Sixty percent of UK pet food buyers prioritize health benefits when making their selection, while a third of US consumers change their pet's diet to improve their companion's overall well-being, finds analysis from Mintel.
Analysts at the data provider have been researching emerging trends in the pet food market. In terms of additional insights from the team, they observe that, in 2023, over 50% of new pet food products emphasize health claims in their development and marketing.
Indeed, the last decade has seen an ongoing increase in the number of health claims on pet food products, said the market specialists. And they expect this trend to continue.
"In the next couple of years, we forecast that bespoke pet foods for individual cats and dogs, designed specifically for their health needs, will become more and more popular. With pets representing a more significant role in our lives, our willingness to prioritize and budget for their health needs will be bolstered. We can expect to see a continuation in the prioritization of pet health along with a focus on sustainability and ethical consumption,” said Kate Vlietstra, global food and drink analyst, Mintel.
Cats versus dog owners
In 2022, around a third of US consumers cited improving their pets’ health and wellness as a reason to switch their pet’s food, with cat owners slightly ahead of dog owners in this respect, according to the Mintel report.
“This looms large over consumers citing taste or price as a reason to switch, roughly a sixth of consumers doing so. For cat and dog owners alike, the primary impetus in switching pet food is health and wellness. However, this is slightly less important to dog owners, whereas palatability is more crucial for dogs than cats.”
Cat owners place slightly more importance on saving money when choosing pet food compared to dog owners, who prioritize their dog's taste preferences, noted the analysts.
A large portion of the market is willing to go the extra mile to secure these health benefits.
Their research also revealed that a majority of UK food buyers said they would be interested in a personalized meal plan to help their pet lose weight.
Frozen and chilled pet food
In previous years, insect protein emerged as a trending ingredient in pet food, but pet food consumers now seem to be particularly interested in how their pet food is preserved, reads the publication.
“One of the key emerging options in the pet food aisle is fresh, frozen, and homemade options that lean into this demand for bespoke, freshly prepared meals for our pets. In the US, frozen pet food saw double-digit growth in 2020-21, while over half of pet food buyers choose freshly prepared options as they perceive them to be healthier than store-bought pet foods.
“Back in 2016, Mintel predicted that chilled pet food would become a growing trend; a prediction which is now playing out in real time.”
Over half - 52% - of pet food buyers aged 16-34 show strong interest in chilled pet food, and 42% of those pet owners were drawn to frozen pet food options, as per the Mintel data.