Sustainability-minded pet parents drive growth in meatless treats

Rockville, MD. Meat-free formulas are gaining traction in the pet’s food and chew space. This category is still a small part of the market, and this category is expected to grow as sustainability-conscious pet owners emerge across the United States.

According to Packaged Facts, more than half (54%) of pet owners who took part in the August/September 2021 survey of pet owners indicated they were interested in pet treats made with plant proteins. This reflects the 27% of pet owners who report that they have increased their consumption of plant foods since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

Another meat-free ingredient gaining traction is insect protein. Packaged facts indicate that 43% of pet owners care about ingredients due to their sustainability benefits and environmental impact. Among those interested, 21% said they were very interested and 22% said they were somewhat interested.

Insect ingredients have increasingly appeared in the field of pet nutrition, including pet food and treatment formulations. In August, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) voted to in principle approve the use of dried black soldier fly (BSFL) larvae in adult dog foods, paving the way for more manufacturers to take advantage of this growing trend.

Suppliers in the US have noticed this shift away from meat proteins as well and are adapting their businesses to meet demand. For example, the Bühler Group recently partnered with Agronutris to build a production facility for black soldier fly larvae in France, specifically to supply the pet food and aquaculture markets with insect protein ingredients. Several other suppliers are entering this space or relying on existing insect protein production capabilities.

In addition, the market for plant-based protein alternatives is accelerating. Scholar recently opened a barley protein concentrate facility in Idaho to support producers of pet food and aquaculture feed. In October, I established Global Food and Ingredients Inc. (GFI) Canada’s Vegan Pet Food Ingredients Company, which will supply ground red lentils, green lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, yellow peas and green peas. These are just two of the many that have been announced in the past few months.

Packaged Facts states that this meat-free trend is best applied to pet treats, as the complete, balanced nutritional requirements of pet foods make meat-free formulations more complex. The market research firm said that meatless pet treats could be brought to market more easily than meatless pet foods, and could be an “entry point” for interested manufacturers.

In general, pet therapy sales are trending at a significant rate. Combined sales of market research firm Packaged Facts for this category will reach $9.87 billion by the end of this year, in line with double-digit growth over the past two years.

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