ORLANDO, Fla. — More than 1,100 exhibitors attended Global Pet Expo 2019 from March 20-22 to showcase new products, develop key industry relationships and promote their brands. On the show floor, large companies, co-manufacturers, and family-owned businesses alike offered pet food and treats influenced by the overall market with a few key trends worth noting: regionally inspired formulas, enhanced mealtime experiences for cats and dogs, high-protein and limited-ingredient diets, increased variety in cat food and treats, a boom in CBD pet supplements, and redesigned packaging to make an impact on increasingly crowded retail shelves.


Really regional

Regional recipes, or formulas calling to a specific nation, region or climate and the game and ingredients native to them, have erupted in the canned pet food space, but are also apparent in dry kibble pet foods.

Tiki Dog, a Whitebridge Pet Products company, released a line of dog food for small breeds in which ingredients for each recipe were inspired by cuisine in Asia, Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

Merrick showcased four new canned regional barbecue recipes for dogs, including Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis and Texas varieties.

Health Extension regional canned dog food recipesHealth Extension has released four new formulas of its existing “geographically themed” grain-free canned dog food line: Montana Grill Buffalo and Whitefish; Carolina Skillet Pork; Mediterranean Roast Lamb; and French Bistro Rabbit. The brand offers other regional recipes including Tuscan Style Quail, New York Style Beef, Italian Feast Venison and Northern Catch Salmon.


Mealtime experience for pets (and owners)

Meal toppers and enhancers have taken off in the pet food market, often serving the purpose of providing supplemental nutrients or variety and excitement to a pet diet. These toppers are often sold in convenient, single-serve pouches or cartons, and enter the market at a relatively low price point. This could incentivize consumers to buy in, especially as humanization trends develop and pet owners become invested in their pets’ mealtime experiences.

Tiki Pet continues to expand its portfolio of meal toppers for cats and dogs. The brand offers functional toppers, such as its pumpkin formula for sensitive stomachs, and a variety of others meant to spice up mealtime by adding something different.

Cat meal enhancers from Merrick, Presidio and “I and love and you&rdquo“I and love and you” showcased functional toppers with health benefits, including “tummy,” “boost” and “shine.” In addition, its newest dog food product Baked & Saucy — bone broth-coated kibble — can be served dry, with added water to create a kibble in gravy, or as a meal enhancer.

Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Bon Appétits Gravies and Morsels offer cats a special snacking moment and are specifically designed for supplemental feeding only. The gravies provide cats with up to 25% of their daily water intake while acting as a meal enhancer, and the morsels have visual inclusions and can be used to add more protein and vegetables to a cat’s diet.

Presidio Natural Pet launched Sushi Meal Toppers, which are Japanese Bonito tuna flakes that can be added on top of a regular pet diet for added flavor.

Purina is on track with this trend, offering variety in its Fancy Feast cat meals. Combinations of broths, hand-flaked ocean appetizers, filets and stews can be combined to complement a pet’s favorite meal.


High-protein remains high priority

High-protein formulas, as well as those that include ancestral or exotic sources of protein (i.e. rabbit, wild boar, bison, quail) continue to be a notable trend in the pet food market. Many products incorporate the trend toward high-protein formulas with other trends, such as regionally inspired ingredients and limited-ingredient diets. 

Pets Global's Essence brand productsEssence, a new Pets Global brand, offers red meat formulas, Ranch & Meadow Recipe, for cats and dogs, as well as poultry formulas, Air & Gamefowl Recipe, and Ocean & Freshwater Recipe fish formulas. The red meat formulas include animal proteins from boar, goat, lamb and pork, poultry formulas incorporate guinea fowl, duck, turkey and chicken, and the fish formulas are focused around herring, sardine, mackerel and salmon protein. Each formula is available in both dry kibble and wet canned varieties for both cats and dogs. Animal protein ingredients make up 85% of each of the dry formulas and 96% of the wet formulas.

Merrick introduced two new formulas to its Backcountry product line focused on ancestral animal proteins, adding a High-Plains formula with beef, wild boar and turkey and Wild Field with duck, rabbit and quail. Both formulas are dry kibble with freeze-dried raw protein inclusions that go through a high-pressure pasteurization process to ensure food safety.


LID by the numbers

Limited-ingredient diets (LID) have become increasingly popular for pets with food sensitivities and consumers looking for added ingredient transparency. Some new releases at Global Expo, such as Honest Kitchen’s new meal enhancers, went as far as listing the total number of ingredients in each formula.

Honest Kitchen showcased its limited-ingredient meal enhancers in four formulas, each with a corresponding number of ingredients shown on the front of the package. The cage-free chicken formula had three ingredients, along with the beef formula. The turkey and duck and wild-caught fish formulas each had four ingredients. Each product is packaged in 5.5-oz Tetra Pak cartons.

Adirondack, an Ohio-based pet food manufacturer, introduced a line of grain-free, limited-ingredient dog diets in five formulas for wet canned food and dry kibble. Animal proteins for each formula are pure beef liver, pure turkey, pure whitefish, pure salmon and pure chicken breast.

Limited ingredient pet food and treats from Wellness Natural Pet, Champion Petfoods and Charlee Bear

Wellness Natural Pet Food released CORE Six, a limited-ingredient, high-protein dry kibble line for dogs including just six ingredients in each formula. Each of the four recipes includes a sustainably sourced animal protein: Free-Range Lamb & Chickpeas, Cage-Free Duck & Chickpeas, Sustainably-Sourced Salmon & Chickpeas, and Small Breed Sustainably-Sourced Salmon & Chickpeas.

Charlee Bear released new freeze-dried treats with just two ingredients per formula: one meat and one superfood, such as blueberries. Additionally, Champion Petfoods extended its ACANA Singles line to include limited-ingredient diet dog treats.


Focus on the felines

Premiumization has given way to an increased variety in cat food, especially with meal toppers, stews and gravies and ancestral formulas.

Caru, a manufacturer of stews and treats for pets, released its first line of cat stews shortly before Global Pet Expo. Each formula is limited-ingredient and free from GMOs, grain and gluten. The stews come in six recipes: chicken; chicken and crab; turkey; wild salmon and turkey; wild salmon and chicken; and beef. Each formula is packaged in a 6-oz. Tetra Pak carton. Caru also offers grass-fed beef bone broth and free-range chicken bone broth for cats.

Canidae showed off its ancestral feline line, Pure Adore available in shreds and morsels, which comes in cans and are formulated for “finicky cats.”

Caru cat stews and Castor & Pollux Pristine cat foods


Castor & Pollux added two complete diets to its Pristine line, wild-caught tuna and cage-free duck. Each formula is complete and balanced and available in single-serve pouches.

Catit, a cat food and product brand, introduced a high-protein, gently air-dried product line with 95% meat in each formula.


Hemp on the horizon

With a number of CBD and hemp-based products on the market for human consumption, it’s no surprise the pet market has started to formulate functional CBD supplements for pets. While the regulations are not yet clear, many brands have taken this opportunity to enter the hemp-based pet market.

Presidio showcased its line of Blossom hemp oil products formulated with proprietary strains of 100% organic hemp. The brand owns a farm in Colorado that produces the hemp plant used in its pet formulas.

Earth Animal unveiled a line of transdermal CBD products under its Nature’s Comfort brand, along with an edible CBD pet supplement. The company plans to release five new products soon.

Honest Paws CBD-infused peanut butter for dogsHonest Paws released a CBD-infused peanut butter for dogs to aid anxiety, pain and inflammation, allergies, insomnia, digestive issues and seizures. The organic peanut butter is infused with 100% pure, full-spectrum CBD oil.

Lord Jameson introduced its Dog Apothecary Collection, which includes organic fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins and PCR Hemp (CBD is a derivative of PCR). The soft-chew supplements are available in three functional formulas: Chill’N, designed to relieve anxiety and promote overall wellness; Golden Health, formulated with turmeric and PCR to support joint health and aid inflammation; and Daily Greens, aimed to support stomach and digestive health.

True Leaf unveiled its new brand identity and hemp-seed products. According to the company, hemp seeds support cognitive health, immune function, skin health and aids with inflammation in pets. True Leaf offers soft chew supplements for small, medium and large dogs, as well as oils. It is currently testing CBD products, which is different than hemp seed, and plans to release CBD products in the future.

Lord Jameson Dog Apothecary collection



Bold new packaging

As more and more brands crowd the shelves of mass retailers, pet specialty and independent pet retailers alike, some brands are rethinking their packaging and designing bolder, more targeted designs to catch consumers’ eyes.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition released its new packaging earlier in 2019, featuring shelter animals on each package, more direct messages about the product and a greater focus on connecting with the consumer on an emotional level, rather than a scientific one.

New packaging from Hill's Pet Nutrition, Champion Petfoods and Hound & GatosGott Pet Products’ brands Hound & Gatos and Charlee Bear both launched colorful new packaging late in 2018, giving them a fresh new face in the modern pet food and treat market. Matrix Partners, the marketing agency behind Charlee Bear and designer of its new packaging, won the 2019 Graphic Design USA award in the American Package Design Awards competition for the design.

Champion’s ORIJEN freeze-dried dog food products have new packaging to stand out in a market where freeze-dried is becoming more and more desirable. Petcurean GO! Carnivore emerged in 2018, formally GO! Fit + Free, as a high-protein, limited ingredient diet for cats and dogs. Whitebridge Pet Products’ brand Dogswell rebranded in 2018 with a more modern look for its packaging and website.

These trends, among others, dominated the floor at Global Pet Expo and continue to grab the attention of consumers and retailers. Freeze-dried food and treat options, formulas with humanely and sustainably sourced ingredients, and products with natural and organic attributes are also big players in the market. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, companies become more transparent, and retailers such as Petco become more stringent on artificial ingredients, it’s safe to say the pet market will continue to adapt to changing consumer priorities, industry trends and the humanization of pets.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.