Indeed, our pets were a silver lining. “While tragic in so many ways, last year’s pandemic had many positive lessons for all of us,” says Douglas Bibus, Ph.D., Founder/CEO Lipid Technologies, LLC, and Past President, The American Oil Chemists’ Society. “The significance of family and loved ones and companion animals was never so apparent.”
What are pet parents buying? IRI reports that during Q2, 32% of survey respondents reported purchasing more pet treats than in Q1—and wellness is paramount. IRI data shows that purchase decisions are driven by health and nutrition first, followed by pet preference and price. More than half (51%) of consumers shopping for pet food consider health and nutritional standards before purchasing, while 46% consider their pets’ taste preferences and 42% shop for a good price.
It makes sense after all we’ve been through. “Many people started to pay much closer attention to their own nutrition and diet and their ability to support immune function to fight COVID,” points out Dr. Bibus. “A greater focus on our own immune function and health empowering dietary practices has also transcended to the health of our pets with the realization that their diets are incredibly important to them as well.”
Andrew Fuente, Sales Director QRILL Pet – Americas, Aker BioMarine Antarctic US, agrees. “We are seeing that many pet parents are seeking out healthy foods with proactive ingredients for their pets. ‘What’s good for me is also good for my pet’ is what drives many pet owners, and with this in mind, pet parents are increasingly concerned about preventive health care.”
In addition to healthier food, they are reaching for natural solutions for pet health concerns. “Our sales to veterinarians have doubled since 2018, and remained strong through this past year,” shares Beth Lambert, CEO, Herbalist & Alchemist.“We’re anticipating continued growth, especially considering how many more people became pet owners during the COVID lockdown.”
Summing it up, Johnson says: “2020 brought the health, wellness and self-care focus front and center. Interestingly enough you will notice that pet product purchasing trends mirrored that same focus. If we look at the pet products being purchased in 2020, you will see an increase in pet supplements specifically, and a greater focus on what we feed our pets. We saw all of this increased revenue despite supply chain issues due to the shortage of workers and supplies.”
The list of needs for pets is a long one. Key for all is a healthy lifestyle, according to David Louvet, Founder and CEO of Innovet Pet Products. “Diet and exercise are two of the most important components of a healthy pet’s life,” says Louvet, “especially since we’ve been in lockdown for so long and most of us are still working at home and not moving as much.”
When it comes to food, Louvet says, a proper diet can consist of raw, home-cooked, or dry food. “I personally make all my dogs food, but sometimes it’s necessary to give extra supporting supplements like glucosamine because age causes joint wear and tear as well as gives pets arthritis.”
Considering those nutritional needs is key, agrees Dr. Bibus. “Companion animal nutrition typically relies on a single dietary source, a single pet food. While having a variety of foods in our own diets generally ensures that we have adequate intake of nutrients, pets typically are not afforded this luxury. We, as care providers, have the very important job of providing what pets need to be happy and pain-free. Therefore, nutritional adequacy of pet foods is of utmost importance. Pet food minimal nutritional compositions are directed and overseen by AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials). While guaranteeing nutritional minimums for adequacy, optimal nutritional needs may differ for many pets based on a variety of factors.”
Case in point: “Omega-3 fatty acids were not originally recognized as essential by AAFCO so many foods completely ignored omega 3 composition,” Dr. Bibus says. “This practice, coupled with the use of ground corn in many pet foods, led to pet foods that were high in omega-6 and very low in omega-3. High omega-6 to-3 ratios suppress metabolism of omega-3 and reduce overall omega-3 status. Coromega Pup Packets are a great way to provide omega 3 fish oil to our pets. The emulsified formula acts like a gel, so it’s easier to give and that’s a key thing—for pet owners to stick with a program—so making it easier should help long-term supplementation of
Beyond the basic building blocks for maintaining health, there are several concerns that are common to many species of companion animals. As Nena Dockery, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager, Stratum Nutrition, explains: “Our pets are living longer now; and with those additional years come some of the challenges that we humans face as we age. Arthritis, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s-type cognitive disorders are conditions that have become increasingly more commonplace in companion animals as lifespans have increased.” And just as is the case in humans, she notes, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are frequently contributing factors (3).
Also important to keep in mind: While that IRI survey shows wellness is the top priority for pet parents, pets’ taste preference was not far behind. “As more pet owners transition into foods and supplements that are formulated to address specific health needs or are more natural, they may find that Fido and Fluffy don’t like the taste,” notes Dockery. “This can present a challenge for formulators and manufacturers of these products, who want to create products that the animals will consume. And these formulators must also keep in mind that some ingredients, additives, and processing aids can be harmful to certain animal species. Beneficial supplements added to tasty chews have been around for a while and are still one of the most efficient ways to deliver an efficacious dose of most ingredients. For convenience and ease of administering new technologies, such as VitaSperse, can now deliver fat-soluble ingredients in a form that is dispersible in water. Ingredients such as high-absorption forms of curcumin that have been demonstrated in multiple studies to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hepatic support for several animal species, can easily be administered in a pet’s drinking water for continuous delivery throughout the day.”