Pet diets that boast limited and
transparently sourced ingredients,
along with raw foods, continue to grow
in demand, manufacturers report.
What are the latest—and strongest—trends in dog and cat
JOHN HART: The strongest and most sustainable trends in dog and
cat nutrition are alternative format, minimally processed and
transparent ingredient sourcing. Alternative format foods include air dried, freeze dried, dehydrated and frozen. They are all
minimally processed in order to help maintain the natural nutrition of the ingredients. We are also seeing a strong desire from
pet parents for not just grain-free products, but also products
with as few “filler” carbohydrates as possible.
TRACE Y HATCH-RIZZI: Raw food is definitely a category that has been
growing in popularity. Even though it’s still a small segment in
the overall market, it’s certainly seeing considerable and steady
growth. More and more retailers are installing freezers or adding
more of them to meet the growing demand for frozen raw.
The average cat owner may not have ever heard of raw for
cats. There are also many people that feed their dogs raw but
haven’t thought to explore raw options for their cats.
As pet parents are looking for clean labels and minimally processed foods, they’re finding that the ancestral diet model really
fits that need. One of the reasons why pet parents are focusing
more on raw is because it’s the true model of what an ancestral
diet really is. People really want their pets to eat well, and the
trend toward simplifying ingredient decks and making products
with whole foods is becoming front and center.
As the grocery and mass retail channels continue to try to
compete with independent pet specialty by offering more
“premium” diets for pets, what can retailers and manufacturers do to ensure that customers continue to see the value in pet specialty food brands? And what are the key differentiators between the offerings in these channels?
HART: Alternative format foods like our Isle of Dogs Nourish are
not available at grocery or mass and are unique to pet specialty
retailers. Manufacturers and retailers of these products need to
educate pet parents on the unique features and benefits of these
special foods to help them understand why these products are
different from those found at grocery or mass. Key differentiators include high meat content (90 percent in some cases), limited ingredients, grain free, organ meats and transparent sourcing.
HATCH-RIZZI: We’re seeing products labeled as premium and “
super premium” being produced by large mass-market producers
who are trying to compete with pet specialty and independent
retailers. They are labeling their products as “premium” at a
much lower price point. What consumers need to evaluate is if
the quality is really the same as what the smaller, family-owned
companies are producing, like us here at Rad Cat. And these large
companies will often command better pricing for their materials
than small companies can, which allows them to offer products
at a lower price.
When it comes to quality, pet parents really get what they
pay for. Ingredient sourcing has a considerable effect on price.
Free-range and organic ingredients, especially whole-muscle
protein ingredients, will always cost more than simply “cage free
and antibiotic free.” While price is a consideration for some pet
parents, people are seeing that there is also value and savings by
providing optimal nutrition, resulting in fewer veterinary visits.
Retailers are very savvy and are responding to current trends by
carrying a variety of high-quality foods that span price points.
What can pet specialty retailers, no matter how large or
small, do to ensure that they curate the best possible dog
and cat food assortments for their customers?
HART: The opportunity to research and performance-test best
JOHN HART, president of Isle of Dogs in Milwaukee
TRACEY HATCH-RIZZI, vice president and co-founder of Radagast Pet Food in Portland, Ore.