The latest product innovations, trends and topics in the pet food and treat industry as seen on the Global Pet Expo show floor.
The 16th annual Global Pet Expo has come and gone, drawing more than 1,000 exhibitors, including several hundred pet food and treat brands to showcase their latest product innovations, discuss trends, challenges and opportunities in the industry, network with and learn from one another.
Per usual during Global Pet Expo, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) shared annual pet spending data from 2019 during the show. Steve King, chief executive officer of APPA, is pictured here giving a brief synopsis of the results to members of the pet industry media.
In all, US pet owners spent $95.7 billion on their pets in 2019, with $36.9 billion on pet food and treats alone. Veterinary care and products come in second with $29.3 billion in sales, followed by supplies, live animals and OTC medicine at $19.2 billion and other services at $10.3 billion.
Several innovative product development trends, ingredients and formulations caught the attention of Pet Food Processing’s editorial team as we perused the show floor and met with exhibitors. Among the hundreds — if not thousands — of new pet food and treat products seen at Global Pet Expo this year, these five trends jumped out in particular: grain-inclusive diets, the development of complementary dry and wet pet food formulas, whole-prey nutrition, the use of solutions-based ingredients and proliferation in wet, fresh and frozen pet food and treats.
We also saw a continued rise in hemp-CBD pet products, an emphasis on human-grade products and a handful of reformulations and package redesigns.
In response to the US Food and Drug Administration’s theory connecting certain grain-free dog formulas to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), we saw countless brands reintroduce grain-friendly diets into their portfolios for both dogs and cats. Several products broadcasted claims such as “with wholesome grains,” “with healthy grains” and “intentional grains,” with a focus on barley, oatmeal, millet and sorghum.
Merrick’s newest dog food line, Full Source, not only includes “healthy grains” but also promotes whole-animal nutrition by formulating with muscle meat, organs and cartilage. The trend toward higher quality and higher levels of protein in pet foods has driven some brands to include animal co-products, which also has a sustainability angle and allows more of the protein in each diet to be categorized as “from animal sources.”
Cloud Star, a Whitebridge Pet Brands company, launched its first frozen dog treat product, Ice Treats, during the show, reflecting an overall industry trend toward frozen and refrigerated pet foods and treats. According to Nielsen Pet Retail data, frozen wet pet products gained 8.8% in sales since 2018 and refrigerated pet product sales grew a substantial 21.5%.
As the cold chain in the United States develops and pet retailers are beginning to accommodate growth with in-store fridges and freezers, it’s safe to say more of these products will continue to pop up in the
New takes on wet pet foods are driving growth in this category for both dogs and cats, and several of Merrick’s product releases at Global Pet Expo showed why. The company introduced its first bone broth for dogs, following the successful launch of its Pristine brand cat bone broths last year.
Canned pet foods are still on a roll with the company also releasing regional barbecue-inspired wet dog foods at the show, featuring Kansas City, North Carolina, Texas and Memphis-style flavors.
Another way to promote hydration without having to make drastic changes in the kinds of formulations pets usually eat is through rotational feeding. This concept has taken on a new form as some brands are embracing proliferated portfolios that spread a single formula concept across several formats, including dry kibble diets, wet canned foods and even treats. Pets Global has done this across its Essence and Zignature brands and, most recently, added complementary wet canned diets and treats to its Inception brand.
Human-grade options are proliferating and mass premiumization of the pet food and treat industry continues. This brand, The Honest Kitchen, manufactures its food and treats in a certified human-grade facility. It showcased several new products at the trade show, including Whole Grain Clusters, a kibble alternative with grains to complement its Grain-Free Clusters diets, as well as whole-fish chews, new stew and pâté formulas for cats and a new small breed dog food, which is available grain-free or grain-inclusive.
Speaking of small breed dog foods, Petcurean added a grain-free diet for small dogs to its GO! Solutions line, which is also limited-ingredient and designed for dogs with food sensitivities. As small dog and cat ownership continues to grow alongside the increase in urban populations, pet food and treat processors are tailoring diets to specific breeds and offering targeted nutritional solutions for cats and smaller dogs.
The incorporation of functional ingredients has taken the pet industry by storm. Solutions-based nutrition in complete-and-balanced pet foods are addressing health and wellness issues such as digestive health, bone and joint support, skin and coat health, weight maintenance and countless other conditions. These new diets from Blue Buffalo Co., TRUE Solutions, will be offered exclusively in the pet specialty retail channel and include similar offerings for cats (not pictured).
Purina may have taken the cake in the solutions-based category this year with the launch of its newest Pro Plan cat diet, LiveClear, which can inhibit a major cat allergen without affecting nutrition and therefore reduce cat allergies among humans. The company developed an egg-based ingredient with Fel d1 antibodies that has been shown to significantly reduce allergens by 47% on average in as little as three weeks.
One key component of the annual trade show is Global Pet Expo Academy, a series of educational seminars geared toward buyers, exhibitors and pet industry professionals on various trending topics in the industry.
This year, more than 46 total hours of free seminars covered topics from social media in retail to specialty pet food ingredient trends and an update on the DCM issue. Maria Lange, pet and cannabis research specialist at Nielsen Global Connect, discussed the current legal situation and consumer trends driving the rapidly growing hemp-CBD pet product market in her presentation, “Hemp CBD: A Budding Trend with an Uncertain Future.”
While these products have not yet been legalized or regulated, Lange said she received an estimate from APPA that at least 60 brands were offering hemp-CBD pet products throughout the show floor this year.
Honest Paws launched its brand new bag designs, featuring a color code and new product names for its three main formulas — Calm (blue), Wellness (green) and Relief (purple) — across all its hemp-based products. The goal behind this rebranding was to simplify the design and language for each of its formulas, making the products easy to find and making each product’s benefits easy to understand and differentiate.
Lord Jameson also debuted new product names, package designs and formulas for its artisan dog treats, which are human-grade and organic. The line includes Everyday and Functional products; the functional treats are a part of its Apothecary collection launched last year and are formulated with PCR hemp. The brand recently launched new treat products, including Celebration Bash, Summer Spark and holiday-themed formulas; Hanukkah Gelt, Holiday Cobbler and Gingerbread.
Five startups were chosen to participate in this year’s Purina Pet Care Innovation Prize Program, and after each presenting a brief pitch and answering questions from a panel of five pet industry judges and a live audience, Because Animals was awarded for its unique approach to alternative pet food and treat proteins. Shannon Falconer, Ph.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of the biotech startup, accepted the award and a $10,000 prize during day two of the trade show.
Pictured here, from left: William Broun, business development officer at Purina’s 9Square Ventures Group; Emily Stein, PhD, chief executive officer of TEEF! By Primal Health; Aaron Wallace, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Lacuna Diagnostics; Shea Cox, founder of Pet Hospice; Adam Hobler, business development senior manager at 9Square Ventures; Falconer of Because Animals; Katie Smith, founder and chief operating officer of NewRoad Foods; and Blair Morgan, business development officer at 9Square Ventures.
With pet food and treat sales projected to near $40 billion by the end of 2020, Pet Food Processing continues to look forward to the trends, innovations, cutting-edge nutritional solutions and novel treat options that are sure to surface between now and the next Global Pet Expo, which will take place in March 2021.