The pet industry is prospering, thanks to an aging adult population seeking companion animals and a shifting cultural view of pets as “fur babies” who are increasingly important elements of family life. Even during the economic downturn that began in late 2007 and early 2008, the dog and cat industries in particular continued to grow, albeit more slowly than they had previously, says Bill Bookout, founder and CEO of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). Those industries have since recovered and are again growing strong, Bookout adds, and he estimates total consumer spending on companion animals (including cats, dogs, and horses) to be about $1.8 billion annually.
It’s not surprising, then, that manufacturers and marketers of dietary supplements and functional foods for humans are expanding into the pet market in increasing numbers. Among those who have blazed that path in recent years are NutraMax Laboratories, GNC (who “really led the way” to the pet market when it partnered with pet-supply retailer PetSmart to launch a line of pet supplements, Bookout says), NOW Foods, Mercola, and Thorne Research, to name a few. For these originally human-focused nutrition and supplement companies, entering the pet market was a natural lateral expansion that made sense for them as certain human-supplement market segments matured, Bookout explains. Additionally, offers Lisa Harter, who manages global business development for Ribus, a supplier of rice-based ingredients, human and pet supplements tend to require many of the same certifications (organic, for instance, or gluten-free), which eases crossover from one market to the other.
Bookout adds that the pet-supplements marketplace is becoming more and more competitive, with low barriers to entry. But, he says, over time, barriers to entry will increase as regulatory requirements increase, and expanding into this market will become more expensive. (See sidebar, “Compliance 101: A Quick Primer on Animal-Supplement Regulation.")
Product Trends: What’s Good for the Owner Is Good for the Pet
Products containing such well-known ingredients as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and hyaluronic acid are always popular in the pet-supplements market, Bookout says. Essential fatty acids, digestive aids, and probiotics are selling well, too. In general, Bookout states, supplement trends in the pet market follow human-supplement trends, with some lag time. Many supplement manufacturers—and those who supply to them—recognize this opportunity and are targeting the pet-supplement and pet-nutrition markets accordingly.
Sabinsa (East Windsor, NJ), a supplier to supplement, food, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, is one such company. It launched a line of pet products in 2014 called VetVitals. Shaheen Majeed, Sabinsa’s marketing director, has seen increased demand for probiotics for pet health in the past year or two, and the company’s LactoSpore probiotic ingredient for pet foods and supplements is answering that call. “Pet products require a very stable probiotic strain that can stay viable in processing as well as during the storage of pet food,” Majeed explains. “LactoSpore is able to do both.” The product’s stability at high processing temperatures and its long shelf life are attractive to customers in both the pet-food and pet-supplements industries, he says.
Deerland Enzymes (Kennesaw, GA), another supplier to both the human- and pet-supplement markets, echoes Sabinsa’s observations. “The popularity of formulating with ingredients such as probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes is on the rise,” says Tod Burgess, Deerland’s vice president of sales. He points to digestive health as being one of the fastest-growing segments in the animal-supplements market and says Deerland’s customers are “seeking out custom blends of enzymes and probiotics” that they can incorporate into treats or powder supplements. The company’s ProHydrolase enzyme blend, to aid protein digestion, and its DE111 strain of Bacillus subtilis are two such products, Burgess notes.
Botanical ingredients, too, are in demand within the pet-products market. NP Nutra (Gardena, CA) launched its Nutra Pet line of mostly organic powdered plant-based ingredients in March 2015 in response to a call from its customers for “premium, human-grade ingredients that could be used in pet formulations,” says the company’s director of marketing, Margaret Gomes. That line includes organic alfalfa-grass powder, organic barley-grass powder, organic beetroot-juice powder, organic carrot-juice powder, organic lemon-juice powder, organic sweet potato powder, organic turmeric-root powder, and more.
Similarly, NutriFusion (Hilton Head, SC), yet another supplier to the human-supplements industry expanding into pet nutrition, markets a version of its GrandFusion fruit- and vegetable-based nutrient blend to pet-food and -supplement manufacturers. Company CEO Bill Grand touts the strong bioavailability of his company’s GrandFusion product and says it is customizable for various pet-industry customers. The product can be incorporated into pet food or treats, or sprinkled directly onto pet food as a supplement. Grand says the pet market will continue to represent a large part of his company’s business, and he anticipates continued movement into that market.
Even ingredients to support weight control and healthy body weight—ever popular in human dietary supplements—are finding a place within the pet market.
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