Pet food is evolving toward premiumization due to owners increasingly identifying with their pets almost as equals, according to a seminar at the Process Expo trade show.
Speaking at the show Oct. 9 at McCormick Place, Jared Koerten, head of pet care for Euromonitor International, said that pet food has developed almost in tandem with human food, along such lines as natural, gluten-free and high protein. The primary driver is that owners have come to see their pets as members of the family, an attitude especially prevalent among younger consumers.
“Premiumization and pet humanization are two trends that sort of go hand in hand,” Koerten said. “People increasingly see their pet, not as an animal, but as a family member. I think the favorite phrase is ‘fur babies.’”
That explains in large part the increase in pet food prices, which have gone up almost 20% since 2014. Having an all-natural formulation is pretty much expected, Koersten said; current trends include organic and raw ingredients, and formats that mimic human food, like filets or cakes.
However, a countervailing trend is the decline in disposable income among consumers, especially the younger ones who are more likely to identify strongly with their pets. As a result, sales of premium private label pet food have grown 65% since 2013, as consumers look to pamper their pets without spending too much money.
Looking at long-term (10-plus years) pet trends, Koersten identified:
- Emerging and developing markets, where increasingly prosperous consumers are becoming more inclined to have pets and to buy dedicated food for them, as opposed to feeding them leftovers and scraps;
- Urbanization, which is driving down pet ownership across the board and is skewing toward cats, which are easier to care for than dogs;
- Trading up to wet food, which is easier to formulate along premium lines and usually has more protein than dry;
- Curation and customization, which means food with nutritional or medicinal benefits targeted toward an individual animal, or even food custom-formulated according to information an owner provides online.