Less Is More
BY LIZE TT BOND
In a market with unlimited pet food options, consumers increasingly trust the transparency
and simplicity of high-quality, limited-ingredient diets.
Limited-ingredient dog foods continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek short ingredient panels and embrace the message that these recipes can be highly nutritious and address food sensitivity issues, according to Annabelle Immega,
trade marketing manager for Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British Columbia,
“In a crowded market with an abundance of choice, sometimes simplicity is the key
to winning consumer confidence,” Immega said.
Increasingly, consumers trust the transparency of high-quality, limited-ingredient
diets, agreed Warren Hill, chief commercial officer for Midwestern Pet Foods in Evansville, Ind.
“Traditional use of low-cost fillers has also helped shape demand,” he said, noting
that pet owners are increasingly seeking foods that leave these fillers out.
With food sensitivities a growing concern among pet owners, limited-ingredient
foods are a great option for pets with these issues, Immega said.
“It can be challenging to determine what a pet is reacting to, so a recipe with a single
source of meat protein and as few ingredients as possible makes it easier to determine
what is causing the reaction,” she said. “One of the main causes of dietary intolerances
is protein, and we’re continuing to see demand for recipes that feature novel proteins.”
While these diets have become popular as pet owners look to simplify their pets’
diets and reduce exposure to ingredients that might cause upset stomachs and skin
irritations, there is another motive behind the trend, said Chanda Leary-Coutu, director
of consumer experience for WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass.
“Just as we look to strip our own diets of unnecessary ingredients, we’re looking to
do the same for our pets,” Leary-Coutu said.
Denise Strong, owner of Pawz on Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., agreed, noting that
food-quality-conscious customers want their pets to consume a diet equal to their own.
“The mentality is that ‘if it’s good for me, it must be good for my pet,’” Strong said.
“[Customers in] my market area are not so much coming in looking for limited-ingre-
dient diets as they are coming to me for advice.”
Still, Pawz on Main customers often leave with a limited-ingredient product in hand.
“Pet parents are thrilled to finally have products that are easily digested and well
tolerated by their dogs, with no more vomiting or runny stools,” she said.
Karen Neola, founder of My Perfect Pet in Poway, Calif., agreed that as pet owners
become more aware of the ingredients in their pets’ diets, they recognize that a shorter
list of higher-quality ingredients builds a better foundation for overall pet health.
“The key is not to simply shorten the ingredient list, but to ensure that every ingredient is easily digested and offers a specific contribution to the pet’s dietary needs,”
There’s no direct formula for innovation when it comes to creating new products, according to Chanda
Leary-Coutu, director of consumer experience for WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass.
“It requires a constant flow of information from third-party research along with insights from our customers
and retail partners,” she said.
Manufacturers agreed that anticipation of demand is the cornerstone to cutting-edge nutrition.
“First, we listen to the consumer and the retailer,” said Warren Hill, chief commercial officer for Midwestern
Pet Foods in Evansville, Ind. “That information is used to innovate new and exciting ingredients.”
At My Perfect Pet in Poway, Calif., formulations begin with certified-restaurant-grade meat, fish or poultry as
the No. 1 ingredient, said founder Karen Neola.
“New products are created in collaboration with veterinarians who are looking for healthier, more natural
alternatives to traditional commercial diets,” Neola said. “Then we formulate to meet nutrient profiles recom-
mended by animal nutritionists and universities with veterinary programs.”
Constant monitoring, evaluation and implementation of feedback are imperative to developing successful
new products, said Annabelle Immega, trade marketing manager for Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British
“This allows us to provide new options that meet the growing sensitivities and trends set by consumers and
their pets,” she said. “We are constantly researching and testing new recipes.”