Combine shapes to provide targeted nutrition

This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of pet food processing. Read it and other articles from this issue on our website June digital edition.

Likewise, because human feeding is not viewed through a one-size-fits-all approach, pet nutrition is becoming increasingly focused on using multiple formats to deliver targeted feeding to furry family members.

Along with the more than $175 billion spent each year on health and wellness, pet parents buy better products for you and their pets, according to Andrea Bender, customer manager for the pet retail business at Chicago-based NielsenIQ.

“We acknowledge that pet parents do not want a routine approach to daily feeding – they want an exciting shared experience for their dog or cat that strengthens the parent-pet bond,” said Dr. Danielle Bernal, veterinarian at Wellness Pet. Tewkesbury, Massachusetts. “For this reason, Wellness Pet offers a variety of delicacies, toppings, and dry and wet recipes with a clear focus on the pet’s age and needs and the proven health outcomes of the recipe.”

Products are on the rise

According to NielsenIQ, sales of meal improvers, freeze-dried, frozen and natural foods for pets increased more than double in 2021 compared to 2020. In fact, frozen, freeze-dried, and freeze-dried meal improvers experienced more than 20% growth during the year. Natural products account for $7.1 billion in sales, an increase of more than 10% compared to 2020.

Today, processors are looking to build existing lines with new formatting options to offer a complete feeding and handling system with more versatility. (Source: Jiminy’s)

Heather Gouveia, Chief Commercial Officer, Alphen, Berne, Cannes, said: “We are seeing changes stemming from consumers looking for feeding experiences to be more than just pouring food into a bowl. We are seeing the biggest growth in solutions – products based on providing additional benefits to pets. It goes beyond good nutrition. We’re also seeing increases in premium products, especially with freeze-dried products focused on Cable Plus.”

Govea said while most manufacturers’ goal is to offer multiple formats and reach a wider range of pet parents, most manufacturers tend to specialize in a particular product segment. She said the types of ingredients and goods a manufacturer buys determine whether their chips are superior quality or valuable.

“Wellness Pet is deeply committed to redefining products with an emphasis on specific use with benefits clearly stated on packaging and labels,” Bernal said. “This directly helps pet parents pick and choose the variations that are the personalized feeding experience they want for their pets. We hear time and time again that pet parents find it difficult to navigate their pet food choices, so this simple commercial innovation at Wellness helps make that process easier. “.

The company’s latest products include Kibble and Topper’s meatless recipes with plants and eggs, which Bernal said were developed in response to the growing number of pet parents looking for healthy, environmentally friendly dog ​​food options.

The CORE Digestive Health line includes options for both puppies and older dogs, and the products contain both probiotics and prebiotics to help support the microbiome and immunity. This spring, the company launched Wellness Bowl Boosters Freshly products to serve as a fresh treat to supplement your dog’s diet or even use as a complete meal. Overall, the Wellness CORE Digestive Health line includes dry, pate, and top formats.

In addition, the Wellness Complete Health line has expanded with a recipe for older cats to support immunity, energy, muscle and joints. The line also includes dry, paste, wet and cured varieties.

Flourish formats are those with less processing, and the common thread between baked, freeze-dried and raw kibble is an unobtrusive end product, said Ann Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, Berkeley, Calif. as possible.

Product formats like natural, frozen, meal improvers, dried, and freeze-dried are on the rise.“Jiminy’s is in that beautiful spot where our kibble is baked, so we are able to take advantage of the lower temperatures and retain more nutrients,” said Carlson. “Our new wet dog food is also less processed and contains no artificial preservatives.”

Excellent dog food innovations have focused on shortening the ingredient list including functional benefits, especially in meal wraps and treats, said Amelia Birches, director of public relations, Nulo Pet Food, Austin, Texas. Common Perches consumers are also looking for natural food solutions that are more appealing, exciting, quick to prepare, healthy and add variety. The company’s Mix-It Meals offers options to meet these needs and customize a pet’s diet.

Nulo also offers soft chew supplements for dogs in soothing, immunomodulatory, kinetic, omega and probiotic options for targeted nutrition beyond what basic products offer. The company recently introduced functional granola bars as a healthy snack in their motion, immune, digestion, and omega combinations. Granola is often aimed at health-conscious human consumers who enjoy the outdoors and lead active lives, Berch’s said, and the company wanted to translate that idea into a product for dogs.

Birchs noted that the cat market focused on hydration needs through moisture in canned foods, toppings, and broths. To that end, Nulo has introduced their signature FreeStyle soups, pastry packets, and thick broths that are high in moisture for daily hydration and animal protein. The broth can be served over canned, dried, or frozen foods for a meal, or eaten as a snack.

Nolo Pet cat food formulaMixed feeding is becoming increasingly popular to enhance hydration or to add variety to a pet’s daily diet. (Source: Nulo Pet Food)

Bender said NielsenIQ found that pet food searches for wholesome and functional healthy ingredients increased by double digits over the year. Search volume for “soothing” pet products has increased 42% since March 2021, and consumers are also searching for healthy dental, breathing, sensitive stomach, and human-grade options in pet foods.

Once these products are developed, their availability for in-store and online purchase is also key.

“The pet food shopper is the absolute shopper,” Bender said. “With the ever-changing landscape of pet products on the market, pet food shoppers do more research before purchasing them. They are not only looking for the best price, but they also place a high value on the most convenient ways to get the highest quality products for their pets.”

Diverse challenges

While Govea described the outburst of activity across all formats as “every ebb and flow”, companies found challenges in offering such a diverse range of products.

“Everyone [of these formats] “Its own learning curve,” Carlson said. “You may have the same ingredients, but now you’re dealing with different cooking temperatures, different packaging, etc. Then there’s the art: how do you achieve the highest level of nutrition and palatability in every form? With just baked kibble, there’s a tremendous amount of input that You need to learn and reconcile them, and each format multiplies that input. I’ve worked hard to educate myself, but I also rely a lot on my veterinary dietitian, our packers, and my team, while also listening to our customers and their preferences.”

Various pet food formats are seeing increasing consumer interest All forms of pet food are experiencing growth, as pet parents continue to strive to serve their pets as diverse as possible. (Source: © alatielin –

Binder said while most areas across pet nutrition continue to see growth, the lack of shelf availability and diversity has resulted in fewer UPCs selling in cat treats and wet cat foods. Supply chain issues have also significantly affected dog treats over the past year, going from sales of fewer than six UPCs in 2020 to 121 fewer UPCs selling in 2022. Meanwhile, wet cat food has gone up from 106 fewer UPCs. Selling in 2020 to 142 fewer UPCs selling in 2021.

According to NielsenIQ, the total number of selling UPCs shows that the total diversity of pet foods seen on store shelves decreased by 586 UPCs, from 27,697 in 2020 to 27,111 in 2021.

Basic Wellness for Digestive HealthMany new pet food products combine multiple consumer demands, such as digestion and life stage support, into one formula. (Source: Wellness Beat Company)

While Govea said they are seeing overall growth, the forms that are growing less often are those in the high-protein or grain-free categories. Govea also noted that the biggest challenges to product development and delivery across different formats are unpredictable supply chain disruptions on everyday ingredients from sunflower oil to tapioca and chicken meal, and these disruptions have prompted the company to think differently about the overall supply chain.

Meanwhile, Carlson said the standard extruded cable has hit a tough spot in the market as manufacturers of new formats criticize it in advertisements.

“As the lines between human and pet foods continue to blur, we are looking beyond the limitations of traditional manufacturing capabilities to making packaged goods for human consumers for new processing technologies and packaging solutions,” said Perchis. “The inability of large organizations to quickly adapt to changes in consumer demands also creates an opportunity for smaller, leaner brands to disrupt and innovate in the rapidly evolving market for premium dog and cat foods, wraps and treats.”

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