Healthy Pets, Happy Owners: Health and Wellness Product Development in Pet Care
Globally consumers are looking for minimally processed or unprocessed products, in line with the clean label trend, with an increasing desire for whole foods, ancient grains, green tea and plant-based proteins from nuts and seeds. As pet owners continue to increasingly humanise their pets, some of them even treating them as their “fur babies”, trends in human food have percolated down to the pet food chain. Health and wellness trends are particularly relevant for pet care. In the spirit of Love Your Pet Day today, Euromonitor International has compiled a brief report on Health and Wellness in Pet Care!
- Fur babies – Owners are increasingly unwilling to compromise on the quality of food they feed their pets, resembling the baby food market particularly in North America.
- The evolution of protein – Types of protein used in pet food are likely to become more diverse, using protein-rich alternatives to meat, such as insects and algae.
- Older pets, fatter pets – Lengthening life expectancy for dogs and cats and the increased prevalence of overweight and obese pets are major drivers of demand for health and wellness pet food and pet care products.
- The connected pet – Similar devices such as activity trackers and wearables, are becoming part of the day-to-day lives of a growing number of pets.
Big Brother is watching (and playing) with you
Many pets are left alone for a large portion of the day, and awareness is growing of the stress this can cause. In 2013, the Daily Mail newspaper reported “One in four of Britain’s pet dogs are said to be suffering from depression…caused by the stress of being left alone by busy owners.” This has been dubbed “separation anxiety”. A number of start-ups have developed gadgets to help counteract this. Among them is Petcube, which raised USD251,000 from 1,758 backers on crowdsourcing website Kickstarter and was launched in 2014. Founded in Ukraine but now based in San Francisco, Petcube is a connected pet monitor with real-time video and a built-in laser pointer, enabling owners to monitor and interact with their pets when they are away from home. It also has social networking elements -allowing owners to share photos of their pets, for example. In early 2016, the company reported that demand was so high during the previous holiday season that “the product sold out by Christmas at all retailers, including Best Buy, Brookstone and Nordstrom.” In early 2017, it unveiled Petcube Bites, which sports an additional feature -a built-in treat dispenser.
Blue Buffalo takes an atypical approach to the therapeutic segment
Launched in the US during 2015, Blue Buffalo’s Blue Natural Veterinary Diet offers five formulas, including Blue WU Weight Management + Urinary Care for dogs and cats and Blue GI Gastrointestinal Support Formula for dogs and cats. A sixth formula, KM Kidney Support for dogs and cats, was launched in 2016. By stressing the product’s “naturalness”, Blue Buffalo is staking out an unusual marketing position in the therapeutic dog food segment. Therapeutic products are underperforming the wider premium dog and cat food segment, as consumers increasingly seek out products they perceive as “natural” with short ingredient lists. Between 2011 and 2016, value sales at constant prices of therapeutic and premium dog food in North America rose by 24.1% and 18.8%, to USD10.9 billion and USD1.2 billion, respectively. Moreover, the takeover of veterinary clinic chain VCA by Mars (already the owner of Banfield Pet Hospital), which was announced in January 2017 could pose a challenge to Blue Buffalo and other players in this segment. It is likely that the VCA chain will now strongly promote brands owned by Mars, such as Royal Canin.
Pet food and skin care with a human angle in South Korea
East Asian consumers are big spenders on skin care and are also extremely indulgent towards their pets. This has enticed two South Korean skin care brands to make the leap into pet care. In October 2015, The Korea Ginseng Co launched Ginipet, a dog food that contains red ginseng. “It’s been less than six months since Ginipetwas launched, but it has been made available in 600 shopping malls and pet stores and sold over 25,000 units as of the end of last month,” a company official commented in May 2016. In 2016, cosmetics brand Aekyunglaunched a pet care brand called Whistle in conjunction with Irion, which operates a multi-purpose complex for pets that includes a pet hospital, hotel, grooming salon and daycare centre. “We will launch a variety of products made from natural ingredients, since pets have weaker skin than humans,” a company official told The Korean Herald. In per capita terms, South Korea had the second highest level of per capita value sales of skin care in 2015 (USD112), behind Hong Kong, China.