SELAH, WASH. — Tree Top, Inc. and Mintel partnered to release their latest “Pet Food Market Trends July 2021” report, detailing key formulation trends seen in the US pet food market.

Among these trends are an increased focus on fruit ingredients, all-natural formulation claims, nutritional solutions that offer preventive health benefits, surging pet treat sales, the rise of meal toppers and mix-ins, and an emphasis on sustainable products and brands.

Between June 2020 and May 2021, 569 new pet food products were launched in the United States market. This number is up from 543 new pet food launches between June 2019 and May 2020, and 562 launches between June 2018 and May 2019.

When looking at all new pet foods launched between June 2018 and May 2021 — a total of 1,674 pet food products — Tree Top and Mintel found 253 (15.1%) of the products contained chicken and 122 (7.3%) contained beef.

Additionally, 170 of the 1,674 new pet food products incorporated cranberry ingredients, 147 featured blueberry and 110 included apple ingredients. This comes as pet food producers selling in all price points and market segments are incorporating more and more fruit and vegetable ingredients in pursuit of cleaner, more recognizable ingredient panels.

Launch activity of pet food with all-natural claims from June 2018 to May 2021, United StatesInfographic courtesy of  Mintel and Tree Top, Inc. 

The number of pet foods launching with all-natural claims also rose between June 2020 and May 2021, totaling 98 over that period compared to 88 between June 2019 and May 2020, and 89 between June 2018 and May 2019. In a survey of 1,383 pet food and treat consumers, Mintel found 36% of pet owners search for all-natural pet food formulas.

A few ingredients are being used in pet food formulas more and more, according to the report. For example, the number of new pet food products containing pumpkin or squash was up 500% from June 2018 to May 2021, while the use of sweet potato or kumara was up 300%. Similarly, new pet foods including bacon, lardon, pancetta, or speck and cheese rose 200%, as did those containing blueberry and peanut butter, and cheese.

As for functional pet food formulas, those claiming digestive health support are currently coming out on top. Roughly 58% of pet owners who participated in Mintel’s survey said they are interested in pet foods and treats with “healthy digestion” claims, followed by 52% who are interested in mobility support, 49% in skin and coat health, 46% in immune system support and 40% in cardiovascular health products.

Interest in health and wellness claims in pet food and treats, March 2021, by category in the United StatesInfographic courtesy of  Mintel and Tree Top, Inc.  

Weight management is also an area of interest among these pet owners, with 37% saying they are interested in these formulas, as well as 33% interested in calming or anxiety relief, 32% in brain and cognitive support, 30% in vision health support, and 26% in energy-boosting formulas.

Mintel clocked dog treat sales growing 28% between 2015 and 2020 in the multi-outlet retail channel, compared to 40% growth for cat treats. It is important to note that dog treat sales continue to outperform cat treat sales, but the latter seems to be growing at a faster pace.

For example, cat treat sales in 2015 topped $589.1 million in sales, while dog treat sales totaled $2.3 billion. In 2020, those numbers grew to $825.2 million for cat treat sales and $2.94 billion for dog treat sales.  

Multi-outlet sales of dog and cat treats in the United States, 2015-2020Infographic courtesy of  Mintel and Tree Top, Inc.  

Meal toppers are also piquing the interest of pet owners across the United States. In a survey of 1,085 dog food and treat consumers and 681 cat food and treat consumers in April 2020, Mintel found 17% of the dog-owning audience purchase meal toppers, while 16% of cat owners purchase meal toppers. This compares to 78% of dog-owning respondents who purchased dog treats and 67% of cat-owning respondents who purchased cat treats.

Mintel and Tree Top offered some key strategies for brands hoping to expand their presence in the emerging meal topper space. Building awareness of product benefits, such as added palatability and supplemental nutrition, could be a key selling point of these products. Additionally, meal toppers can be used to add variety or strengthen the human-animal bond at mealtime. Brands can also build awareness of these products by placing meal toppers in close proximity to their pet treat and pet food products on-shelf, the report suggested.

Tree Top and Mintel summarized the report by noting current pet food trends are leaning toward clean-label and age-specific diets. Sustainable products were also noted as an area with high growth potential.

In the next two years, brands will “strive to achieve a balance between nature and science,” the report said, and sustainable products will continue to grow. Cat food products are also likely to proliferate as the number of cat owners increases.

In the long term, Mintel and Tree Top expect pet foods and treats to focus more on fostering emotional connections with their pets, either by creating novel products and experiences or launching innovative products to help pet owners manage the mental health of pets. Additionally, products incorporating lab-grown meat alternatives will also gain momentum.

Read Mintel and Tree Top’s “Pet Food Market Trends May 2020” report here.

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