I recently wrote about how the pet food market has matured for innovation after COVID-19, in part due to the delay in new product development in 2020 amid all the turmoil caused by the pandemic. The lag appears to be evident in data from Mintel on new pet food product launches, which showed a decline of about 67% from 2019 to 2020.
The data was presented by Max Davis, director of the business unit at Waldner North America’s Filling and Lealing Systems, in a webinar. I’ve seen the same graph elsewhere. However, the 2020 data point for 169 pet food product launches, compared to 510 in 2019, may be misleading; This will likely not be the previous number for the whole of 2020.
According to the most recent data from Mintel shared by ingredient supplier TreeTop, in the July 2021 Pet Food Market Trends report, splitting the data for the 12 months from June 2020 to May 2021 paints a different picture: New pet food products, reaching 569. This is an increase of approximately 5% over the previous 12-month period, June 2019 to May 2020, in which 543 were launched – a decrease from the previous 12-month period, June 2018 through May 2019, out of 562 launches, but only 3%.
I suspect the 169 for 2020 that Davis et al showed was mainly from the beginning of the year through May; It stands to reason that new product development has fallen with the pandemic and shutdowns, and pet food companies have focused on manufacturing and shipping their existing products to pets and their owners. Regardless of any discrepancies in numbers or reporting timeframes, it is encouraging to see that the launch of new pet food products has been picked up again later in 2020 and into the first half of 2021, supporting the notion that pet food was And it’s still ready to innovate.
Pet owners and new pet foods and treatments focus on health/wellness
Most importantly, the new Mintel data featured in the TreeTop report (which was a collaboration with Michael Silito, Contributing Editor to Mintel’s Global New Products Database) provided a helpful overview of some of the key ingredients in the recent launch of new pet food products, as well as What pet owners are looking for.
For example, 98 new pet food products in the June 2020-May 2021 time frame had all-natural claims, up from 88 and 89 in the previous 12-month periods. It may have been in response to the pandemic and how it has led consumers to focus on the health and wellness of themselves and their families, including furry individuals, as some people consider “natural” foods and products to be healthier.
Accordingly, health and wellness claims about pet foods and treatments received a lot of attention from US pet owners in a March 2021 survey by Mintel/TreeTop. Healthy digestion topped the list, at 58% of participants, closely followed by muscle, joint, and bone at 52%, skin/coat health at 49%, immune system support at 46%, and heart/cardiovascular health at 40%. Other health and wellness claims selected by respondents included weight management, anxiety calming/relief, brain/cognitive support, vision support, and increased energy.
The effect of human food is playing again
With TreeTop providing fruit ingredients to the pet food market, its report highlighted the leading fruits featured in new pet foods from June 2018 to May 2021, according to Mintel Database. Cranberries, blueberries and apples took the top three positions on the list, outnumbering other fruits such as bananas, carob, pomegranate, and others. Interestingly, the use of those first three fruits decreased quite a bit in the June 2020 to May 2021 time frame.
Perhaps most interestingly, the use of certain flavors in new pet foods and treat products has grown significantly since June 2018. Pumpkin/Pumpkin has increased 500% over the three-year period from then through May 2021, and a similar flavor, sweet potato/kumara by 300%. Bacon/lard/pancetta/patches, cream cheese, blueberries, and peanut butter are up 200%. Not surprisingly, these are all flavors and ingredients that were also widely grown for human foods during the same time frame. If bacon/lard/pancetta/slick and cheese aren’t flavor and trends influenced by human food, then I don’t know what is!
Mintel data showed that this flavor accounted for only 1.9% of new pet foods and their release treats in the three-year period, while peanut butter (alone) was 3.4%. The most popular flavors – again, no surprise – were chicken 15.1% of new products and beef 7.3%. In comparison, another protein source, salmon, accounts for 3.1% of new products launched.
I also think the percentages of protein sources also map fairly closely to human food, although the strong preferences and needs of dogs and cats for such flavors and ingredients (or at least their owners’ perceptions) have played a strong role in pet food. Producers’ flavor choices for their new products.
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