As people become more concerned about eating healthily in their daily lives, they are wanting their pets to do the same, as more owners subscribe to the philosophy that what is good for them when it comes to nutrition is good for their dogs.
While a few years ago, talking about organic, grain-free, raw or even vegan pet food would have been out of the ordinary, these days it’s common lingo – and pet food manufacturers are paying attention.
Many, like Merrick, are taking a close look at what they currently offer and either reformulating or launching new products geared toward what pet owners are demanding.
Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick, said the company is in the process of a food revolution.
“We started it eight months ago,” Brace said. “We have relaunched our entire dry dog food portfolio. We know and understand what pet parents want.”
The new recipes are built on a new, five-star promise: to use local growers, use real whole foods, making food that is worthy of a fork, balanced nutrition and health you can see.
Using cutting-edge nutritional research, constantly reviewing supply partners and conducting quality assurance with their expert panel of dogs, Merrick has created 11 new recipes that coincide with an all-new packaging design and mark the beginning of a pet food revolution, they said.
But it’s not just dogs the company is passionate about. They launched a line of cat food and hope to bring a “food revolution” to that segment, too.
“We know that cat ownership is as passionate as dog parents are,” Brace said. “There are a lot of bi-pet households. It’s not that all or one. We think it’s important to serve both markets.”
Hills is another pet company, that recently launched a new line of natural food.
Their Ideal Balance line has no corn, wheat or soy, and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Natura Pet offers a large spectrum of natural pet foods that can fit a variety of nutritional needs.
Founded in 1992 by John and Ann Rademakers and Peter Atkins in California, they set out to answer one question, “How can we make pet food healthier?”
The result was a line of products that include the Innova, EVO, California Natural, Health Wise, Mother Nature and Karma brands. All of these are based on the company’s nutritional philosophy that centers around six principles: Use only high-quality dog and cat food ingredients; use whole pet food ingredients that are nutrient rich and unaltered; use highly controlled cooking methods and quality checks to preserve natural levels of nutrients; use no artificial preservatives, colors or additives; formulate using pet food ingredients that provide the optimum nutritional profile for skin and coat and continue extensive testing and monitoring to assure optimal health and longevity of pets.
One trend that has surged in popularity is the raw food diet. In these cases the food is never cooked or baked. Many times, in the case of companies like Stella & Chewy’s, the food is frozen and freeze dried, which keeps it closer to its natural state.
Stella & Chewy’s offers a complete line of frozen, as well as freeze-dried dinners, for dogs and a line of freeze-dried dinners for cats. Their freeze-drying process maintains the vital proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and natural enzymes cats need to thrive. Plus, the freeze-drying “locks in” the nutritional value, the company says.
MiracleCorp features the Stewart Raw Naturals food line, which offers complete and balanced nutrition for every state of a dog’s life. Bruce Flantzer, senior vice president, said the food is never cooked or baked.
“Raw Naturals is made of whole protein, fruit vegetables and other natural ingredients that are high in essential fatty acids, live enzymes, antioxidants and friendlily bacteria,” Flantzer said. “Heat processing degrades natural enzymes, essential vitamins and minerals, thereby providing less nutrition.”
Flantzer said as consumers become increasingly aware of the health benefits of feeding a raw diet more will covnvert to feeding raw completely or begin rotational feeding.
“The raw dog food category is a fast growing segment in the pet food industry, with projected sales to reach $26.6 billion by 2015,” Flantzer said. “Stewart has plans to add new protein recipes to their existing line, with additional serving size options as well as expanding their all natural raw frozen treats.”
Some of the benefits that Flantzer said a raw diet has is the dog will have a better skin and coat, cleaner teeth and healthier gums, better immune and cardiovascular system. A grain or gluten free diet may be the right choice for dogs with allergies.
Many owners want their pets to be eating the same high-quality meats, grains and vegetables they are.
Sojos, which specializes in homemade all natural freeze-dried pet food, strives for that.
“The meat used in Sojos Complete recipes is “freeze dried” and raw, which is extremely rare because other shelf stable dehydrated pet food manufacturers, use “dehydrated meat”, which is technically cooked,” Maggie Johnson, owner of Sojos, said. “At Sojos, we freeze dry our own meat. Freeze drying is a moisture removal process that does not take place at high “cooking” temperatures, so we can control the outcome and ensure that the meat goes in raw and comes out raw.”
When comparing natural food to other kinds of pet foods, Johnson said retailers need to be able to speak to the nutritional benefits of feeding products that are really truly natural and healthy.
“When a pet is eating something that comes from Mother Nature which was meant to be eaten by them, then they are eating something ‘natural’ and they will thrive because the nutritional value present in the ingredients is superior,” Johnson said. “‘Regular’ pet food is commercial dry or canned pet food that is manufactured using synthetic nutrients, feed grade by-products loaded with GMOs, artificial flavorings and colorings, and preservatives. These products have traditionally been manufactured by very large companies that have spent billions of dollars convincing customers that their products are the solution when it comes to what we ought to feed our cats and dogs.”
As vegan diets for people become more mainstream, there is an emerging trend to have their pets follow that same way of eating, too. For the most part, a vegan diet consists of no animal products at all, including dairy.
Halo offers a new vegan garden medley for dogs in both dry and wet formulas. The food features plant protein from nutrient rich chickpeas and peas and contains no animal protein or fat and no dairy, but contains the same essential nutrients found in diets with meat as the protein source, the company says. In addition, there is no corn, wheat or wheat gluten and it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives in the food.
Since 2005, the family owned and operated V-Dog brand has been offering animal food without animal products. Based in California, the company offers premium products that are 100 percent cruelty-free.