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:  


‘Crumbling infrastructure’ and other supply chain issues affecting US pet food manufacturers

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 association pointed to several issues in transportation and supply chain infrastructure, price inflation of key ingredients, extended lead times for equipment, and how the interconnected nature of the pet food industry’s relationship to other US markets caused supply shortages and other disruptions in 2020 that have continued in 2021.


Martha Stewart launches CBD dog treats

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.


Blue Buffalo releases wet cat food portfolio to replace Healthy Gourmet line

In March, Blue Buffalo announced the official release of its latest wet cat food portfolio, BLUE Tastefuls™. The new line will replace the premium pet food and treat brand’s Healthy Gourmet products, becoming Blue Buffalo’s new go-to wet cat food offering. BLUE Tastefuls is currently available in three formats: BLUE Tastefuls Patés, Flaked Entrées and Tender Morsels.

The company cited a growing market for value-added pet food products, including those that focus on overall health and wellness, daily hydration and offering variety at mealtime, as its reasoning behind the wet cat food refresh. 


Update: ‘No causative link’ established between UK cat food recall and pancytopenia cases

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.


92% of large breed dog owners unsure of when to stop feeding puppy food, Purina reports

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.


Target launches pet nutrition brand, Kindfull

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.


Tyson pet treat business sold to General Mills for $1.2 billion

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.


Bobby Flay launches cat food brand inspired by his own feline companion, Nacho

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. 

The new line, Made by Nacho, is the result of two years of recipe development, testing and tasting. The products were inspired by both culinary and cat experts. Bobby Flay, an American celebrity chef, worked together with Katja Lang, DVM and veterinary consultant at Made by Nacho, to design a complete-and-balanced line of tasteful and nutritious cat diets.


Mars Petcare UK to launch first 100% insect-based cat food

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.

This breakthrough cat nutrition solution is on trend with the rise of insect protein processors and pet food and treat companies adopting the protein alternative to feed the world’s growing pet population in a more sustainable way.


Kinderhook acquires Primal Pet Foods, combines pet portfolio to create Primal Pet Group

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.

Honorable mention

Walmart releases ‘super premium’ private label pet foods

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.

Trends emerging in pet food labeling lawsuits

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-only retailers dominating the emerging pet e-commerce market

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.

A few companies are standing out in this rapidly growing retail category, including purely online platforms as well as traditionally brick-and-mortar stores that have added robust online ordering capabilities in recent years. However, purely online retailers continue to dominate this space.

State of the Industry 2021

Our annual State of the Industry reports have been widely read and shared throughout the pet food processing industry since the inauguration of Pet Food Processing in 2018. To date, our inaugural 2018 State of the Industry report is our No. 4 most-read article of all time. Read our most recent State of the Industry report by clicking the button below.

Find our Top 10 articles of 2020 here, and stay up to date on the latest pet food and treat industry news on our homepage.