In recent years, personalized pet food has started etching its mark on the pet food industry. And manufacturers are taking notice.
From mystery boxes, to pet food delivery, personalized pet food is gaining traction among new pet owners, given the convenience and the range of customization that it can offer potential customers.
New consumers are buying, and the US$10 billion price tag is making manufacturers excited about possibilities.
Alongside this trend comes the birth of emerging pet food categories – the alternative formats, as some manufacturers call them – bringing with it a whole new range of brands that manufacturers and retailers can push to consumers.
Emerging pet food categories
New and alternative formats have penetrated the market in the past decade alone. These include freeze-dried, air-dried, and raw dehydrated foods, as well as toppers and meal enhancers.
- FREEZE-DRIED FOODS. When freeze-drying pet food, all liquids in the raw ingredients are removed through a process that combines low temperature and pressure, essentially phasing the moisture into gas. Simply put, the process essentially disallows condensation to take place. By avoiding the liquid state, pet food is not exposed to temperatures above freezing, ideally making it as nutritional as regular frozen raw ingredients, minus the liquids. Shelf life for freeze-dried pet foods can go up to 24 months.
- AIR-DRIED FOODS. When air-drying, raw ingredients are kept at low temperatures in small batches, removing the moisture from the food through evaporation. Like its contemporaries, this leaves the food in a naturally-preserved state, and readily available for pets to eat. The process is considered to be fairly cost-effective, with shelf life for air-dried pet foods estimated at about 18 months.
- RAW DEHYDRATED FOODS. Dehydrating pet food is the most traditional and simplest means of removing moisture. Using temperatures of not more than 70oC (158oF) on small batches of raw ingredients, dehydrating keeps the naturally-occurring proteins and nutrients in them. Although dehydrated foods may need to be rehydrated before feeding, some owners also use raw dehydrated food as toppers or meal enhancers for kibble. Shelf life for dehydrated food can be up to 18 months.
- TOPPERS & MEAL ENHANCERS. According to a GfK report, meal enhancers and toppers listed a 332% increase in sales, from 2014-2015. Four years since, this emerging segment is still considered by manufacturers as category to watch out for, given the strong movement of the millennial market to continue pampering and customizing nutrition for their pets.
Indulgence is reshaping pet food markets
Much of the hype on emerging pet food categories are driven by millennial buyers who support humanization trends in the pet food industry.
The call for more natural and cleaner labels has pushed more manufacturers to explore new production categories and processes and yet at the end of the day, indulgence is king.
Indulgent trends – from craft pet food to foie gras for dogs and cats – has started receiving more traction in recent years, particularly from new pet owners, millennials who are treating their pets as their first borne.
In the US alone, 43 million pet owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group comprise one in every three pet owners. This market segment is willing to spend on their pets as well, with millennial dog owners spending around US$,1200 and cat owners around US$900 annually on their pets.
This is mind, manufacturers need to consider how this new market segment is spending, which trends are important to them and what are their priorities, as reflected by their interaction with retailers, for manufacturers to strategically plan which emerging pet food category to explore for their brands.
In the end, manufacturers will need a solid partner to help them get through new markets and consumer segments.
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