One-third of all global pet foods launched between September 2015 and September 2016 were US launches, according to Innova Market Insights data.

Snapshot of US pet food market

In the US pet food market, nearly 66 percent of the total pet foods launched between September 2015–2016 were dog food launches, compared to globally where dog foods represented only 57 percent of pet food launches.

Cat food launches, however, are higher globally (at just under 38 percent of total launches) compared to the United States (just under 29 percent). Aside from dogs and cats, the rest of the pet food products launched in September 2015–2016 were for a variety of different wild animals and pets: birds, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, as well as more exotic animals such as ferrets and chinchillas and a growing range of reptiles.

Health Trends for Pets

Pet foods are now being formulated to address concerns of humans, including organic and non-GMO pet food ingredients, “free from” options, and low-carb recipes. As in the human-food industry, interest in clean labeling continues to grow in pet food. In the United States, nearly 53 percent of launches used natural and/or “no additives/preservatives” claims, driving forward interest in natural and organic formulations.

More than 80 percent of global pet food launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in September 2015–2016 were marketed on a health platform of some kind. In the United States, health claims are even more prolific, on up to 90 percent of launches. Many products carry multiple health claims.

Vitamin- and mineral-related claims are the most popular of active health claims for pet food (used on over 23 percent of global launches). The next most popular claims are digestive- or gut-health claims, used on 22 percent of global launches and addressing issues such as sensitive stomachs in dogs and also furball/hairball problems in cats. Probiotic and prebiotic ingredients are popularly marketed for these conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are also popular in the pet food market, included in just over 15 percent of global launches. Skin health is also a popular market, with over 14 percent of global introductions featuring claims related to skin health.

Allergy-related claims are also very popular. There has been a strong rise in gluten-free and grain-free formulations for both dogs and cats. More than one-fifth of global launches were gluten-free, and nearly a quarter of dog food launches alone were gluten-free.

There is also continued interest in protein content just as there is in the human-food and -drinks industry. Just over 30 percent of pet food launches between September 2015–2016 featured “high in” or “source of” protein claims, up from just 20 percent a year previously. In the pet-food market, there has also been ongoing interest in alternative and more exotic protein sources, such as game meat, bison and seafood.

Premium pet food products 

Consumers are increasingly indulging their pets with premium and superpremium dog and cat foods, as well as increasingly sophisticated snacks and treats. Many of these products are positioned to be clean label, as well as grain-free and non-GMO.

Premium pet products are especially popular in the United States. Nearly 14 percent of US pet-food launches in September 2015–2016 were positioned as indulgent or premium. Premium labeling is especially popular in the cat-food market (nearly 15 percent of launches).

In the US, there has been strong interest in superpremium, single-serve formulations. Recent examples include Mars’s Sheba Perfect Portions Pate and Nestlé Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Gourmet Shreds (gourmet-style recipes such as Oven Roasted Chicken, Braised Beef, and Ocean Whitefish and Tuna). Broths and casseroles, such as Nestlé’s Purina Fancy Feast Broths, are becoming more common in the super-premium market as well.

Snacks, especially snacks for dogs, are not only becoming premium but also incorporating on-trend ingredients from the human-food market. Turbopop K9 Superfood Snacks, for example, are marketed as superfoods for dogs in flavors such as Pumpkin and Grilled Lamb Crunchy Bites, Roast Beef and Blueberry Crunchy Bites, and Roast Duck and Kale Crunchy Bites.

Mature, but active US pet food market

Despite being relatively mature, the US pet food market is bustling with new-product activity. Pet food trends will continue to align with those in the human-food industry, and pet-food marketers will continue adding value to their products by increasingly targeting specific sub-groups of pets—including age, breed/type, and/or need state—and offering healthy, convenient, high-quality meals, snacks and treats. 

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