KANSAS CITY, MO. — The general consensus among pet industry experts and market researchers is that pet ownership and purchasing behaviors have been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a dynamic and challenging supply chain environment, retail disruptions amid the acceleration of e-commerce and omnichannel options, tight labor markets and a myriad of other obstacles, the industry continues to grow. Emerging products and formats that support a continued shift toward humanization and premiumization is fueling the market. Dog and cat food sales alone are expected to hit $37.1 billion in 2021, up 6.4% from 2020, according to Packaged Facts.
Throughout 2021, Pet Food Processing has covered well over 100 new product releases, a significant number of private equity investments and acquisitions, news and innovations from pet startups and veteran companies alike, transformative product trends, sustainability journeys and achievements, updates on the shifting retail landscape, and everything in between.
Here are our top 10 most-read articles from 2021:
In June, Pet Food Institute (PFI) submitted public comments to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) detailing supply chain constraints seen by pet food and treat manufacturers, including those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lucrative pet treat market presents an attractive opportunity for human food brands looking to expand their portfolios to include feline and canine companions. Another notable trend shaping the pet treat market is the incorporation of hemp and CBD ingredients to deliver functional benefits.
Between the lines of these two trends emerged Martha Stewart's collection of CBD-infused dog treat products, which add to her empire of lifestyle and pet products. Stewart partnered with Bob Menardi, DVM, director of veterinary technical and educational services at Canopy Animal Science, to develop the products.
In June, the Royal Veterinary College (RCV) began investigating an uptick in cats experiencing symptoms of pancytopenia, a blood cell deficiency condition, which was initially linked to one hypoallergenic cat food producer in the United Kingdom. In September the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency released an update into the investigation. Extensive testing of the hypoallergenic cat food producer in question revealed there was “no causative link between pancytopenia and the recalled cat food products." The investigation is ongoing.
In a survey released in late August, Nestlé Purina PetCare highlighted discrepancies and misunderstandings among pet owners when it comes to purchasing and feeding puppy formulas, showing many pet owners are unaware that dog maturity varies by breed size.
According to Purina, pet owners are more likely to determine an appropriate diet based off their dogs’ size (46%), but do not account for breed differences and their effects on size and development. This poses an opportunity for manufacturers to help pet owners gain a better understanding of age-appropriate formulations through product marketing and education.
In mid-August, Target debuted its new private-label pet food portfolio in stores and online. The leading general merchandise retailer now sells more than 50 dry and wet dog and cat diets, pet treats and meal topper products.
The line reflects several industry-wide trends, including the use of pasture-raised beef and wild-caught fish, recyclable packaging for many products in the line, and offering premium nutritional products at affordable prices.
In May, General Mills announced plans to acquire Tyson Foods, Inc.’s pet products business — including its Nudges, Top Chews and True Chews brands — for $1.2 billion. The deal also included the sale of Tyson's manufacturing facility in Independence, Iowa. The two companies closed on the acquisition in July, and General Mills reported in its second-quarter earnings call that the former Tyson pet treat brands have already begun paying off for the company in terms of sales.
In April, Bobby Flay and his Maine Coon cat companion, Nacho, debuted their cat food portfolio focused on providing palatable, high-quality diets for modern felines.
In early April, Mars Petcare announced the upcoming launch of its first 100% insect-based cat food formulas exclusively in the United Kingdom. The brand, Lovebug, does not contain any traditional protein sources such as beef or poultry ingredients.
In August, Primal Pet Foods, a pet food, treat and supplement producer based in Fairfield, Calif., announced it had been acquired by private investment firm Kinderhook Industries, LLC. Kinderhook currently owns Prairie Dog Pet Products, Himalayan and Holistic Hound, and plans to combine all four brands under the new name, Primal Pet Group.
In early May, Walmart announced the launch of several veterinarian-formulated pet food products under its private label Pure Balance brand. The new products, PRO+, include four formulas for cats and five formulas for dogs.
Over the past 10 years, the number of both individual claims and class actions based on alleged mislabeling have continued to rise. The types of lawsuits range widely, from those based on certain words used on labels such as “natural” and “real,” to the stated origin of the ingredients, and even disputes over the imagery used on the food label. This article discusses types of lawsuits that are arising more frequently, as well as trends which seem to be developing in the way courts have been handling those lawsuits.
Online pet product sales now make up 30% of the total market, according to market research firm Packaged Facts, a number that has grown notably from just 8% in 2015, accelerated by changing pet owner preferences and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
State of the Industry 2021