By Amy P. Castro
Today’s customer is not only taking pet nutrition more seriously but is also looking for opportunities to turn feeding time into an experience to be shared with their pet. As a result, food and treat manufacturers are developing ways to reach pet parents seeking more than just a bowl of kibble to put down on the floor and refill as needed. When it comes to dog food, many customers are shying away from anything that looks or sounds like dog food and are searching for healthy diets that mirror their own. Fresh ingredients, transparency about a product’s contents and gourmet foods top their list. The pet food industry has responded with foods, toppers and mixes that turn fixing Fido’s dinner into an opportunity to show him how much he’s loved.
For the busiest customers, figuring out an appropriate feeding schedule for their pet can be a challenge. Jason Gagne, veterinary nutritionist and director vet technical communications at Nestlé Purina, says, “In general, our pets thrive on routine. It’s best to feed dogs twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening—and try to stay fairly consistent with timing. When it comes to puppies, it’s best to provide smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, i.e., breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s best to feed them early in the evenings so that they have ample time to digest their food before bedtime.” Gagne says that cats tend to graze more than dogs, so when feeding dry food, once or twice daily feedings is fine.
Cat parents are also looking for the chance to connect and show their love for their cats when it comes to food and treats. According to Purina, retailers should emphasize to customers the new opportunities to feed wet food, cat compliments and treats. Their Fancy Feast Broths and Filets provide new feeding occasions for cats and the people who love them. Traditionally, cats have a higher need for variety in their diets than dogs. Combine that with the fact that more and more of your customers are learning about the health benefits of wet food, and you’re probably already seeing more customers adding wet cat food to their shopping carts. According to Purina, wet food helps ensure cats are well hydrated and also provides high-quality protein to support lean muscles. “However, when feeding your cat wet food,” Gagne advises, “remember that canned food cannot sit out for more than an hour or it might spoil. So, it’s best to feed at a time where you can clean up after your cat if she doesn’t eat it all.”
Finally, treats are another way pet parents are showing the love, and they want treats that have the same high-quality ingredients they get in their pet’s food. According to Purina, “Twenty-five percent of the treat category is currently made up of functional treats. These ‘better for you’ treats are growing faster than the rest of the treat category.”