SELAH, WASH. — New pet food product launches in the United States have been gradually declining since 2017 and, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing persistent impacts, just 169 new pet food and treat products were launched between February 2019 and March 2020, according to a joint report by Mintel and Tree Top Ingredients.
This compares to 510 new pet food launches in 2019, 618 in 2018, and 632 in 2017, as tracked through Mintel’s Global New Product Database (NPD).
The collaborative report, “Pet Food Market Trends May 2020,” also gauged pet owner sentiments about ingredient trends, product claims and retail patterns between March 2019 to February 2020. This data came from an online survey of 1,695 pet owners ages 18 and up.
One key takeaway in the report is an apparent increase in functional health claims on pet food and treat product labels. According to Mintel and Tree Top, nearly 40% of all pet food and treat products make at least one solutions-based health claim, with 20% of products claiming to support periodontal health, 13% claiming to improve skin and coat health, and 10% claiming to aid digestion.
A slew of other functional health claims make up a smaller share of this trend, including joint and mobility health (9%), immune system support (7%), weight management and muscle gain (5%), probiotic and prebiotic benefits (3%), cardiovascular health (3%), eyesight (3%), and cognitive and nervous system support (2%).
In the United States, the inclusion of probiotics in pet food grew 97% from 2017 to 2019, with 136 new products claiming probiotic benefits or properties in 2019. So far in 2020, 52 new pet food products have launched with specific probiotic benefits.
Pet owners looking for functional benefits in the pet foods and treats they buy are driving these trends toward solutions-based formulas, as well as high-quality, all-natural and organic ingredients. According to Mintel and Tree Top, 25% of pet owners ages 18 to 24 consider organic ingredients as a “significant purchase factor,” compared to 9% of pet owners ages 55 and older.
Additionally, 41% of pet owners ages 18 to 34 consider all-natural ingredients as an “important purchase factor,” compared to 29% of pet owners ages 55 and older.
Approximately 15% of new products between March 2019 and February 2020 launched with all-natural ingredient claims, and 3% of new products were introduced with organic ingredient claims.
Although new product launches have slowed as pet food and treat businesses turn their attention toward mitigating the financial, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, new products will nevertheless continue to enter the market. For the new products to come, Mintel and Tree Top share four key areas in which pet owners are interested.
Among pet owners ages 18 to 34, 51% said they are interested in seeing more treats that offer added nutrition, 51% said they would like to see more natural meat treats, 28% said they are interested in more sustainably sourced pet foods, and 25% said they would like to see more pet food using plant-based proteins.
Interest for these categories tapers off with age, with 48% of pet owners ages 35 to 54 who said they are interested in nutritional treats, 51% looking for natural meat treats, 24% looking for sustainably sourced pet food options, and 18% interested in pet food formulated with plant-based proteins.
For pet owners ages 55 and older, 43% said they are interested in treats with added nutrition, 36% said they would like to see more natural meat treats, 15% said they are interested in more sustainably sourced pet food options, and 10% said they are looking for more plant-based proteins in pet foods.
The report also touched on the growing number of meal toppers and enhancers being offered to add value or variety to pets’ diets. According to Mintel, consumers are most likely to purchase these products in a pet specialty store and online.
Additionally, new product launches of age-specific pet food formulas were less frequent in North America than in other global regions between March 2019 and February 2020. Mintel's Global NPD indicated 35% of all new pet foods launched in North America were formulated and marketed for specific age groups, compared to 80% of new product launches in Europe, 66% in the Middle East and Africa, 61% in Latin American and 45% in the Asia Pacific region.
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