Today’s pet owners are pursuing specialty and functional diets for their canine family members,
and manufacturers are responding with diverse, high-quality selections.
BY LIZETT BOND
Consumers with dogs that have specific nutritional needs are in- creasingly looking for specialty and functional diets, such as weight-management or life-stage formulas, to not only meet
basic dietary requirements, but also resolve particular issues and promote a healthier immune system, according to industry insiders.
“With the continued pet food humanization trend, and just as they
enhance their own diets, consumers are now searching for ways to
improve their dogs’ diets with food, supplements and toppers that
feature specialized functional ingredients,” said Annabelle Immega,
trade marketing manager for Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack,
British Columbia, Canada.
Dog owners shopping for these foods are generally seeking
high-quality ingredients in their choices, insiders said.
“Many dogs have allergies or aversions to certain proteins, grains
or other ingredients found in average pet foods,” said Adrian Pettyan,
CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food Co. in Vero Beach, Fla. “As a
result, customers are looking for variety in flavors, a limited number
of wholesome ingredients and an appealing aroma that will entice
their pal to eat.”
Further, the dietary needs of both puppies and senior dogs are of-
ten met through specialized formulas, Pettyan added.
Brian Ahearn, co-owner of Four Your Paws Only in North Conway, N.H., has noticed an increased consumer call for life stage- and
size-specific foods. In response, the store offers a wide variety of selections for puppies, weight control, seniors, and large and small breeds.
“Demand has definitely grown,” he said. “A customer with a large
or small dog often wants a size-appropriate food.”
Due to customer requests, Odyssey Pets in Dallas includes a lim-
ited selection of puppy, weight-control and large-breed foods in its
product mix, said co-owner Sherry Redwine.
“We also have customers asking for really low-fat diets for dogs
with pancreatitis,” she said. “There is a canned line I recommend with
1. 8 percent fat.”
She has received inquiries about veterinarian-recommended
low-protein diets, as well.
“I generally show the customer some grain-based diets that
are lower in protein than my higher-quality grain-free diets,”
At Dolly’s Pet Shoppe in Sandy, Ore., owner Anna DePaolo noted
that along with puppy foods, she carries some senior and weight-loss
“They don’t take up the majority of the mix,” she said. “These
products really have to be significant and different for me to carry
Senior foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin fall into
“There is a lot of controversy about adding these supplements
into the kibble,” DePaolo said. “I understand that, but when a customer comes back to tell me that they can see an improvement in
their senior dog, I pay attention.”
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“Customers are looking for variety in flavors, a limited number of wholesome ingredients
and an appealing aroma that will entice their pal to eat.”
—Adrian Pettyan of Caru Pet Food Co.
As consumers become more discerning of pet food ingredients, the call
for specialized diets has intensified, and manufacturers aim to meet these
“Our mission is to create foods for pets that feature the same quality and
care as those made at home,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru
Pet Food Co. in Vero Beach, Fla. “It’s important that our stews have an appealing
aroma to attract picky eaters or pets that may not be as interested in food.”
At Caru, all processes begin with 100 percent human-grade, limited-
ingredient recipes that are made in the USA, Pettyan said.
“Additionally, we refrain from grain, wheat, gluten, corn and soy ingredients,
and absolutely no ingredients from China,” he added.
At My Perfect Pet Food, each blend features 100 percent restaurant-grade meats, whole vegetables and fruit, which are naturally rich in essential
nutrients, eliminating the need to “add the synthetic supplements found on
many labels,” according to Karen Neola founder of the Poway, Calif.-based
My Perfect Pet Food’s blends are also free from preservatives, gluten and
“Each blend is also considered hypoallergenic, since there are few
ingredients and none that contain known allergens in dog or cat diets,” Neola
said. “Once all of those criteria are met, we develop a formula that will adhere
to the specific dietary need in question.”
Addressing common issues in dogs that could be supported by diet was
the first consideration that Petcurean Pet Nutrition took into account as it
began formulating its Go! Solutions Meal Mixers line, said Annabelle Immega,
trade marketing manager for the Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada-based
“From there, we spent time researching and developing recipes that are
both nutritious and delicious,” Immega said.
Noting the growth in the meal mixers and toppers category, Petcurean
ultimately decided to follow that route, she said.
“In addition, the Meal Mixers seamlessly complement Go! Solutions, our
existing solutions-based line of pet food, and can easily be added to any Go!
Solutions kibble and wet food,” Immega said.