Natural and organic products benefit from the consumer perception, whether real or imagined, that they are purer and safer than regular products. Based on survey results published by market research firm Packaged Facts in the report Natural, Organic and Eco-Friendly Pet Products in the U.S., 6th Edition, half (50%) of pet product purchasers agree that natural and organic pet foods are safer than regular pet foods. The survey also revealed that 64% of dog owners and 56% of cat owners consider product safety and the potential for contamination when purchasing pet food.
“The widespread pet food recalls of spring 2007 thrust the issue of pet food safety into the spotlight,” comments David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Additionally, food recalls and pathogen outbreaks in the human food markets have left consumers leery of trusting the safety of the food products they are purchasing and caused them to question not just what they themselves are consuming, but their pets as well.”
In the decade following the aforementioned 2007 pet food recalls, dozens—if not hundreds—of smaller-scale recalls have taken place in the pet food market. All have been regulated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement mandatory recall proceedings under the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA). Also involved is the new Web Portal Registry launched in 2010 by the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which allows veterinarians, pet owners, and manufacturers to report safety concerns associated with pet foods and veterinary drugs. On the non-food side, the safety issue resonates especially for ingestible products like supplements and chews, but it is also a growing factor in other areas.
Beyond lingering pet owner concern over product safety, Packaged Facts has identified three key trends that are shaping and growing the market for natural, organic and eco-friendly pet products:
Grain-Free Pet Food Proves More Than a Passing Trend: As of 2016, the grain-free movement has become such a large part of the pet food market that what began as a natural product phenomenon has crossed the boundaries into more conventional products. At the same time, the trend has become firmly entrenched as a crucial part of natural pet food market positioning. Packaged Facts’ pet owner survey reveals that 19% of dog owners and 15% of cat owners were using grain-free pet foods—percentages that will only continue to swell.
Increased Transparency Crossing Over From Human Market: The combination of consumer interest in the nutritional quality and safety of the pet foods and supplies they purchase has driven a demand for increased transparency in the contents and composition of products in the pet market. Mirroring trends in consumer packaged goods across the U.S., the more consumers educate themselves about the potential hazards that exist in the products they purchase, the more they desire to know exactly what it is that they are putting in, or on, their pets’ bodies, and are thus demanding labels that accurately reflect the contents of the product.
Availability of Grass-Fed and Free-Range Protein Sources: Like so many other human food trends, the appeal of meat protein that is ethically and sustainably sourced has crossed over into the pet food market. While the expense of grass-fed and free-range foods for pets may be off-putting, pet owners committed to both high quality foods and ethical food production see grass-fed and free-range proteins as worth the cost.
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