Human demand for sustainability is reshaping the pet health market

Sustainability has always been a consumer-led initiative, and the pet health market is no exception. Consumers are increasingly showing a high awareness of the social impact of the goods they purchase and are choosing products that are more environmentally friendly and ethically sourcing. With shifting demographics and millennials displacing baby boomers as the nation’s largest consumer group, young consumers’ values ​​of sustainability and socially conscious capitalism are driving innovation in accompanying animal products.

Data from Kantar shows that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 59% of all global consumers were taking at least some type of action to reduce their environmental footprint.1 Meanwhile, an OpenText survey of 25,000 consumers in 12 countries found that more than 80% of consumers said it was important to buy ethically produced products — and nearly 20% of respondents came to this belief during the COVID-19 pandemic.2

As consumers vote with their dollars and prioritize socially conscious sustainable products, pet health brands will have to choose whether to become sustainability leaders, followers, or laggards. Here are some of the ways pet health ingredient suppliers are introducing brands to a new range of sustainable ingredient tools.

Complete nutrition from non-meat products

The desire for sustainable pet food has given rise to a variety of plant-based products. Plant-based claims are one way brands are attracting sustainability-conscious shoppers, says Megan Runsmans, product manager for animal nutrition, Benio (Parsippany, NJ). Ronsmans cites the results of the Beneo survey of dog and cat owners around the world: “Pet food trends continue to mirror those of human nutrition, and sustainability and plant origin are increasingly important. More than half of pet owners are now concerned with the sustainability and carbon footprint of their pet food, and this The trend is more obvious in animal feeding [supplements]. ”

As plant-based pet foods and healthy pet ingredients gain in popularity, formulaters are paying special attention to the nutrients that go into formulas and the unique nutritional needs of animals at each life stage. It’s very common for pet health and pet food ingredients, whether vegan or not, to be lacking in some essential nutrients, Runsmans says. That’s why mixtures have become so popular.

“One great example of this is a rice protein blend, which contains a limited amount of lysine, with a concentration of FABA protein,” Runesmans explains. “FABA is a legume protein that has a higher content of lysine, so [together] They fulfill the minimum requirements for this amino acid. Brands often also add vitamin or mineral blends to their formulations, along with other ingredients such as synthetic amino acids, to supplement the formula.”

While plant-based protein sources are one way suppliers are moving away from meat, there is also a growing trend for cell-based solutions. New protein solutions such as plant-based meat alternatives and cell-grown meat are on a rapid growth trajectory, says Patrick Lochinger, marketing director of nutrition and pet food for Ingredion (Westchester, IL). As consumers become increasingly open to these alternatives for their pets, Luchsinger says suppliers continue to innovate by improving the taste profile and sensory experience of plant and cell-based meat alternatives.

“At Ingredion, we have seen a growing interest not only in pea and lentil proteins, but also in our collaboration with The Every Company. The Every Company, formerly Clara Foods, has been providing nature-identical proteins via fermentation technology.

Every Company (San Francisco) launched the world’s first non-animal egg protein product in 2021. Produced by inserting the DNA sequences of certain animal proteins into a yeast medium and stimulating fermentation, The Every Company’s proteins are functionally equivalent to animal protein, but without animal components .

Luchsinger says the protein future for both animal and human applications is, in fact, in plant and cell-derived “meat.” “Consumers are beginning to realize that meat production is responsible for a high proportion of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide,” Luchsinger explains. Meat production also consumes a large amount of water. Some consumers are starting to look for alternative protein sources that have a low impact on the climate and on water consumption.”

Supply chains reduce the environmental footprint

Sustainability is an overarching principle that permeates not only the components themselves, but their supply chain as well. While sourcing plant-based ingredients is one way to reduce carbon emissions, pet health suppliers are taking steps to improve sustainability across the entire global chain. For example, suppliers are increasingly incorporating clean label principles such as transparency and traceability into their operations, says Amanda McKinnon, Director of Marketing and Communications, Marinova (Cambridge, Australia).

“Consumer expectations of transparency have grown rapidly in recent years,” says McKinnon. “Consumers are not only aware of their own environmental impact, but also the environmental impact of their pets. An increasing consumer demand for ethically and sustainably sourced natural health products is emerging in the pet health market.”

Pet health brands support consumer demand by sourcing ingredients from clean label suppliers, notes McKinnon. Instead of using highly processed ingredients and commodities, brands are increasingly collaborating with suppliers who can demonstrate sustainable practices.

Furthermore, more suppliers are reimagining their operations to reduce their environmental impact. “Fucoidan manufacturers have traditionally used solvents to precipitate the fucoidan polymer from crude seaweed extracts,” says McKinnon. This could result in the presence of contaminants in the final extract. Fucoidan manufactured in this way suffers from many shortcomings, such as inconsistency in quality, compromised chemical safety, and low bioactivity. ”

Marinova has committed to a solvent-free extraction process that produces pure fucoidan. However, Marinova’s sustainability initiatives go much further than that; The company is committed to improving sustainability across the entire supply chain. McKinnon notes that the company only produces wild macroalgae from clean ocean waters using sustainable harvesting practices. Marinova deliberately avoids areas of ocean waters that have been extensively cultivated or polluted by human or industrial activity. She says all of the company’s seaweed residue is reused in its gardening products, keeping it out of landfills.

Sustainability also begins on the farm, notes Gustavo Zinaid, vice president of pet and animal care at ADM (Chicago). ADM works with its global network of suppliers to incorporate sustainability practices into ingredient sourcing, from water conservation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and more. Znaid says ADM’s Strive 35 plan guides the company in its efforts to improve energy efficiency, recycle water, find alternative uses for by-product waste, and sequester carbon emissions. Under the Strive 35 plan, by 2035, ADM aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, reduce energy intensity by 15%, reduce water use by 10%, and achieve a 90% landfill diversion rate.

Besides its internal initiatives, ADM leverages its capital to invest in leading companies in the field of sustainability. In September 2021, ADM terminated an agreement to purchase a controlling interest in PetDine (Fort Collins, CO). “The PetDine group of companies has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving sustainable practices in their businesses,” explains Znaid. In 2020, PetDine announced that its production facilities in Harvard, Illinois, are powered by solar energy, with the capacity to offset approximately 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Clean labels and natural flavors grow

Consumers also choose pet foods and pet health products that contain fewer, simpler ingredients, as well as natural flavors. After all, human feeding trends frequently affect the pet nutrition market, especially as more consumers view pets as a member of the family, says Znaid. This means increased attention to claims of “all natural,” “vegan,” “organic,” and “non-GMO.”

Pet parents are also looking for more natural flavors that appeal to picky pets, create a sense of novelty, or provide a sense of familiarity. Flavors like pumpkin spice, blueberries, and roast turkey can help healthy pet foods get a premium, Zined notes.

Increasingly consumers are calling on brands to make it easier to trace pet food ingredients, too, says Runsmans of Benio. Research by Beneo shows that the majority of pet owners expect their pets food to be human quality, which is why there is a growing demand for natural, healthy and clean ingredients.

“Pet owners want understandable labels,” Runsmans says. “They also want non-allergenic and health-promoting ingredients. Consumer interest in all things clean labels is driving demand for ethically sourced products. Consumers want to see more sustainability information about pet food packaging.”

Beneo has recently increased the energy efficiency of its plants and is investing in technologies that can harvest more raw materials, thus reducing waste, Runsmans says. Beneo also recently invested 50 million euros in a new pulse processing site in Germany, which helps reduce carbon emissions at the farm level.

Consumers demand audit

Pet parents are more environmentally conscious than ever and are willing to spend more money on pet food and pet health products that can meet their high expectations. Clean label formulations, plant-based and whole food ingredients, and supply chain transparency are some of the dominant human nutrition market trends that have found their way into the pet health field.

As more consumers begin to consider the sustainability implications of purchasing habits and reduce their carbon footprint, the demand for sustainably sourced pet foods and ingredients will increase.


  1. Kuntar report. “Who cares, who does?” Posted in September 2020.
  2. press release. “OpenText survey shows increased demand for ethically sourced goods.” Posted on September 29, 2021.
  3. Rutz California et al. “Environmental footprints of US beef cattle production.” farming systems, vol. 169 (Feb 2019): 1-13
  4. Thomas I. “Mark Cuban Invests In The Plant Protein Company, But Not For Humans.” CNBC. Posted online September 12, 2021.

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