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August 23, 2016

As dog owners shift their own eating habits because of prevailing trends, they are scrutinizing their pets’ diets more than ever before.

“There are a few motivating factors in choosing grain-free options,” said Bette Shubert, Bravo Pet Food’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “The primary one is pet parents’ desire to feed a better, more nutritionally-sound food benefitting the overall health and well-being of the companion animal. Cats and dogs are carnivores, or meat-eaters. Many pet foods are at least 50 percent (or more) grain because the carbohydrates are needed to hold the food together. But as The Merck Veterinary Manual tells us, dogs and cats have ‘no dietary requirement for carbohydrates.’”

Like Humans Do
The human food industry is experiencing massive change with an emphasis on what the Institute of Food Technologists calls “the intersection of health and convenience.” And, as most trends do, that is trickling into the pet space.

“Pet owners are becoming more conscious of ingredients and paying closer attention to food labels and nutritional benefits, which is primarily driving their increasing belief that grains are bad for dogs with digestive sensitivities,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “In fact, this belief is backed by veterinarians that agree that pets do not need as much grain in their diets as originally thought, and [they] often recommend that pets eat little or no grains, as to not trigger metabolism difficulties or potential diseases. Overall, as pet parents make healthy decisions for themselves and their families, they are doing the same for their furry companions by purchasing wholesome foods that contain nutritious benefits to support their individual needs.”

Caru’s Tetra Pak cartons deliver on the convenience factor because they are easy to open, close and store. The recipes inside provide the healthy, grain-free formulas.

“Caru recipes are ‘just like homemade’—we focus on carefully choosing our products’ ingredients and treating each with integrity to maintain its most healthful qualities to benefit the pet’s diet and promote an overall healthy lifestyle,” Pettyan said. “That said, we recognized consumers’ need for grain-free pet food and treats, and also formulated our grain-free Stews and Treats with GMO-free ingredients. We also recently launched a new line of GMO-free dog treats with exotic proteins: alligator, rabbit and wild boar. These items were created for owners who believe a change of proteins or novel proteins will help alleviate food sensitivities or simply want to satisfy their pets’ wild cravings.”

Part of the grain-free trend, which Bravo embraces, is a push for a raw food diet. Some consumers have been reluctant to make that shift for fear of preparing and storing raw meat. Bravo has combined the desire for that feeding approach with packaged convenience.

“Bravo has always offered single-source protein, limited and grain-free ingredient formulas that all serve a specific nutritional purpose,” Shubert said. “Using our raw foods as an example, the muscle meats provide energy, the organs are nutrient-rich, and the bones are great for dental health and as a source of calcium. In some cases, we add vegetables for added nutrients. Our fresh-frozen raw foods are simple by design and provide a great foundation for creating a custom food based on the specific nutritional needs of the companion animal. Our grain-free freeze dried dinners meet the AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition right out of the package. And if you look at our treats, you’ll find they are made from 100 percent muscle meats and/or organs, making them highly nutritious and delicious and 100 percent grain-free.”

Treats Going Against the Grain
These shifts in consumer demands aren’t exclusive to food; grain-free treats are also popular.

“Currently, pet parents are regularly seeking products that are grain-free and corn-free, as well as products that offer limited, natural ingredients,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of sales and marketing at Paragon Pet Products. “WHIMZEES dental dog chews are an incredible solution because they offer all of the benefits that help to promote healthier gums and teeth, but in a more fun, delicious and highly digestible way than anything else on the market. The limited, natural ingredients in WHIMZEES offer a high quality vegetarian option that promotes dental and oral health but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”

Camosci emphasized that “simple, limited ingredients are very on-trend, and we see this trend evolving to be the standard versus the exception. Our company is continuing to see grain-free as a highly sought requirement with regards to dogs with all different kinds of allergies.”

For those considering grain-free products to stock your shelves, these products were previously specialty but are now a basic consumer expectation. A range of treats and grain-free kibble, plus alternative options like Caru and Bravo, hit major pain points for consumers who want the health of a grain-free meal with the convenience of simple-serve packaging.

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