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Chew on this: Pet food category gets healthy

BY Michael Johnsen

Slow down!
For those dogs who snarf their pet food so quickly that it makes them sick, the St. Marys, Ontario, Canada-based Omega Paw will be launching a novel product called the Dog Hog in March at the Global Pet Expo. “The Dog Hog is designed to slow a dog down when they’re eating,” Terry Hannaford, CEO of Omega Paw, said. The Dog Hog is a large silver ball that fits within a pet owners existing feeder and prevents a dog from eating too fast.

What pets ‘Crave’
At the beginning of this year, the McLean, Va.-based Mars Petcare introduced additions to its Crave brand lines, including Crave Wet Dog Beef Paté with Shreds of Real Chicken. These protein-rich diets provide the nutrients for a lean, healthy body and the energy to play, the company said. Like the diets of their wolf and wildcat ancestors, Crave recipes are crafted with real, high-quality animal protein, the meaty flavor dogs love and no grains.

New pet food line is lovingly simple 
With dog and cat owners who want to purchase food appropriate for pets with food sensitivities, supplier I and Love and You in February crafted a line of limited-ingredient dry, or LID, pet food called Lovingly Simple. The recipe features a short list of wholesome ingredients for dogs and cats with sensitivities to poultry, beef, grains, white potatoes, soy, corn, rice, dairy and eggs.

While most LID options on the market dip into the 20% range for protein content, the Boulder, Colo.-based pet food manufacturer’s Lovingly Simple contains 30% protein for dogs and 36% protein for cats. “The new Lovingly Simple recipes address some of the common food sensitivity issues pet owners see today, without sacrificing protein levels,” Lindsey Rabaut, vice president of marketing and innovation, said. “With everything we do at I and Love and You, we aim to increase the bond between pets and their humans. Finding a holistic, wholesome food with premium ingredients that keeps pets happy is key to that bond. The best food is the best love.”

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Nutritional meals designed for small pets

BY Michael Johnsen

Freshpet, a maker of real, all-natural, fresh food for pets, in February announced the introduction of four Freshpet Select meals designed for small pets with the right nutritional balance to help them lead healthy lives. For example, the new Freshpet Select Small Dog recipe caters directly to the more than 46 million small dogs in America today. Dog ownership has increased steadily among households in recent years, having reached 85 million families in 2017, with households owning small dogs under 25 pounds representing 55% of that market.

“All four new recipes provide unique benefits to cater to any pet’s palette or dietary restrictions and, given the increasing number of households with small dogs, we felt passionate about designing a recipe specifically tailored to their nutritional needs and smaller bite size,” John Speranza, vice president of marketing at the Secaucus, N.J. pet food manufacturer, said.

St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina has more than 500 nutritionists, behaviorist and veterinarians on staff to bring better-for-you pet foods to market. New this year is Beneful Simple Goodness with Real Beef, which features a blend of real peas and carrots that is evident on the packaging. The company also is focusing on small pets. “Since small dogs are the largest and fastest-growing dog size segment, we continue to develop our Purina Bella line of delicious wet food for small dogs and natural dry small dog food,” Joe Toscano, vice president and director of trade and industry relations at Nestlé Purina, said.

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Solid pet food set can get consumers into stores, drive sales

BY Michael Johnsen

There is just one secret mass retailers looking to steal pet food share from specialty pet shop operators need to know — and it’s related to one of the biggest consumer trends right now. It’s that more pet owners, who are buying products for their furry critters, are becoming as concerned with what goes into their pet’s body as they are with what’s going into their own bodies.

“People are looking for ‘better-for-you’ foods to eat themselves, and that trend is mirrored in what people want to feed their pets. Natural, grain-free and real meat are all trends driving growth in the super premium pet food category,” Joe Toscano, vice president and director of trade and industry relations at Nestlé Purina, said. “While ingredient lists are more scrutinized than ever, sometimes what’s left out of the food is just as important as what’s in it. For example, no corn, wheat or soy continue to trend positively, along with no artificial colors and fewer unrecognizable ingredients.”

According to Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president of the American Pet Products Association, pet ownership is at an all-time high, with pet-owning households numbering 84.6 million. As a result, he said, demand for products that help care for pets is similarly high. APPA, now in its 60th year, will be hosting its Global Pet Expo 2018 in Orlando, Fla., where more than 3,000 products are set to debut at the Orange County Convention Center from March 21 to 23.

“This $66 billion industry is booming, and we’re seeing a surge in innovation like never before with products that help us care for — and in many cases even pamper — our pets,” Darmohraj said. “From gluten-free dog treats to raw and freeze-dried dog and cat foods, to calming products, CBD oils, interactive feeders and pet monitoring systems with cameras, we are seeing a huge shift in products across the board.”

Mass retailers keen on capitalizing on the pet opportunity also should know that dog and cat owners are willing to trade up for better quality products. “Pet owners are becoming more and more willing to pay premium prices to make sure they’re providing their pets with the best,” Danya Kennedy, managing director of sales planning/customer insights and solutions at Mars Petcare, said. “Retailers can continue to offer pet food options that help consumers give their dogs and cats food they can feel good about. They also can make sure their employees are up to speed on the latest pet food trends and offerings so that they can properly inform customers of the benefits of each food, and help them make the right choice for their pets.

A key demographic that well-informed associates can help is reaching the ubiquitous growth opportunity of millennial shoppers, who Toscano said are now the nation’s largest pet-owning generation in addition to being the largest living generation at 75 million. “Millennials are, on average, getting their first pets by age 21, compared with the typical baby boomer, who waited until age 29,” he said. “This generation will make a big impact on the category, as they decide how to allocate their $3.4 trillion in buying power on their ‘starter children.’”

Outside of food, a ready stream of differentiation may help mass retailers set themselves apart from the homogenized offerings at specialty retailers. “Consumers want variety, something new, in pet care. They’re not just looking for a 50-cent savings here or a $2 savings there,” Terry Hannaford, CEO of Omega Paw, said. “Is the pet destination the place where you have everything, or is it the place you go and find something you’ve never seen before? The best pet destinations are the ones where customers can find something new that addresses a new need or want.”

Toscano similarly emphasized the importance of a solid pet set in enticing customers looking for success in the category — and throughout the store.

“The pet category is huge and growing,” Toscano said. “It is an anchor to center store, as the No. 2 reason consumers leave the house to go to the store, and it’s shopped by 75% of U.S. households. When your pet category is healthy, your store is four times more likely to be healthy. So retailers should be treating the pet category as the ‘Big Dog’ that it is by investing in appropriate space, assortment, price and promotion to ensure it is a destination for their consumers.”

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