How Human Tastes Affect Pet Food Industry Trends in 2023

With pet ownership on the rise, the pet food market is also therefore enjoying a sustained period of growth. As of 2022, the sector was forecast to gross in excess of $115 billion globally and studies suggest this figure will continue to climb in the coming years.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a significant increase in pet ownership. With more people having to stay at home, many took the opportunity to get pets as companions.

And recent reports suggest pet foods are starting to mimic human food trends. Pet owners’ beliefs and values are being transferred to the animal world – with our furry friends being served meals that are not only far more pleasing to their palates but have certain aspirational qualities or health benefits.

“People are humanizing their animals and want the best for them as they see them as part of the family,” says Mark Gilooly, Senior Implementation Specialist at Format Solutions. “Those who can afford it are not only spending on quality foods for themselves, they want to do the same for their pets.”

To accommodate these changing tastes, formulators are expanding their product ranges and constantly innovating – making the pet food segment far more complex.

“This has been an evolving trend over a number of years,” says Ian Mealey, Product Marketing Director – Formulation. “There’s always been a premium end to the market, but the nature of those products is changing. The expectations of the pet owner have increased and pet food manufacturers are having to adapt to customer needs and demand.”

“There’s a growing awareness about food, where it comes from, and what it can do to you,” he adds.

“Health and wellness aspects, and the sourcing of ingredients is becoming more important to us – and this trend is naturally extending to how we feed our pets.”

Here, we look at some of the top human food trends that are shaping the pet food market:

1. The Cost of Living Crisis

Fueled by inflation and spiraling costs, consumers are understandably taking stock of their outgoings and cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Yet there still seems a willingness to pay for products that cater to their needs and core values – and this includes pet food.

Although affordability is more of a consideration than it was, there’s still an expectation from owners to be able to feed their pets top quality products that boast healthy, nutritious, and sustainably sourced ingredients.

2. Ingredient Choice

Take a look in any supermarket and you’ll likely see someone poring over a food label and scrutinizing the list of ingredients.

Food quality and health factors are increasingly leading consumers’ buying choices and many now carefully check a product’s packaging and labeling before making a purchase. Exactly the same can be said for pet owners who are keen to monitor their animal’s intake of nutrients and their source.

In some cases, owner preferences may extend to how they feed their pets, for example plant-based or fresh diets, or locally-sourced ingredients – meaning food manufacturers are having to broaden their portfolios to meet these demands.

3. Sourcing and Sustainability

Today’s consumers really care about where their food comes from, how sustainable it is, and the manufacturer’s green credentials. These factors have become central to many peoples’ buying processes and they’re even often willing to pay a premium if they know they’re buying from a more environmentally-aware supplier.

Pet owners are wanting to know ingredients are sourced ethically and are concerned about their carbon footprint.

These customer demands have filtered through from the supermarkets, with producers and formulators now considering how to monitor and prove their credentials in these areas.

Under pressure to minimize their environmental impact, they’re prioritizing locally-sourced ingredients rather than cheaper alternatives that are shipped great distances, for example.

Consumers are demanding choice and that adds complexity and additional constraints to the production process. From a formulator’s point of view, there’s a lot to consider: how reliable is the source of these new ingredients, are they affordable, and are they of sufficient quality?

“There is a downward pressure on margin because of the cost of living crisis, but there's also an upward pressure on costs because of the ingredient supply chain. Obtaining ingredients of suitable quality with reliable sourcing is becoming increasingly challenging,” says Mealey.

4. Bespoke Diets

Consumers are no longer restricted to choosing from the rows of generic cans of pet food on the store shelves. These one-size-fits-all products of the past have been supplemented by an ever-growing range of foods that cater for many different tastes and dietary requirements.

Animals that may be a little more susceptible to certain health issues are now catered for and their owners are willing to pay extra to make sure they’re well looked after. Whether you own a senior cat with dental problems or wish to maintain your dog’s glossy coat, functional ingredients have specific nutritional benefits that help with anything from bone health to digestion.

5. Treating Yourself

As humans, we all like the occasional treat – even if we're on a health kick. It’s the same in the pet food sector. Owners want to spoil their pets and reward them for being well behaved and obedient – and they’re more than willing to pay a premium to do it.

Snacks and treats have become a key growth area for pet food brands and their development is encouraging a lot of innovation and investment.

Software Benefits

All of the above trends offer many opportunities – and pose numerous challenges – for pet food manufacturers.

With owners becoming savvier about the ingredients they want included in their pet’s food and expecting value for money products that still deliver quality nutrition, portfolios are expanding and recipes are becoming more sophisticated. Managing and controlling these processes is therefore also becoming far more difficult.

With so much data to keep track of, pet food manufacturers and processors are relying more on modern formulation software and relinquishing their reliance on spreadsheets. By doing so, users are better able to manage formulas, control quality, and carry out trial runs in virtual environments to research and develop products.

“One of the key benefits of formulation software is that you’re able to use it to find a cost effective way to satisfy the requirements of your product,” says Mealey. “The product developers’ skill is to encapsulate all these parameters – health, nutrition, sourcing – in the product design. Formulation software provides the opportunity to assess ingredients and manage variations.”

In such a fast-moving marketplace, an effective software solution provides the agility and ability to react quickly, so you aren’t overtaken by changing circumstances or miss out on new trends and opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about Format Solutions and how our software can help boost your sustainability efforts, contact us today.