Vegan meals, edible insects & raw treats: new trends in the dog food segment

Vegan meals, edible insects & raw treats: new trends in the dog food segment

By
Louise Burfitt
January 25, 2021

Back in the day, mealtime for man’s best friend likely meant throwing a few leftover scraps down or opening a tin of meat. But in 2020 the phrase ‘dog’s dinner’ no longer seems fit for purpose - today’s pooch owners are in the market for more than mere sustenance when it comes to what they feed their beloved canines. Sustainability, nutrition and personalisation are just three emerging consumer desires. And the pet food industry - expected to hit revenues of $128.4 billion globally by 2022 - is responding to these demands with an array of new developments.

Trend drivers: rising ownership, pampered plant-based pets & sustainability

One of the main drivers of new trends in dog food is higher rates of dog ownership. Pet possession has exploded during the pandemic, rising in Europe and the US. But this isn’t actually a new trend: since the 1970s, the number of American households with at least one pet has tripled. In Europe, 85 million households have a furry friend, with dogs one of the most popular choices. China is also a big emerging market, with 22% of households owning an animal. This means that the pet food market is big business: it was estimated to be worth $95 billion in 2020. Pet food makes up 75% of the $125 billion global pet products market, so it’s a segment pet products companies look at as increasingly lucrative with a wealth of interested consumers.

While in the past, pets may have just been part of the furniture, today pet dogs are much more likely to be prized possessions. Owners can pay vast sums of money for a certain breed and often treat their canine pals as they would children, so it makes sense that today’s puppy parents are prepared to spend more on pampering their pets. This particularly applies to what they’re fed: 45% of pet owners surveyed by Mintel said they’d willingly have their pets DNA tested to find out the healthiest diet. The increasing move towards treating dogs, and their health and nutrition, as humans is driving more specialised, tailored and premium products in dog food. 

In related news: it’s not just humans going plant-based. The trend can also be observed where pets are concerned. Research by Mintel found that one-third of UK dog buyers regularly feed their dog a plant-based dinner. Though the vegan dog food trend is in part being driven by vegan owners, plenty of meat-eating pet owners are switching to vegan pet food at least some of the time for various reasons - digestive problems in their dogs and ethical concerns, for example.

Pet owners are also becoming more aware of the effect of pet food on the planet. Globally, pets consume an astounding 20% of the world’s meat and fish. Sustainability is also linked to nutrition and taste - if a dog food doesn’t deliver nutritional value, or appeal to its furry consumers, it will go to waste. And that’s pretty hard on the world’s resources. Brands are addressing sustainability in different ways - some going the plant-based route to avoid the problems of meat rearing, others opting for new proteins like insects or making the most of innovative cultured meat tech.

 

Exploring the trend: vegan treats, premium quality, humanisation & more

As we’ve learned, vegan pet food is bang on trend. Wild Earth, a successful startup with funding from Mars Petcare, sells vegan dog food made from pea protein, potato and yeast developed using biotech, which it bills as a clean and responsible protein. Meanwhile, Barcelona-based startup Natu won Nestlé Purina’s Unleashed Initiative for impactful pet care in 2020, for its advanced plant-based protein technology for pet food. Across the pond, Californian dog food brand V-Planet makes cruelty-free kibble with 100% plant-based, non-GMO ingredients. The brand also avoids using top allergens like corn, wheat and soy in its products for healthier pups. Elsewhere, US biotech companies are using cultivated meat technology to build pet food prototypes: Colorado’s Bond Pet Foods introduced their lab-grown chicken pet food prototype last summer, grown using a chicken cell and a strain of food-grade yeast. San Diego’s Blue Nalu are chasing similar goals by growing fish from cell cultures for use in pet food and netted $60M last week to build out their production facility. 

We know that many pet owners are prepared to pay a premium for good-quality dog food that will give their furry friends long, healthy lives. UK startup Bella and Duke sell raw dog food billed as ‘natural & healthy’, born after the founders’ dogs died of cancer - possibly partially caused by poor-quality food. The company and some (but not all) scientists believe raw food is beneficial to a doggo’s immune system, strength and longevity. A quick internet search in 2021 turns up hundreds of local results for raw dog food providers so it looks like this trend could be going mainstream.

Many disruptive pet food startups place specific emphasis on the dog food products they sell being ‘human-grade’, aka sufficiently high in quality for humans to eat (though not advisable!). Swedish firm Buddy Pet Foods provides human-grade, oven-baked dry food, developed in partnership with pet dieticians. UK company Pure Pet Food, who have raised £2.13 million in funding, specialise in air-dried, human-grade dog food - the drying process locks in added nutrients. Both of the above also offer a degree of personalisation: Buddy Pet Foods work together with pet nutritionists to create specialised diet plans for customers’ dogs, while Pure Pet Food asks its customers to share details about their canine pal so that the dog food can be individually tailored.

Millennials are particularly willing to invest in premium, personalised pet food though the category remains small for now. Finnish pet food chain Musti ja Mirri sells smart collars linked to a dog loyalty programme: dogs signed up to the reward scheme are recognised via the digital collar when they step foot in store, and are presented with a personalised treat by store staff. Nestlé Purina have been offering tailored dog food in the US since 2017, with the Just Right brand, which uses an algorithm to assess a dog’s age, size, weight and breed to produce the best pet food blend for their needs. This personalised service is available in Europe under the brand name Tails.com, which started as a startup before being acquired by Purina in 2018.

Sustainability concerns are also leading pet food producers to look to novel ingredients that have fewer associated environmental problems. UK startup Yora makes dry dog food with 40% insect protein, and plans to develop wet food made with critters in the near future. Meanwhile across the Channel, Reglo - founded just last year - is selling its insect kibble for dogs made with sustainably produced insect proteins. Early-stage startup Aardvark is planning to launch its insect-based dry kibble for dogs this year, after surpassing its funding goals by 600% with support from over 900 investors – a sure sign of the genuine interest in insect-based dog food. 

 

Case Studies: The Pack & Butternut Box

The Pack is a London-based plant-based dog food startup that successfully closed a pre-seed funding round this month, with support from high-profile celebs. Preparing to launch later this year, The Pack will sell three flavours of plant-based wet food for four-legged friends, designed with the help of food scientists. The brand’s founders say that realising how much pet food contributed to the climate crisis inspired them to pursue a plant-based model. The Pack’s vegan dog food products will be available to buy from the company’s own webshop, but speedy expansion is planned, with the aim of hitting mass retail by the second quarter of 2021. 


Subscription-based dog food startup Butternut Box are responding to several trends in the pet food industry with their personalised meal plans for dogs, delivered to customers’ doorsteps on a rolling basis. The UK brand is committed to better labelling, and prides itself on its homemade, human-grade recipe containing 60% meat, 40% veggies and no added nasties. Customers enter their dog’s details and Butternut creates a tailored menu delivered in portioned pouches which are frozen to lock in freshness and nutrients. Pricing is also tailored depending on the dog’s needs. In 2019 the brand raised £15 million towards its expansion plans and last year received significant investment from European fund L Catterton to accelerate its growth beyond the UK.

 

What’s next for dog food?

Despite the economic downturn set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic, the global pet industry shows little sign of slowing. If anything, the spike in dog ownership in developed countries during the pandemic is bolstering its coffers. Financial concerns among consumers affected by the pandemic’s economic effects may boost the sales of private-label pet food but, for now, it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions.

Expect sustainability to continue to drive conversations around pet food, as the climate crisis bites and awareness continues to increase among a wider array of consumers. There are already discussions about the downsides of human-grade pet food, given that dog meals made with byproducts of the meat manufacturing process are in theory more sustainable - given that they use animal offcuts that would otherwise have been chucked into landfill. 

Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation. With more pets comes more pet owners willing to improve their pet’s health and lifestyle, a dog really is man’s best friend more than ever.

The 30-second pitch: New trends in dog food  


🐶 What

  • Dog owners are no longer satisfied with the run-of-the-mill pet food options that have dominated the market for decades: responding to consumer desires for nutrition, sustainability and personalisation.

🤷 Why

  • The pandemic has seen pet ownership boom: for many, stay-at-home orders and work-from-home have created the perfect environment for life with a dog. But this was a trend already in motion long before COVID-19, and dog owners today are willing to shell out to find the best sustenance for their furry friend.

🐕 How

  • Cultivated meat pet food 
  • Healthier dog food options (e.g. human-grade dog food)  
  • Personalised pet food
  • Plant-based dog food
  • Raw dog food
  • Subscription services
  • Sustainable dog food (e.g. using insect proteins)

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Existing brands can appeal to consumer desires by developing new product lines that elevate a dog’s health, product sustainability and individually tailored options. 
  • In the past, pet food has not been known for sustainability, but increased consumer demand for more ethical, eco-friendly alternatives is widening the pool of options for dog owners - with excellent knock-on effects for the planet.
  • Personalisation - where meals are tailored to a dog’s needs - is a growing field that has positive benefits for canine health and happiness, if done properly.
  • Convenient possibilities, like subscription services, are also offering ease to consumers.

👎 The bad

  • Human-grade pet food may have sustainability downsides: dog meals made with byproducts are in theory more sustainable given that they use parts of the animal that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
  • The jury’s out on certain dog food diets that have become trendy in recent years: vets are far from united on the benefits of raw food for dogs, and vegan dog meals aren’t without controversy either. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation.
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Back in the day, mealtime for man’s best friend likely meant throwing a few leftover scraps down or opening a tin of meat. But in 2020 the phrase ‘dog’s dinner’ no longer seems fit for purpose - today’s pooch owners are in the market for more than mere sustenance when it comes to what they feed their beloved canines. Sustainability, nutrition and personalisation are just three emerging consumer desires. And the pet food industry - expected to hit revenues of $128.4 billion globally by 2022 - is responding to these demands with an array of new developments.

Trend drivers: rising ownership, pampered plant-based pets & sustainability

One of the main drivers of new trends in dog food is higher rates of dog ownership. Pet possession has exploded during the pandemic, rising in Europe and the US. But this isn’t actually a new trend: since the 1970s, the number of American households with at least one pet has tripled. In Europe, 85 million households have a furry friend, with dogs one of the most popular choices. China is also a big emerging market, with 22% of households owning an animal. This means that the pet food market is big business: it was estimated to be worth $95 billion in 2020. Pet food makes up 75% of the $125 billion global pet products market, so it’s a segment pet products companies look at as increasingly lucrative with a wealth of interested consumers.

While in the past, pets may have just been part of the furniture, today pet dogs are much more likely to be prized possessions. Owners can pay vast sums of money for a certain breed and often treat their canine pals as they would children, so it makes sense that today’s puppy parents are prepared to spend more on pampering their pets. This particularly applies to what they’re fed: 45% of pet owners surveyed by Mintel said they’d willingly have their pets DNA tested to find out the healthiest diet. The increasing move towards treating dogs, and their health and nutrition, as humans is driving more specialised, tailored and premium products in dog food. 

In related news: it’s not just humans going plant-based. The trend can also be observed where pets are concerned. Research by Mintel found that one-third of UK dog buyers regularly feed their dog a plant-based dinner. Though the vegan dog food trend is in part being driven by vegan owners, plenty of meat-eating pet owners are switching to vegan pet food at least some of the time for various reasons - digestive problems in their dogs and ethical concerns, for example.

Pet owners are also becoming more aware of the effect of pet food on the planet. Globally, pets consume an astounding 20% of the world’s meat and fish. Sustainability is also linked to nutrition and taste - if a dog food doesn’t deliver nutritional value, or appeal to its furry consumers, it will go to waste. And that’s pretty hard on the world’s resources. Brands are addressing sustainability in different ways - some going the plant-based route to avoid the problems of meat rearing, others opting for new proteins like insects or making the most of innovative cultured meat tech.

 

Exploring the trend: vegan treats, premium quality, humanisation & more

As we’ve learned, vegan pet food is bang on trend. Wild Earth, a successful startup with funding from Mars Petcare, sells vegan dog food made from pea protein, potato and yeast developed using biotech, which it bills as a clean and responsible protein. Meanwhile, Barcelona-based startup Natu won Nestlé Purina’s Unleashed Initiative for impactful pet care in 2020, for its advanced plant-based protein technology for pet food. Across the pond, Californian dog food brand V-Planet makes cruelty-free kibble with 100% plant-based, non-GMO ingredients. The brand also avoids using top allergens like corn, wheat and soy in its products for healthier pups. Elsewhere, US biotech companies are using cultivated meat technology to build pet food prototypes: Colorado’s Bond Pet Foods introduced their lab-grown chicken pet food prototype last summer, grown using a chicken cell and a strain of food-grade yeast. San Diego’s Blue Nalu are chasing similar goals by growing fish from cell cultures for use in pet food and netted $60M last week to build out their production facility. 

We know that many pet owners are prepared to pay a premium for good-quality dog food that will give their furry friends long, healthy lives. UK startup Bella and Duke sell raw dog food billed as ‘natural & healthy’, born after the founders’ dogs died of cancer - possibly partially caused by poor-quality food. The company and some (but not all) scientists believe raw food is beneficial to a doggo’s immune system, strength and longevity. A quick internet search in 2021 turns up hundreds of local results for raw dog food providers so it looks like this trend could be going mainstream.

Many disruptive pet food startups place specific emphasis on the dog food products they sell being ‘human-grade’, aka sufficiently high in quality for humans to eat (though not advisable!). Swedish firm Buddy Pet Foods provides human-grade, oven-baked dry food, developed in partnership with pet dieticians. UK company Pure Pet Food, who have raised £2.13 million in funding, specialise in air-dried, human-grade dog food - the drying process locks in added nutrients. Both of the above also offer a degree of personalisation: Buddy Pet Foods work together with pet nutritionists to create specialised diet plans for customers’ dogs, while Pure Pet Food asks its customers to share details about their canine pal so that the dog food can be individually tailored.

Millennials are particularly willing to invest in premium, personalised pet food though the category remains small for now. Finnish pet food chain Musti ja Mirri sells smart collars linked to a dog loyalty programme: dogs signed up to the reward scheme are recognised via the digital collar when they step foot in store, and are presented with a personalised treat by store staff. Nestlé Purina have been offering tailored dog food in the US since 2017, with the Just Right brand, which uses an algorithm to assess a dog’s age, size, weight and breed to produce the best pet food blend for their needs. This personalised service is available in Europe under the brand name Tails.com, which started as a startup before being acquired by Purina in 2018.

Sustainability concerns are also leading pet food producers to look to novel ingredients that have fewer associated environmental problems. UK startup Yora makes dry dog food with 40% insect protein, and plans to develop wet food made with critters in the near future. Meanwhile across the Channel, Reglo - founded just last year - is selling its insect kibble for dogs made with sustainably produced insect proteins. Early-stage startup Aardvark is planning to launch its insect-based dry kibble for dogs this year, after surpassing its funding goals by 600% with support from over 900 investors – a sure sign of the genuine interest in insect-based dog food. 

 

Case Studies: The Pack & Butternut Box

The Pack is a London-based plant-based dog food startup that successfully closed a pre-seed funding round this month, with support from high-profile celebs. Preparing to launch later this year, The Pack will sell three flavours of plant-based wet food for four-legged friends, designed with the help of food scientists. The brand’s founders say that realising how much pet food contributed to the climate crisis inspired them to pursue a plant-based model. The Pack’s vegan dog food products will be available to buy from the company’s own webshop, but speedy expansion is planned, with the aim of hitting mass retail by the second quarter of 2021. 


Subscription-based dog food startup Butternut Box are responding to several trends in the pet food industry with their personalised meal plans for dogs, delivered to customers’ doorsteps on a rolling basis. The UK brand is committed to better labelling, and prides itself on its homemade, human-grade recipe containing 60% meat, 40% veggies and no added nasties. Customers enter their dog’s details and Butternut creates a tailored menu delivered in portioned pouches which are frozen to lock in freshness and nutrients. Pricing is also tailored depending on the dog’s needs. In 2019 the brand raised £15 million towards its expansion plans and last year received significant investment from European fund L Catterton to accelerate its growth beyond the UK.

 

What’s next for dog food?

Despite the economic downturn set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic, the global pet industry shows little sign of slowing. If anything, the spike in dog ownership in developed countries during the pandemic is bolstering its coffers. Financial concerns among consumers affected by the pandemic’s economic effects may boost the sales of private-label pet food but, for now, it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions.

Expect sustainability to continue to drive conversations around pet food, as the climate crisis bites and awareness continues to increase among a wider array of consumers. There are already discussions about the downsides of human-grade pet food, given that dog meals made with byproducts of the meat manufacturing process are in theory more sustainable - given that they use animal offcuts that would otherwise have been chucked into landfill. 

Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation. With more pets comes more pet owners willing to improve their pet’s health and lifestyle, a dog really is man’s best friend more than ever.

The 30-second pitch: New trends in dog food  


🐶 What

  • Dog owners are no longer satisfied with the run-of-the-mill pet food options that have dominated the market for decades: responding to consumer desires for nutrition, sustainability and personalisation.

🤷 Why

  • The pandemic has seen pet ownership boom: for many, stay-at-home orders and work-from-home have created the perfect environment for life with a dog. But this was a trend already in motion long before COVID-19, and dog owners today are willing to shell out to find the best sustenance for their furry friend.

🐕 How

  • Cultivated meat pet food 
  • Healthier dog food options (e.g. human-grade dog food)  
  • Personalised pet food
  • Plant-based dog food
  • Raw dog food
  • Subscription services
  • Sustainable dog food (e.g. using insect proteins)

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Existing brands can appeal to consumer desires by developing new product lines that elevate a dog’s health, product sustainability and individually tailored options. 
  • In the past, pet food has not been known for sustainability, but increased consumer demand for more ethical, eco-friendly alternatives is widening the pool of options for dog owners - with excellent knock-on effects for the planet.
  • Personalisation - where meals are tailored to a dog’s needs - is a growing field that has positive benefits for canine health and happiness, if done properly.
  • Convenient possibilities, like subscription services, are also offering ease to consumers.

👎 The bad

  • Human-grade pet food may have sustainability downsides: dog meals made with byproducts are in theory more sustainable given that they use parts of the animal that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
  • The jury’s out on certain dog food diets that have become trendy in recent years: vets are far from united on the benefits of raw food for dogs, and vegan dog meals aren’t without controversy either. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation.

Back in the day, mealtime for man’s best friend likely meant throwing a few leftover scraps down or opening a tin of meat. But in 2020 the phrase ‘dog’s dinner’ no longer seems fit for purpose - today’s pooch owners are in the market for more than mere sustenance when it comes to what they feed their beloved canines. Sustainability, nutrition and personalisation are just three emerging consumer desires. And the pet food industry - expected to hit revenues of $128.4 billion globally by 2022 - is responding to these demands with an array of new developments.

Trend drivers: rising ownership, pampered plant-based pets & sustainability

One of the main drivers of new trends in dog food is higher rates of dog ownership. Pet possession has exploded during the pandemic, rising in Europe and the US. But this isn’t actually a new trend: since the 1970s, the number of American households with at least one pet has tripled. In Europe, 85 million households have a furry friend, with dogs one of the most popular choices. China is also a big emerging market, with 22% of households owning an animal. This means that the pet food market is big business: it was estimated to be worth $95 billion in 2020. Pet food makes up 75% of the $125 billion global pet products market, so it’s a segment pet products companies look at as increasingly lucrative with a wealth of interested consumers.

While in the past, pets may have just been part of the furniture, today pet dogs are much more likely to be prized possessions. Owners can pay vast sums of money for a certain breed and often treat their canine pals as they would children, so it makes sense that today’s puppy parents are prepared to spend more on pampering their pets. This particularly applies to what they’re fed: 45% of pet owners surveyed by Mintel said they’d willingly have their pets DNA tested to find out the healthiest diet. The increasing move towards treating dogs, and their health and nutrition, as humans is driving more specialised, tailored and premium products in dog food. 

In related news: it’s not just humans going plant-based. The trend can also be observed where pets are concerned. Research by Mintel found that one-third of UK dog buyers regularly feed their dog a plant-based dinner. Though the vegan dog food trend is in part being driven by vegan owners, plenty of meat-eating pet owners are switching to vegan pet food at least some of the time for various reasons - digestive problems in their dogs and ethical concerns, for example.

Pet owners are also becoming more aware of the effect of pet food on the planet. Globally, pets consume an astounding 20% of the world’s meat and fish. Sustainability is also linked to nutrition and taste - if a dog food doesn’t deliver nutritional value, or appeal to its furry consumers, it will go to waste. And that’s pretty hard on the world’s resources. Brands are addressing sustainability in different ways - some going the plant-based route to avoid the problems of meat rearing, others opting for new proteins like insects or making the most of innovative cultured meat tech.

 

Exploring the trend: vegan treats, premium quality, humanisation & more

As we’ve learned, vegan pet food is bang on trend. Wild Earth, a successful startup with funding from Mars Petcare, sells vegan dog food made from pea protein, potato and yeast developed using biotech, which it bills as a clean and responsible protein. Meanwhile, Barcelona-based startup Natu won Nestlé Purina’s Unleashed Initiative for impactful pet care in 2020, for its advanced plant-based protein technology for pet food. Across the pond, Californian dog food brand V-Planet makes cruelty-free kibble with 100% plant-based, non-GMO ingredients. The brand also avoids using top allergens like corn, wheat and soy in its products for healthier pups. Elsewhere, US biotech companies are using cultivated meat technology to build pet food prototypes: Colorado’s Bond Pet Foods introduced their lab-grown chicken pet food prototype last summer, grown using a chicken cell and a strain of food-grade yeast. San Diego’s Blue Nalu are chasing similar goals by growing fish from cell cultures for use in pet food and netted $60M last week to build out their production facility. 

We know that many pet owners are prepared to pay a premium for good-quality dog food that will give their furry friends long, healthy lives. UK startup Bella and Duke sell raw dog food billed as ‘natural & healthy’, born after the founders’ dogs died of cancer - possibly partially caused by poor-quality food. The company and some (but not all) scientists believe raw food is beneficial to a doggo’s immune system, strength and longevity. A quick internet search in 2021 turns up hundreds of local results for raw dog food providers so it looks like this trend could be going mainstream.

Many disruptive pet food startups place specific emphasis on the dog food products they sell being ‘human-grade’, aka sufficiently high in quality for humans to eat (though not advisable!). Swedish firm Buddy Pet Foods provides human-grade, oven-baked dry food, developed in partnership with pet dieticians. UK company Pure Pet Food, who have raised £2.13 million in funding, specialise in air-dried, human-grade dog food - the drying process locks in added nutrients. Both of the above also offer a degree of personalisation: Buddy Pet Foods work together with pet nutritionists to create specialised diet plans for customers’ dogs, while Pure Pet Food asks its customers to share details about their canine pal so that the dog food can be individually tailored.

Millennials are particularly willing to invest in premium, personalised pet food though the category remains small for now. Finnish pet food chain Musti ja Mirri sells smart collars linked to a dog loyalty programme: dogs signed up to the reward scheme are recognised via the digital collar when they step foot in store, and are presented with a personalised treat by store staff. Nestlé Purina have been offering tailored dog food in the US since 2017, with the Just Right brand, which uses an algorithm to assess a dog’s age, size, weight and breed to produce the best pet food blend for their needs. This personalised service is available in Europe under the brand name Tails.com, which started as a startup before being acquired by Purina in 2018.

Sustainability concerns are also leading pet food producers to look to novel ingredients that have fewer associated environmental problems. UK startup Yora makes dry dog food with 40% insect protein, and plans to develop wet food made with critters in the near future. Meanwhile across the Channel, Reglo - founded just last year - is selling its insect kibble for dogs made with sustainably produced insect proteins. Early-stage startup Aardvark is planning to launch its insect-based dry kibble for dogs this year, after surpassing its funding goals by 600% with support from over 900 investors – a sure sign of the genuine interest in insect-based dog food. 

 

Case Studies: The Pack & Butternut Box

The Pack is a London-based plant-based dog food startup that successfully closed a pre-seed funding round this month, with support from high-profile celebs. Preparing to launch later this year, The Pack will sell three flavours of plant-based wet food for four-legged friends, designed with the help of food scientists. The brand’s founders say that realising how much pet food contributed to the climate crisis inspired them to pursue a plant-based model. The Pack’s vegan dog food products will be available to buy from the company’s own webshop, but speedy expansion is planned, with the aim of hitting mass retail by the second quarter of 2021. 


Subscription-based dog food startup Butternut Box are responding to several trends in the pet food industry with their personalised meal plans for dogs, delivered to customers’ doorsteps on a rolling basis. The UK brand is committed to better labelling, and prides itself on its homemade, human-grade recipe containing 60% meat, 40% veggies and no added nasties. Customers enter their dog’s details and Butternut creates a tailored menu delivered in portioned pouches which are frozen to lock in freshness and nutrients. Pricing is also tailored depending on the dog’s needs. In 2019 the brand raised £15 million towards its expansion plans and last year received significant investment from European fund L Catterton to accelerate its growth beyond the UK.

 

What’s next for dog food?

Despite the economic downturn set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic, the global pet industry shows little sign of slowing. If anything, the spike in dog ownership in developed countries during the pandemic is bolstering its coffers. Financial concerns among consumers affected by the pandemic’s economic effects may boost the sales of private-label pet food but, for now, it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions.

Expect sustainability to continue to drive conversations around pet food, as the climate crisis bites and awareness continues to increase among a wider array of consumers. There are already discussions about the downsides of human-grade pet food, given that dog meals made with byproducts of the meat manufacturing process are in theory more sustainable - given that they use animal offcuts that would otherwise have been chucked into landfill. 

Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation. With more pets comes more pet owners willing to improve their pet’s health and lifestyle, a dog really is man’s best friend more than ever.

The 30-second pitch: New trends in dog food  


🐶 What

  • Dog owners are no longer satisfied with the run-of-the-mill pet food options that have dominated the market for decades: responding to consumer desires for nutrition, sustainability and personalisation.

🤷 Why

  • The pandemic has seen pet ownership boom: for many, stay-at-home orders and work-from-home have created the perfect environment for life with a dog. But this was a trend already in motion long before COVID-19, and dog owners today are willing to shell out to find the best sustenance for their furry friend.

🐕 How

  • Cultivated meat pet food 
  • Healthier dog food options (e.g. human-grade dog food)  
  • Personalised pet food
  • Plant-based dog food
  • Raw dog food
  • Subscription services
  • Sustainable dog food (e.g. using insect proteins)

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Existing brands can appeal to consumer desires by developing new product lines that elevate a dog’s health, product sustainability and individually tailored options. 
  • In the past, pet food has not been known for sustainability, but increased consumer demand for more ethical, eco-friendly alternatives is widening the pool of options for dog owners - with excellent knock-on effects for the planet.
  • Personalisation - where meals are tailored to a dog’s needs - is a growing field that has positive benefits for canine health and happiness, if done properly.
  • Convenient possibilities, like subscription services, are also offering ease to consumers.

👎 The bad

  • Human-grade pet food may have sustainability downsides: dog meals made with byproducts are in theory more sustainable given that they use parts of the animal that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
  • The jury’s out on certain dog food diets that have become trendy in recent years: vets are far from united on the benefits of raw food for dogs, and vegan dog meals aren’t without controversy either. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation.

Back in the day, mealtime for man’s best friend likely meant throwing a few leftover scraps down or opening a tin of meat. But in 2020 the phrase ‘dog’s dinner’ no longer seems fit for purpose - today’s pooch owners are in the market for more than mere sustenance when it comes to what they feed their beloved canines. Sustainability, nutrition and personalisation are just three emerging consumer desires. And the pet food industry - expected to hit revenues of $128.4 billion globally by 2022 - is responding to these demands with an array of new developments.

Trend drivers: rising ownership, pampered plant-based pets & sustainability

One of the main drivers of new trends in dog food is higher rates of dog ownership. Pet possession has exploded during the pandemic, rising in Europe and the US. But this isn’t actually a new trend: since the 1970s, the number of American households with at least one pet has tripled. In Europe, 85 million households have a furry friend, with dogs one of the most popular choices. China is also a big emerging market, with 22% of households owning an animal. This means that the pet food market is big business: it was estimated to be worth $95 billion in 2020. Pet food makes up 75% of the $125 billion global pet products market, so it’s a segment pet products companies look at as increasingly lucrative with a wealth of interested consumers.

While in the past, pets may have just been part of the furniture, today pet dogs are much more likely to be prized possessions. Owners can pay vast sums of money for a certain breed and often treat their canine pals as they would children, so it makes sense that today’s puppy parents are prepared to spend more on pampering their pets. This particularly applies to what they’re fed: 45% of pet owners surveyed by Mintel said they’d willingly have their pets DNA tested to find out the healthiest diet. The increasing move towards treating dogs, and their health and nutrition, as humans is driving more specialised, tailored and premium products in dog food. 

In related news: it’s not just humans going plant-based. The trend can also be observed where pets are concerned. Research by Mintel found that one-third of UK dog buyers regularly feed their dog a plant-based dinner. Though the vegan dog food trend is in part being driven by vegan owners, plenty of meat-eating pet owners are switching to vegan pet food at least some of the time for various reasons - digestive problems in their dogs and ethical concerns, for example.

Pet owners are also becoming more aware of the effect of pet food on the planet. Globally, pets consume an astounding 20% of the world’s meat and fish. Sustainability is also linked to nutrition and taste - if a dog food doesn’t deliver nutritional value, or appeal to its furry consumers, it will go to waste. And that’s pretty hard on the world’s resources. Brands are addressing sustainability in different ways - some going the plant-based route to avoid the problems of meat rearing, others opting for new proteins like insects or making the most of innovative cultured meat tech.

 

Exploring the trend: vegan treats, premium quality, humanisation & more

As we’ve learned, vegan pet food is bang on trend. Wild Earth, a successful startup with funding from Mars Petcare, sells vegan dog food made from pea protein, potato and yeast developed using biotech, which it bills as a clean and responsible protein. Meanwhile, Barcelona-based startup Natu won Nestlé Purina’s Unleashed Initiative for impactful pet care in 2020, for its advanced plant-based protein technology for pet food. Across the pond, Californian dog food brand V-Planet makes cruelty-free kibble with 100% plant-based, non-GMO ingredients. The brand also avoids using top allergens like corn, wheat and soy in its products for healthier pups. Elsewhere, US biotech companies are using cultivated meat technology to build pet food prototypes: Colorado’s Bond Pet Foods introduced their lab-grown chicken pet food prototype last summer, grown using a chicken cell and a strain of food-grade yeast. San Diego’s Blue Nalu are chasing similar goals by growing fish from cell cultures for use in pet food and netted $60M last week to build out their production facility. 

We know that many pet owners are prepared to pay a premium for good-quality dog food that will give their furry friends long, healthy lives. UK startup Bella and Duke sell raw dog food billed as ‘natural & healthy’, born after the founders’ dogs died of cancer - possibly partially caused by poor-quality food. The company and some (but not all) scientists believe raw food is beneficial to a doggo’s immune system, strength and longevity. A quick internet search in 2021 turns up hundreds of local results for raw dog food providers so it looks like this trend could be going mainstream.

Many disruptive pet food startups place specific emphasis on the dog food products they sell being ‘human-grade’, aka sufficiently high in quality for humans to eat (though not advisable!). Swedish firm Buddy Pet Foods provides human-grade, oven-baked dry food, developed in partnership with pet dieticians. UK company Pure Pet Food, who have raised £2.13 million in funding, specialise in air-dried, human-grade dog food - the drying process locks in added nutrients. Both of the above also offer a degree of personalisation: Buddy Pet Foods work together with pet nutritionists to create specialised diet plans for customers’ dogs, while Pure Pet Food asks its customers to share details about their canine pal so that the dog food can be individually tailored.

Millennials are particularly willing to invest in premium, personalised pet food though the category remains small for now. Finnish pet food chain Musti ja Mirri sells smart collars linked to a dog loyalty programme: dogs signed up to the reward scheme are recognised via the digital collar when they step foot in store, and are presented with a personalised treat by store staff. Nestlé Purina have been offering tailored dog food in the US since 2017, with the Just Right brand, which uses an algorithm to assess a dog’s age, size, weight and breed to produce the best pet food blend for their needs. This personalised service is available in Europe under the brand name Tails.com, which started as a startup before being acquired by Purina in 2018.

Sustainability concerns are also leading pet food producers to look to novel ingredients that have fewer associated environmental problems. UK startup Yora makes dry dog food with 40% insect protein, and plans to develop wet food made with critters in the near future. Meanwhile across the Channel, Reglo - founded just last year - is selling its insect kibble for dogs made with sustainably produced insect proteins. Early-stage startup Aardvark is planning to launch its insect-based dry kibble for dogs this year, after surpassing its funding goals by 600% with support from over 900 investors – a sure sign of the genuine interest in insect-based dog food. 

 

Case Studies: The Pack & Butternut Box

The Pack is a London-based plant-based dog food startup that successfully closed a pre-seed funding round this month, with support from high-profile celebs. Preparing to launch later this year, The Pack will sell three flavours of plant-based wet food for four-legged friends, designed with the help of food scientists. The brand’s founders say that realising how much pet food contributed to the climate crisis inspired them to pursue a plant-based model. The Pack’s vegan dog food products will be available to buy from the company’s own webshop, but speedy expansion is planned, with the aim of hitting mass retail by the second quarter of 2021. 


Subscription-based dog food startup Butternut Box are responding to several trends in the pet food industry with their personalised meal plans for dogs, delivered to customers’ doorsteps on a rolling basis. The UK brand is committed to better labelling, and prides itself on its homemade, human-grade recipe containing 60% meat, 40% veggies and no added nasties. Customers enter their dog’s details and Butternut creates a tailored menu delivered in portioned pouches which are frozen to lock in freshness and nutrients. Pricing is also tailored depending on the dog’s needs. In 2019 the brand raised £15 million towards its expansion plans and last year received significant investment from European fund L Catterton to accelerate its growth beyond the UK.

 

What’s next for dog food?

Despite the economic downturn set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic, the global pet industry shows little sign of slowing. If anything, the spike in dog ownership in developed countries during the pandemic is bolstering its coffers. Financial concerns among consumers affected by the pandemic’s economic effects may boost the sales of private-label pet food but, for now, it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions.

Expect sustainability to continue to drive conversations around pet food, as the climate crisis bites and awareness continues to increase among a wider array of consumers. There are already discussions about the downsides of human-grade pet food, given that dog meals made with byproducts of the meat manufacturing process are in theory more sustainable - given that they use animal offcuts that would otherwise have been chucked into landfill. 

Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation. With more pets comes more pet owners willing to improve their pet’s health and lifestyle, a dog really is man’s best friend more than ever.

The 30-second pitch: New trends in dog food  


🐶 What

  • Dog owners are no longer satisfied with the run-of-the-mill pet food options that have dominated the market for decades: responding to consumer desires for nutrition, sustainability and personalisation.

🤷 Why

  • The pandemic has seen pet ownership boom: for many, stay-at-home orders and work-from-home have created the perfect environment for life with a dog. But this was a trend already in motion long before COVID-19, and dog owners today are willing to shell out to find the best sustenance for their furry friend.

🐕 How

  • Cultivated meat pet food 
  • Healthier dog food options (e.g. human-grade dog food)  
  • Personalised pet food
  • Plant-based dog food
  • Raw dog food
  • Subscription services
  • Sustainable dog food (e.g. using insect proteins)

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Existing brands can appeal to consumer desires by developing new product lines that elevate a dog’s health, product sustainability and individually tailored options. 
  • In the past, pet food has not been known for sustainability, but increased consumer demand for more ethical, eco-friendly alternatives is widening the pool of options for dog owners - with excellent knock-on effects for the planet.
  • Personalisation - where meals are tailored to a dog’s needs - is a growing field that has positive benefits for canine health and happiness, if done properly.
  • Convenient possibilities, like subscription services, are also offering ease to consumers.

👎 The bad

  • Human-grade pet food may have sustainability downsides: dog meals made with byproducts are in theory more sustainable given that they use parts of the animal that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
  • The jury’s out on certain dog food diets that have become trendy in recent years: vets are far from united on the benefits of raw food for dogs, and vegan dog meals aren’t without controversy either. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Though the market is crowded, with countless brands at work in the segment, pets have been found to be pretty recession-proof. New entrants to the dog food category should take note of emerging consumer desires surrounding sustainability, nutrition and personalisation.
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