Processing: The Next Frontier for Premium Pet Food

November 2020

Premium pet food is on the precipice of a transformational shift. As pet owners turn to more fresh and less processed food in their own diets, they are increasingly looking beyond ingredient lists in pet food. Physical format has become a key differentiator in pet food as the level of processing becomes nearly as important as the ingredient list itself. This report explores the drivers behind this shift and the new formats that are benefiting, including raw and fresh pet food.

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Key Findings

The global dominance of dry kibble may be at risk from its “highly processed” image

Dry kibble, which dominates the global pet food market, has become more premium through ingredient and packaging innovation. Its core product form, however, has not changed. As broader dietary trends gradually prioritise fresh over processed food, kibble’s “highly processed” image poses a risk.

The future will be increasingly defined by format

Premium pet food is on the precipice of a transformational shift. In the future, pet owners will increasingly move beyond ingredient lists to examine the physical appearance of their pet food. The processing method used to create the food will become as important as the ingredient list itself.

“Next-gen” wet foods humanise the feeding experience

Recent innovations in wet food feature new formats that closely resemble human foods, like soups, stews, purées or fillets. These products are shifting from metal food can packaging to fresher, more humanised pack types like trays, containers or pouches. This trend is helping wet food to outgrow dry food in key regions.

Processing technologies offer new potential for raw foods

Raw foods, which mirror the meat-rich diets of pets’ evolutionary ancestors, are growing in popularity. Freeze-drying has dramatically expanded the potential market for raw food by making it shelf stable. This allows it to reach a wider retail network (including e-commerce) and create new formats like mixers or kibble+.

E-commerce creates new frontiers for fresh pet food

Freshly cooked pet food, which relies on refrigeration instead of preservatives, is growing as a less processed alternative to kibble. While the logistical hurdles of selling chilled food in stores has historically confined sales to grocery channels, e-commerce is rapidly levelling the playing field. Disruptive online start-ups can more easily enter the market and are expanding the reach of this fresh format.


Key findings

The Kibble Disconnect

Dry kibble dominates the global pet food market
Ingredients and packaging have driven premiumisation trends
The evolution of premium ingredients
Consumer trends move in a different direction
The kibble disconnect
New frontiers of pet food processing
“Next-gen” wet food: humanising the feeding experience

The BARF Revolution

Why raw?
Expanding reach: from frozen to freeze-dried
The market landscape for freeze-dried pet food
A new era of premiumisation with affordable freeze-dried solutions
Home-made BARF: a potential risk to commercially-made products

Feeding Fresh

Why fresh?
Fresh food pioneers in stores: Freshpet Inc (USA)
Fresh pioneers in stores: The Real Pet Food Co (Australia)
E-commerce and subscription models: levelling the field for fresh food
Digital disruptors: online players in fresh pet food
E-commerce also opens new opportunities for BARF brands


Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Different areas of appeal
A future defined by format

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