Consumers increasingly seek healthy attributes in pet food

With the overall growth of pet ownership during the pandemic, as well as increasing awareness of health and wellness, a growing number of pet owners, new and old, are applying their human wellness standards when shopping for their pets, says a recent report from NielsenIQ .

“Pet owners read labels closely and seek out products that match their pets’ specific dietary needs and their own values,” notes the report, which adds that this more conscious approach to pet care represents a major opportunity for the pet industry to personalize their offerings and win with new and existing pet parents alike.

According to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of households currently own pets. A growing segment of this population treats their pets like human family members, selecting food and treats based on their pets’ dietary restrictions or their own values ​​and diet regimens, like veganism.

NielsenIQ points out exactly which health-focused trends or characteristics are on consumers’ minds when they’re shopping for pet food by examining their online searches across key online retailers, like Amazon.

NielsenPet health search Amazon-Nielsen.png

At Amazon.com alone, the months between July 2020 and July 2021 yielded millions of searches for pet food products that meet specialty diet keywords such as raw, vegan and protein, and those with functional ingredients like pumpkin.

In the second quarter of 2021, searches for pet food characteristics including organic, low-calorie, diabetic support and seafood-based pet food saw as much as triple-digit growth compared to the previous quarter.

While consumers have a clear idea of ​​what they want (or don’t want) in their pets’ food, actually purchasing it is another story. For example, less than 1% of products that possess the growing attributes above actually claim those characteristics on their packaging.

While not all in-demand pet food attributes are under-accounted for to the same degree, there are major gaps. For example, only 28% of pet products make a “free from artificial flavors” claim, but 94% of products within the space actually qualify for that claim. With more robust product attribute data that could guide on-package claims, qualifying products can avoid being eclipsed in online searches and overlooked in-store, and missing out on millions of dollars within the $5.5 billion “free from artificial flavors” space.

“Manufacturers and retailers have a golden opportunity to translate consumers’ increasingly specific health and wellness standards for their pets into more personalized offerings, simply by claiming characteristics for which shoppers are already searching,” according to the NielsenIQ report.

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