Pet Product News: Share how closely food trends for birds, small animals
and/or herps have followed those of the dog and cat categories—the
humanization phenomenon. Do you have any new general trends in the
exotics foods category to share?
BRANDON ARMSTRONG: Reptile owners give their pets just as
much love as dog and cat owners. We find that reptile
owners like convenience items—anything that makes
their pets easier to feed and care for.
HOLLY SHER: For over 80 years, Evanger’s made-in-the-USA pet foods have been dedicated to high-quality,
premium nutrition, serving the independent pet specialty retailer and customers. Evanger’s ferret foods were
developed to offer high meat content, with absolutely
no salt, sugar, colorants, preservatives or carbohydrate
ingredients added, and we are proud to offer this to the
independent pet specialty channel. Ferrets are obligate
carnivores, and they are not one size fits all, but need
foods specific for their very unique dietary needs. Ferret
owners are seeking food solutions specific to their pets.
STEVE SOTELO: Grassroots methods of educating retailers
and consumers on the advancement of reptile nutrition
have proven to be a much slower and dedicated process
over dog and cat consumables. The sheer volume of cat
and dog owners made the conversion to premium diets
much more accessible and profitable.
Although reptile consumers tend to be at the forefront
of trends and newly available information, there can be a
slight disconnect when it comes to change.
For example: For years, chameleon breeders and hobbyists have recommended keeping these reptiles exclusively in screen enclosures as opposed to “terrariums”—
which, at the time, were basically old aquariums with
dense screen covers; but since then, the advancement of
terrariums has come to include front-opening doors and
ventilation systems. Europeans breed a much wider variety of chameleon species in these styles of terrariums,
and have since realized the need for them in the hobby.
Although the process of gaining traction in new reptile
foods is slower, once accepted, the information spreads
rapidly. The industry has been trending toward variable
protein sources. We’ve seen many new insects available,
all with varying nutritional qualities. Our industry has
been able to introduce these sources as ingredients in
newer commercial diets.
PPN: What ingredients and superfoods has your company included in its
recent formulations or reformulations and why?
BA: Our lead product, crickets, is emerging as an ingredi-
ent in reformulations of other pet food. Cricket protein
is cheaper and cleaner to produce than animal-based
protein. Crickets are now being used as the main pro-
tein source in some pet foods. We see this trend growing
stronger as more pet food companies catch on.
HS: Evanger’s canned USA ferret diets contain much-need-
ed water to support hydration, as ferret kibble is very
Although we realize that ferrets are not a large seg-
ment of the pet market, comparatively, we do want to
work with pet specialty retailers to help create a ded-
icated section or space specifically for ferrets because
education on their unique nutritional needs is very
important. This will also help your store associates
sell more of the ferret-specific foods, if they under-
stand more about them.
SS: Exo Terra launched our Soft Pellets line of foods a
few years ago at Interzoo—the largest international pet
products tradeshow in the world. At the time, we had set
out to introduce a number of new ingredients to the rep-
tile industry, including a prebiotic, which helped boost
immune systems and reduce waste. The ingredients we
chose for the diets were not necessarily “new” to the
world of health foods or holistic diets, however. These
ingredients helped with digestion and color enhance-
ment, and introduced a number of antioxidants. The
textures of the foods also closely matched the textures of
insects and vegetation reptiles experienced in the wild:
not wet, but also not completely firm. The results reptiles
experienced from the diets were extremely positive, but
the diets may have been a little ahead of their time.
PPN: Does the exotics food category hear the same requests from consumers as other pet categories, such as whether products are made
and sourced in the USA?
HS: Pet owners are increasingly looking for food options
that are not only made in the USA, but also with 100
percent of the ingredients sourced in the USA. Over
90 percent of the ingredients in Evanger’s foods are
sourced from farms within 50 miles of our Chicagoland
manufacturing plant, continuing our commitment to
fresh, high-quality ingredients made daily in the kitchens of Evanger’s.
SS: We may not hear identical requests from other pet
categories, but we are certainly challenged with keeping
up with growing trends. This may include introducing
evolving color enhancers, or possible new protein sources
that have higher calcium to phosphorus ratios. Ultimately, our consumers want consistency and effectiveness.
Much like humans, reptiles do best with variation.
Country of origin has not been a hot topic in the reptile
industry, although this will likely change in the coming
years. The ;.S. has benefited from a number of global inno-
Foods for herps and small mammals trend toward fresh options with high-quality ingredients.
BRANDON ARMSTRONG, operations manager for
Armstrong’s Cricket Farm in West Monroe, La.
HOLLY SHER, president of Evanger’s Dog & Cat
Food Co. in Wheeling, Ill.
STEVE SOTELO, Exo Terra division manager for
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass.
“Crickets are now being used as the main protein source in some pet foods. We see this
trend growing stronger as more pet food companies catch on.”
—Brandon Armstrong of Armstrong’s Cricket Farm