Human trends pawing their way into pet foods

Human trends pawing their way into pet foods

Have you noticed that pet foods are starting to look and sound like your own favorite cuisine? There’s a reason for that.

Shutterstock.comPets are people too—at least that’s how most of the human population is trending, according to Harris Poll survey findings released in 2016. A whopping 95 percent of respondents said they consider their pets to be a part of the family—that’s seven percentage points higher than in 2007. 

Perhaps nowhere is this shift more apparent than in the pet food industry. At the recent Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha Davis, client service manager at GfK, a market research institute, shared four human food trends that are finding their way into the pet food industry (and just might find their way into your veterinary clinic in the form of client questions).

1. Biohacking

On Forbes’ list of the “10 food trends that will shape 2018,” biohacking comes in at No. 5, and it's popping up in pet foods too. Biohacking, according to the Forbes piece, “breaks all the rules to create a science for more individualized nutrition and products.” Think DNA kits that help people determine what food is best for their cholesterol, gut health, immune system, metabolism and so on (the company Habit is just one example), as well as restaurants with nutritionists on staff who can counsel patrons on choosing the best foods for their unique needs.

According to Davis, biohacking is entering the pet food realm in the form of meal enhancers. (If you’re not familiar with meal enhancers, you can think of them as pet food toppings that can enhance palatability and add nutrients.) While Davis says the vast majority of meal enhancers are labeled as “general health,” more specific categories are emerging that target allergies, skin health, gastrointestinal health, oral and dental health, and weight control (the last three categories emerged for the first time in 2017).

2. Hot human ingredients

Human ingredients that have recently risen in popularity due to their health benefits are popping up in prominent places on pet food packaging, says Davis, and it’s not always because the ingredients are necessarily new to the food’s recipe. Many pet food companies are simply capitalizing on the fact that a long-ignored ingredient, such as turmeric, is suddenly a selling point because of its associated health benefits. Honey and coconut are two other popular health-conscious human ingredients that are starting to grace the packaging of pet foods and treats, Davis says.

3. Protein bars

Much like their human owners, more and more pets are on the go, says Davis. Remember, they’re family members, so pets are often joining their people on vacations, at the office, and on errands. This has created a demand for convenient, on-the-go pet nutrition (think Clif Bars for dogs), and the pet food industry is listening. PowerBark and TurboPUP are just two of the many companies now offering protein bars for pups.

4. Sustainably and ethically sourced

People don’t just want food that’s good for them—they want food that’s good for the environment as well, says Davis, and the same principle applies to the pet foods they purchase. That’s why we’re seeing pet foods with highly conspicuous “certified humane,” “certified sustainable seafood,” “certified organic,” “farm to bowl” labels and the like. 

What’s next? If this list is any indication, your best bet is to keep an eye on your local grocery store aisles and Starbucks menu.