Appetite for Nutrition
Dog food is mirroring trends in human nutrition, with more USA-made,
clean diets in natural formulations available on the market.
BY SANDY CHEBAT
Dog owners are on the prowl for natural, grain-free, more nutritious and less processed food, according to retailers. At Yorba Linda Feed Store in Yorba Linda, Calif., manager Aaron Gallegos said, “Customers want to find a more
natural, less processed food,” adding that grain free is often
used as a hypoallergenic diet.
Nancy Stewart, manager and buyer at Bark Avenue Pet
Supply in Mesa, Ariz., said, “Customers are asking for mini-
mally processed, nutritious foods.”
Matthew Connors, owner of Pets Plus in Tewksbury, Mass.,
cited antibiotic-free diets, humanly raised sources and alterna-
tive proteins as trends he’s seeing in natural diets right now.
Manufacturers are taking note of these trends, too.
“The grain-free segment of natural food continues to grow
as retailers and consumers are demanding more items that are
grain free,” said Jim Reimann, brand manager for American Pet
Nutrition in Ogden, Utah.
He also has noticed a recent trend in potato-free foods.
“This is driven by consumers recognizing that when grains
were removed from pet foods, many of those were replaced by
potatoes—an ingredient high in carbs and starch,” Reimann
said. “So there has been a trend to remove this ingredient in
Stewart reported that raw is up.
“Raw is growing year over year at close to 30 percent for
the third year in a row,” he said. “Dehydrated and freeze-dried
foods are right behind raw in growth numbers.”
Coupled with the demand for minimally processed prod-
ucts is a focus on clean ingredient statements and local sourcing.
“[Consumers] are seeking out brands that they can know
and trust, along with manufacturers that have a history of excellence and an output of products that are safe and nutritious,”
said Bryan Nieman, brand director for Fromm Family Foods in
David Rizzo, director of operations for Zuke’s in Durango,
Colo., reported similar findings.
“The biggest trend we’re seeing is a push toward trans-
parency,” he said. “Consumers are placing high value on
quality, safe-to-eat proteins and want to know where their
treats are made, where the ingredients came from and why
they were chosen.”
Because customers want to buy from companies they can
trust, Bark Avenue Pet Supply provides background on the
manufacturers it carries and why the store has confidence in
them, Stewart said.
Manufacturers are helping retailers explain their processes
to customers in a variety of ways.
Zuke’s, for example, added a map on the back of its treat
packaging to show “where the product’s high-quality meat,
fruits and vegetables are sourced from,” Rizzo said.
Rashell Cooper, marketing director for Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif., said that trends such as freeze-dried
meats and premium protein choices meet consumer desire for
“We see these desires manifesting in trends like natural
products, clean labels, whole-food ingredients and diets that
speak to the activity levels of individual pets,” she said. “Add-
ing functional superfood ingredients speaks to their desire for
clean labels with easily understood ingredients.”
Industry participants said that these are exciting times in
natural diets—for dogs, their owners and pet businesses.
“The greatest thing about today’s market is the amazing
amount of choices and variety,” Stewart said. “We can literally
tailor a diet to any need. The other encouraging trend is the
availability of foods with few, or no, synthetics.”
NATURAL À LA CARTE
In the spring, Fromm Family Foods in Mequon, Wis., released Chicken au Frommage as part of
its Four-Star Nutritionals line. The grain-free entrée is crafted with chicken, cheese, lentils, peas,
eggs, sweet potatoes, prebiotics and probiotics.
The manufacturer also introduced grain-free canned entrées for dogs in Venison & Lentil
Pâté, Turkey, Duck & Sweet Potato Pâté and Whitefish & Lentil Pâté. Formulated to be nutritionally complete for exclusive feeding, the entrées can also be used as treats, toppers or special
occasion meals, according to the manufacturer. More recipes are planned into the new year.
Caru Pet Food in Vero Beach, Fla., debuted Daily Dish stews in June. Prepared with tender
chunks of chicken, beef, lamb or turkey, the grain-free recipes include chickpeas, apples, peas
and pumpkin, said company officials. Made from 100 percent human-grade ingredients, the
stews come in Beef, Beef with Chicken, Chicken, and Turkey with Lamb, and fourth-quarter
additions include Turkey Stew and Turkey with Salmon Stew.
Also in June, Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif., unveiled its Redbarn Wildwood
Stews line, with premium protein as the first ingredient. The made-in-the-USA foods contain
novel proteins such as trout, duck and quail in palatable gravy for dogs, and they are free from
common canine allergens such as soy, corn and grain, according to the company.
In the fall, Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y., added its first breed-specific product
to the company’s Original line. Formulated as a complete and balanced food, the Large Breed
formula comes in a 30-pound size.
Upcoming from Health Extension Pet Care is a grain-free Large Breed recipe. It features
minimally processed products with human-grade ingredients, said company officials.
Elevate, manufactured by Ogden, Utah-based American Pet Nutrition, launched at SuperZoo
in Las Vegas in July. Free from grain, potato and sweet potato, the super-premium diets are made
with real meat as the first ingredient and feature an antioxidant blend for healthy digestion and
immune system, according to company officials.
The four available recipes were inspired by the outdoors and the National Parks that share
their names. The Acadia recipe uses deboned chicken, premium turkey and duck. The Grand
Teton recipe features lamb and premium turkey. The primary ingredient in Smoky Mountain
recipe is pork, and the food includes premium wild boar. The Yosemite recipe uses salmon and
premium menhaden fish.
Kittrich Corp. in Pomona, Calif., also recently launched its premium dog food: Nature’s
Gourmet Pet Food. Offering a medium-sized kibble that is free of grain and starch, the food provides single-sourced protein, a low caloric level and a 10 percent moisture level, said company
officials. Owners can choose from Chicken, Fish and Lamb varieties in 4- and 25-pound bags.
Superfoods like broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and
pumpkin have become popular ingredients in natural dog foods.