In the category of dog food, 85 percent of dog owners used dry food most often in 2014, according to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. What’s more, the level of use is even higher (91 percent) among owners of large dogs.
However, according to the American Kennel Club, there has been a steady increase in the popularity of small breeds (dogs under 20 pounds) in the past decade. Currently, they account for about 47 percent of dogs in American households. Further, a report published by Wakefield Research indicates that the small dog population is still on the increase, as more than 60 percent of all millennials are looking for “portable dogs” to match their lifestyles.
“With this trend comes a growing demand for high quality dog food that’s specially formulated to meet their particular dietary needs,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care. “We launched Merrick Lil’ Plates to cater specifically to the big appetites of these small dogs. This line of dry (and wet food) contains probiotics and prebiotic fiber for optimal digestion and industry-leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, which help promote healthy joints.
“Further, the kibble is small in size to make it easier for small dogs to pick up and chew comfortably,” Brace said. “And, like all Merrick recipes, Lil’ Plates start with deboned meat, fish or poultry as the first ingredient and include fresh fruits and vegetables. There are three grain-free kibble recipes and they mirror current trends in the dry food category, namely a variety of protein options as well as products that are completely poultry-free.”
Health Extension will be showcasing a number of new additions to the company’s food line at Global Pet Expo. Following the recent packaging updates made to its Grain Free Line, it will also introduce revamped packaging for its Original Line. The company is also releasing a new line of dog food specifically for large breeds.
“We will be launching our first breed specific product, a highly palatable large breed recipe formulated as a complete and balanced food,” said Brad Gruber, Health Extension’s president and COO. “With this product, calcium and calorie content can be monitored by the provided feeding guidelines that also prevent over feeding. This recipe was formulated to help lower the risk of skeletal issues while helping a large breed puppy cope with issues associated with rapid growth periods.”
Dry Food Predictions
When it comes to dry dog food, Gruber believes baby boomers, which he views as a growing generation, are driving current and future trends.
“I believe that the trends we have seen in 2016 will continue into 2017 and beyond,” Gruber predicted. “Recipes in pet foods will continue to mirror the trends driven in human diets. This includes local sourcing of premium ingredients and customized recipes, and addressing issues such as allergies and obesity. Also, the entire grain free category will continue to explode as well as growth in raw and limited ingredient category diets.”
Building on a Brand
According to Heather Hickey, national sales director for Nature’s Logic, the company has no current plans to add to the line but instead is focusing on creating a larger retail footprint for its existing products. Its K9 beef recipe, she notes, remains a top seller.
“It meets all the needs pet parents consider important in a food,” she added. “Further, it’s produced from beef sourced in the USA, contains no GMO fruits or vegetables and offers great value as a whole food diet.”
The family-owned company’s website notes that the food it manufactures provides all the amino acids, vitamins and minerals listed in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Nutrient Profile for dogs without using synthetic fortification. The AAFCO states “it would be false and misleading to use the term ‘natural’ if any chemically synthesized ingredients are present in the product.”
The focus for Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co Inc. at the Global Pet Expo will be the debut of the new packaging for its Hi-Bio line, dubbed by the company as “a new generation ‘Super Food’ for dogs that combines the benefits of raw food, the convenience of kibble, and the deliciousness of real meat.”
“Promoting this packaging is our goal for the first quarter of this year,” said Holly Sher, president of the company. “The idea is to make it easier for the consumer to better understand the content and benefits of the recipes.”
Sher says her company prides itself in its ongoing educational efforts that first and foremost are aimed at retailers so they are better placed to pass this information on to their customers. The company is hosting a dinner/workshop in Orlando just before the start of the Global Pet Expo that will highlight the Hi-Bio line (which stands for High-Biological) and explain the benefits of this high-nutrient food that contains nine essential amino acids for robust canine health throughout all life stages.
Canadian company Petcurean launched its Gather product line in response to the growing consumer expectation for manufacturing transparency of pet foods and sustainable and organic ingredients. The recipes are free from rendered or genetically engineered ingredients and feature single source, fresh and dehydrated primary proteins.
Endless Valley is a vegan recipe in this Gather lineup that features the Certified Vegan trademark, which guarantees that the recipe does not contain any animal ingredients or animal by-products, and has not been tested on animals.
“Endless Valley provides all of the essential amino acids and complementary ingredients that provide complete and balanced nutrition,” said Jenna Fortin, the company’s marketing manager. “It is a great option for dog owners who want to switch to a plant-based diet. Unlike cats, dogs can meet their nutrient requirements from a plant-only diet. We consider this recipe as a possible solution for dogs with sensitivities to animal proteins, too. The response from retailers and consumers has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Last year, Royal Canin launched a nationwide TV campaign that will continue through 2017 that focuses on individual breed nutrition with new formulas debuting in the coming months.
“I think we’re moving beyond ‘one size fits all’ nutrition, towards more and more specialization,” said Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, forecasting trends in pet nutrition. “Instead of ‘dog food,’ the focus will be on ‘your dog’s food.’ It’s a very exciting time!”
Another company intending to make a splash at Global is Lucy Pet Products, which is debuting Formulas for Life. Using the latest advanced science on gut health, the company has created its Prebiotic Balanced Fiber (PBF) blend, a dry dog food line that creates a healthy digestive system to feed the entire body system. The food includes proteins like duck, salmon and chicken meal, as well as unique ingredients sourced globally from only trusted suppliers.
“I love all my animals and I would never want to be in a position where they were not healthy because I was not feeding them the best food possible,” said Rick Rockhill, executive vice president and partner at Lucy Pet. “And that is the driving force behind everything we do here at Lucy Pet Products.”