEW IN LIFE STAGE-SPECIFIC
food we carry is a grain-free one,” Dewberry said. “The consumer is most concerned
about quality and being confident that it’s a high-quality diet. If it is, then it will be
suitable for all ages. The most important factor is to educate consumers on what
makes a diet healthful.”
Some manufacturers offer resources to help retailers and consumers find the
best food for their pet. For example, Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British
Columbia, Canada, provides a Food Finder tool on its website that can help pet
owners select the best food for their dog, using information about the dog’s age,
weight, activity level and more. It’s just another way that retailers can help simplify
the process of finding the best diet, said Jaimie Turkington, director of marketing.
There are a couple of new options in age-specific dog food. Breeder’s Choice, a wholly
owned division of Central Garden & Pet Co. in Walnut Creek, Calif., is launching a grain-free
senior food and grain-free senior food for small dogs this month.
“Our products are specifically formulated to help maintain the quality of life for aging
dogs by helping maintain healthy joint, eye and brain function,” said MK Stock, senior
brand manager for the company.
In addition, Fromm Family Foods in Mequon, Wis., recently released Fromm Heartland
Gold life stage-specific grain-free diets including formulas for puppies, large-breed puppies, adults and large-breed adults, said Bryan Nieman, brand director.
Retailers reported that puppy foods are in demand.