April 30, 2015

Global Pet Expo has come and gone and the pet retailers who attended saw a ton of new trends.

One such trend was pet food manufacturers offering alternative and exotic meat proteins to help ease pet allergies which are pretty common.


“This trend toward alternative meats and delicious flavors points to an even larger trend in the pet food industry: pet parents are taking a more active role in their pet’s nutrition with a focus on quality ingredients and often feeding their pets the way they would feed themselves,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior manager, marketing communications at Wellness Natural Pet Food.

Wellness CORE by Wellness Natural Pet Food is grain free that now features a wild game formula.

“Like all recipes within the Wellness CORE family, Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game formula provides dogs with a thoughtful alternative for protein-focused nutrition without fillers,” said Leary-Coutu. “What sets this recipe apart from other CORE recipes is its focus on unique proteins–duck, wild boar and rabbit–which are supplemented with nourishing chickpeas and lentils for high-quality carbohydrate sources.”

According to Leary-Coutu, Wellness put a lot of thought into their decision to use alternative meat proteins.

“By thoughtfully selecting specialized ingredients and managing nutritional ratios, Wellness CORE delivers protein-focused nutrition with balance, not excess,” she said. “Finished with antioxidants, omega fatty acids and probiotics, Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game is grain-free to help manage sensitivities or allergies some pets may have to such dietary fillers.”

Wellness said that the Grain Free Wild Game Formula is a good option for pets with poultry and fish allergies.

“One of the biggest challenges we as pet parents face is recognizing these benefits and understanding when our pet is truly healthy,” she said. “That’s why Wellness recently launched the ‘5 Signs of Wellness,’ an educational campaign to help pet parents better understand the visible indicators of their pet’s overall health and well-being that can come from feeding their pet natural, balanced recipes like those found in Wellness CORE and Wellness Complete Health: soft, shiny coat and skin, digestive health, clear, bright eyes, teeth and gums, high energy and immunity.

Wellness recently introduced Wellness TruFood which are full of prey protein.

“TruFood provides 70 percent more raw protein than most pet foods and includes fruits, veggies and antioxidants,” said Leary-Coutu.

Sojos Wild pet food also features alternative proteins with fish and game and is also completely raw.

“Sojos Wild is a high-protein, ultra-premium dog food. Freeze-dried game or fish is the first ingredient in each of the three raw, shelf stable recipes,” said Ward Johnson, owner and president of Sojos. “Pet parents just add water and the blend of meat, veggies and fruit rehydrates to the original taste, aroma and above all, nutrition.”

Exotic proteins like wild boar and venison offer more than just allergy relief. Sojos knew the benefits to using exotic proteins.

“You’ll find that free-range venison, wild boar and wild-caught salmon all have unique health benefits,” said Johnson. “That’s why they’re the featured ingredients in new Sojos Wild. We’re all about transforming the lives of pets through superior nutrition and each of these lean, healthy proteins fits our mission to a tee. Venison is often referred to as the ultimate red meat. It’s rich in protein, low in cholesterol and much leaner than beef. Wild boar is leaner and more flavorful than pork and surprisingly heart healthy. And wild-caught Alaskan salmon, the third featured protein in the Sojos Wild line, is packed with omega-3’s and essential amino acids.”

In fact, according to Johnson, Sojos Wild is a complete meal.

“In addition to an ample portion of healthy exotic protein, each recipe includes a nutritious blend of complementary ingredients—like green peas, purple sweet potato, parsnip, green beans and coconut,” said Ward.

Bison is also a great alternative protein and Solid Gold got in on the trend with three different bison varieties. Wee Bit is a holistic dog food made for small breeds. Wolf Cub also uses bison and is made specifically for puppies and finally Wolf King is made for medium and large breed dogs.


Pet treats are also starting to get in on the trend of exotic proteins.

Companies like Zuke’s are now offering alternative proteins options in their treats.

“Throughout Zuke’s product range we offer 10 different types of protein, including duck, rabbit, pork, salmon, venison, turkey, peanut butter, lamb, beef and chicken,” said Chris Meiering, director of innovation at Zuke’s. “This variety guarantees that pet owners can find one that fits into their dog’s diet and pleases his palate. These delicious proteins are the primary ingredient in all of our treats and pack a nutritional punch that will re-invigorate treat time.”

Complete Natural Nutrition debuted the treat line of Chirpies at Global Pet Expo and the main ingredient is actually crickets.

“In the quest of finding a hypoallergenic treat, we wanted something that was even more hypoallergenic than our usual all natural line with no corn, soy or wheat,” said Nicole Ice, international sales manager at Complete Natural Nutrition.

According to her, the idea of using crickets came about from the YouTube channel ASAP Science. Two men in one of the videos were discussing crickets.

“It really made us say ‘wow, this is so sustainable for the environment,’” said Ice. “You can farm a million crickets in a small area. You could never farm a million cattle.”

Chirpies use crickets from a human-grade facility in Ontario, Canada.

While benefiting the environment, Chirpies also benefit the pet immensely.

“They are super high protein and low-fat,” said Ice. “A lot of dogs are becoming overweight and a lot of dogs have allergies to beef now and these are the most hypoallergenic treat on the market now.”

Pets Plus stores in Philadelphia have already made deals to feature Chirpies in every store. Chirpies will also be given to rescue groups so they can send dogs home with a bag.

Caru introduced a new line of natural dog treats called bites with multiple flavors including exotic proteins like venison and lamb. The meat is all USDA inspection and U.S. sourced. The treats are also non-GMO and completely hormone free.

“Our customers absolutely loved the existing treats we had like duck, beef and chicken and we thought it would be nice to add special treats for pet parents who wanted to do something extra nice for their dogs,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru.

Protein sources contain different levels of amino acids, therefore, featuring different types of proteins has a clear benefit.

“Dogs are omnivores so giving them a variety of proteins gives a better probability of making sure the body is able to use all the necessary amino acids,” said Pettyan. “There are 22 amino acids that animals need. Giving a variety of protein allows pets to get a sufficient amount of these essential amino acids.”

Barkworthies even offers kangaroo chews with five different SKUs such as kangaroo jerky and kangaroo tails.

These kangaroo treats are all natural and made with free-range kangaroo. With a new logo and packaging, customers will be sure to show interest in these low-fat treats made of exotic kangaroo.

Customer Response

Customer feedback about these exotic meat lines has been very positive.

Zuke’s customers love feeding different types of meat to their pets.

“Variety is the spice of life and our consumers enjoy the fact that we offer them a wide choice of flavors in our treat lines,” said Meiering.

According to Johnson, the response to Sojos Wild brand has been pretty great.

“By all indications, Sojos Wild nails the sweet spot between several converging category trends,” he said. “It’s raw, it’s rich in freeze-dried exotic protein, it’s grain-free and it’s made entirely under our own roof. As a result, the response has been phenomenal. In fact, we’re already fast-tracking a 4-pound bag to complement the 1-pound bag we introduced at Global Pet Expo.”

Pet owners have also responded positively to Wellness’ CORE Wild Game formula.

“Pet parents who feed their pets protein-focused, natural recipes like Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game formula typically see signs of overall well-being–like digestive health and a healthy body weight–because of the focus on balanced nutrition,” said Leary-Coutu.

“They also love that they are making the most out of mealtime by giving their dog something special–the primal taste of Wellness CORE Grain-Free Wild Game dry food.”

According to Ice, as far as Chirpies were concerned, the company expected some people to be grossed out at Global by the treats.

“But for every one person who was disgusted, there were at least 25 that said ‘this is the best thing ever,’” she said. “And it was really cool to see. Everybody was super excited. The buyer at my biggest account, Pet Food Experts was so excited that he wanted to order them immediately!”

Dogs aren’t the only ones cashing in on Caru’s Natural Recipe Bites, cats seem to enjoy them as well. Retailers can even stock them in both sections.

“We hear from customers that cats even like the treats because they’re almost 80 percent meat and cats love their meat proteins,” said Pettyan.

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