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.
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.
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.
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.
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+.
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.
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