Many pets are considered family members, which has led to a multibillion dollar U.S. pet food industry. According to the latest statistics from the Pet Food Institute (PFI), dog and cat food sales grew from $11.9 billion in 2000 to $19 billion in 2012. A free Report on SupplySide Animal Nutrition Insights, "U.S. Pet Food Trends," explains the market is likely to experience continued growth, despite challenges with ingredients, product development and regulation.
Trends seen among humans—whether increasing rates of obesity or a shift to purchasing specialty foods such as gluten-free, organic , vegetarian, raw or all-natural—are also playing out in the animal kingdom. Exotic meats such as wild boar, rabbit, pheasant, venison, duck and filets of fish are being used, as are quinoa, beans, tapioca and peas. In addition, nutraceuticals such as glucosamine are now becoming more common in food, especially in age- and size-specific formulations.
Consumer perception about ingredients is playing a greater role in product formulations and labeling. For instance, many pet owners are under the impression that grains (corn, rice, wheat and its protein gluten) are the enemy right now, even though they are largely not considered harmful to pets. The result is rampant use of "grain-free" and "gluten-free" as buzzwords on pet food packaging. Similarly, the use of "byproducts" has also brought scrutiny—and a label claim of "human grade" meat.
The pet food industry is considered one of the most highly regulated food groups next to infant formula. In fact, the amount of regulations that pet foods are subject to can be daunting for companies. Other challenges to newcomers in the pet food market include ingredient availability, production capacity and market differentiation amidst a crowded niche.
Even though the challenges of entering and staying in the pet food market can seem daunting, there is no denying it is a growing industry that will continue to evolve through the years.