The growing demand by pet owners for healthy, nutritious pet snacks and treats has led to an explosion of innovative products. From spent brewer’s grains to freeze-drying, here’s a look at the top emerging pet snack and treat trends for 2020, which include creative new approaches to sustainability, clean label, and of course, health.
Now that the majority of pet owners are Millennials, it’s important that pet food manufacturers tune in to the interests and concerns of this demographic. Sustainability is high on their list, and with more and more data pointing to the unsustainability of industrial animal agriculture, many Millennials are looking to include alternative protein sources in their diets, as well as in their pets’ diets.
Trending pet snacks include those containing protein from alternative animal sources like alligator or venison, as well as crickets and other insects. Plant proteins, such as garbanzo bean flour, are another popular way pet snack manufacturers are meeting the demand for more sustainable proteins.
Spent Brewer’s Grains
With sustainability top of mind, many pet owners are delighting in the recent availability of an upcycled ingredient—spent brewer’s grains—in pet snacks. Spent brewer’s grains also provide good nutrition with about 70 percent fiber and 20 percent protein. Some manufacturers are also tapping into pet owners’ zest for culinary adventure by using “craft beer” in the product name.
Another trend that’s picking up speed is mini pet treats. These smaller sized pet treats mean fewer calories, so pet owners can treat their pets more often, without worries about unhealthy weight gain.
Single Ingredient Snacks
When we think of clean label, we may think of short ingredient lists, but what about a list with only one ingredient? Single-ingredient pet snacks containing nothing but 100 percent chicken, turkey, or beef that have entered the market are addressing the demand for simple, transparent ingredients.
More than ever, pet owners are looking for treats that can provide some kind of health benefit. This includes pet treats with functional ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat health, probiotics for gut health, and glucosamine for joint health.
Dog treats for hip and joint health (helpful for senior dogs and breeds predisposed to joint problems) can even contain a condition-specific blend of ingredients—such as glucosamine, chondroitin, DHA, and vitamin C.
These can be pre-blended into a custom nutrient premix for easy addition. Manufacturers can purchase one custom nutrient premix for their joint health treats, one for their gut health treats, and so on, to quickly create a whole line of functional pet treats.
Fruits and veggies galore is an apt description of some of the latest superfood pet snacks. Fruits being used in pet snacks include blueberries and coconut, while vegetables include beets, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, spinach, and broccoli.
Some manufacturers are even including super seeds, like chia and flaxseed, and super spices, like turmeric and cinnamon, which have functional benefits.
The health halo of minimally processed foods has carried over to pet foods. In fact, processes like freeze-drying do allow better retention of nutrients compared to more traditional processes that use heat (which can lead to vitamin and protein degradation). Freeze-dried and air-dried pet snacks are becoming a popular premium choice.
To meet the growing demand for pet snacks and treats, manufacturers should be laser-focused on health when developing or renovating products. They should also keep in mind the big issues of the day, like sustainability, which can be key drivers of pet owner purchases.
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