As consumer awareness increases and more manufacturers offer
grain-free diets for dogs, category sales continue to rise.
BY SANDY CHEBAT
With accelerated demand for grain-free diets, the market is eeing more options for dogs of all life styles and stages. “The popularity of natural and grain free seems to have
followed the human food trend around natural, organic, low-carb
and gluten-free diets,” said Paul Cooke, vice president, trade and in-
dustry development, at Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. in St. Louis. He
added that “in most cases, the family’s nutritional preferences are
consistent with their pet food purchase.”
Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet
Brands in St. Louis, agreed.
“Dog owners want their pets to be healthy and happy, and they
want to know they did their very best when choosing a food,” she
said. “Owners sometimes know more about human nutrition than
dog nutrition, and that colors their choices when it comes to dog
Consistently increasing sales and a rise in manufacturers joining
the segment demonstrate that customers want these diets, according
to industry participants.
Both Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets Naturally in Traverse City,
Mich., and Lisa Vogt, CEO of The Dawg House Grooming Boarding
Daycare in Athens, Ga., said sales of grain-free diets for dogs continue
to increase. They attributed it to consumers being more educated to
the potential benefits and seeing the results in their own pets.
Several companies cited quality ingredients as a major sales driver,
with price being a lesser consideration for pet owners.
“Most of my customers don’t ask about pricing,” said Howard
Feldman, owner of California Pet Center in Woodland Hills, Calif.
“They are more concerned about the quality and how it works with
Dog owners also want choices, said Betsy Berger, communications
manager for Merrick Pet Care in Amarillo, Texas.
“Pet parents are looking for grain-free options for all stages
of life—from the young puppy to the young-at-heart aging dog,”
Margelis said she finds this to be true with her customers.
“When looking for new foods, consumers want them to be tailored to their individual pet,” she said. “‘One size’ does not fit all,
and with the options that are available, we can give consumers what
EW PRODUCTS EW INGREDIENTS
GRAIN-FREE FORMULAS FOR ALL STAGES
More pet food manufacturers are adding grain-free lines
or formulations to their canine diet offerings.
For example, St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina PetCare
Co. added Grain Free and No Corn, Wheat or Soy formulas
to its Sport, Focus, Savor, Bright Mind and True Nature
Purina Pro Plan lineups. In addition to being grain or soy
free, the recipes contain no artificial colors or flavors and
no poultry byproduct meal, the company stated.
In addition to being grain-free, Evansville, Ind.-based Midwestern Pet Foods’ new Earthborn Holistic
Venture line is potato free and limited ingredient. The
six recipes feature regionally sourced, single-animal-or-igin proteins, such as rabbit and duck from France, pork
and turkey from the U.S., Alaskan pollock and Pacific
squid, the company stated, adding that they all come
in recyclable packaging containing up to 30 percent
With a focus on small dogs, St. Louis-based
Whitebridge Pet Brands recently debuted Tiki Dog Aloha
Petites in grain-free baked kibble and whole wet foods.
The formulas contain nutrient-dense organ meat first,
low-carbohydrate nutrition, and superfoods such as kale
and coconut, according to the manufacturer. The kibble
comes in lamb, chicken, duck and fish varieties, and the
whole wet foods come in seven meat, poultry and fish
THE CHANGING FACE OF GRAIN FREE
Dog owners want fewer “fillers” and other low-cost
ingredients in the grain-free diets they feed their pets,
industry participants reported. Increasingly, what’s not
in the bag is equally important as what is inside.
Warren Hill, chief commercial officer for Midwestern Pet Foods in Evansville, Ind., said that consumers
want novel proteins and natural ingredients, but it
doesn’t end there.
“When [we were] formulating Earthborn Holistic
Venture, consumers told us that they didn’t want any
ingredients that detracted from the overall quality of
the food,” he said. “From top to bottom, consumers
want only high-quality, nutrient-dense ingredients that
can withstand scrutiny.”
Paul Cooke, vice president of trade and industry
development at Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. in St. Louis,
said he sees similar trends.
“We’re seeing more and more diets formulated
with high-quality protein and simple, natural ingre-
dients,” he said. “For consumers who are looking for
natural and grain-free pet food, what is not included in
the ingredient list—grain, soy, byproduct, and artificial
colors and preservatives—is just as important as
what is in the bag.”
Several sources reported seeing more potatoes in
“I’m seeing brands using carbohydrates or starch-
es like white potatoes in place of grain,” said Ann
Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge
Pet Brands in St. Louis. “It’s a trade-off. While dogs are
omnivores and carbs play a role in nutrition, at the end
of the day, switching one out for another isn’t the right
solution for the pet.”
Lisa Vogt, CEO of The Dawg House Grooming
Boarding Daycare in Athens, Ga., agreed.
“I am seeing lots of potato and sweet potato, but
this only turns to sugar in the body as well, so I am not
a fan of this new substitute ingredient for grain-free
foods,” she said. “I am also starting to see garbanzo
beans as a new ingredient additive.”
Lentils and chickpeas are the substitutes Howard
Feldman, owner of California Pet Center in Woodland
Hills, Calif., sees more of in grain-free diets. He also
reported an increase in the inclusion of fruits and
vegetables, as well as more organic options.
Superfoods, such as kale, hemp hearts, broccoli,
blueberries and manuka honey, are showing up in
grain-free diets, said Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets
Naturally in Traverse City, Mich.
“When it comes to proteins we are seeing kangaroo, guineafowl, pork and goat,” she added. “These
ingredients are recognizable to our shoppers, and they
are excited to be able to provide them to their pets.“