Pet Food Trends in 2017: Clean Label, Healthy, and Premium

Published on: 
Nutritional Outlook, Volume 20, Issue 1

In the U.S., there has been strong interest in super-premium, single-serve formulations.

When Americans feed their pets, only the best will do. U.S. companion animals dine on some of the best prepared pet foods on the market, and the U.S. pet-food market is also one of the most active in the world. One-third of all global pet foods launched between September 2015–2016 were U.S. launches, according to Innova Market Insights data.


A Snapshot

How does the U.S. pet-food market compare to the global pet-food market? For one thing, the number of dog-food launches is higher in the United States. In the U.S., nearly 66% of the total pet foods launched between September 2015–2016 were dog-food launches, compared to globally where dog foods represented only 57% of pet-food launches. Cat-food launches, however, are higher globally (at just under 38% of total launches) compared to the United States (just under 29%). Aside from dogs and cats, the rest of the pet-food products launched in September 2015–2016 were for a variety of different wild animals and pets: birds, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, as well as more exotic animals such as ferrets and chinchillas and a growing range of reptiles.


Health Trends for Pets

Differences between human foods and pet foods are shrinking rapidly. Pet foods are now being formulated to address concerns near and dear to humans, including organic and non-GMO ingredients, “free from” options, and low-carb recipes. As in the human-food industry, interest in clean labeling continues to grow in pet food. In the United States, nearly 53% of launches used natural and/or “no additives/preservatives” claims, driving forward interest in natural and organic formulations.

More than 80% of global pet-food launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in September 2015–2016 were marketed on a health platform of some kind. In the United States, health claims are even more prolific, on up to 90% of launches. Many products carry multiple health claims.

Vitamin- and mineral-related claims are the most popular of active health claims for pet food (used on over 23% of global launches). The next most popular claims are digestive- or gut-health claims, used on 22% of global launches and addressing issues such as sensitive stomachs in dogs and also furball/hairball problems in cats. Probiotic and prebiotic ingredients are popularly marketed for these conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are also popular in the pet-food market, included in just over 15% of global launches. Skin health is also a popular market, with over 14% of global introductions featuring claims related to skin health.

Allergy-related claims are also very popular. There has been a strong rise in gluten-free and grain-free formulations for both dogs and cats. More than one-fifth of global launches were gluten-free, and nearly a quarter of dog-food launches alone were gluten-free.

There is also continued interest in protein content just as there is in the human-food and -drinks industry. Just over 30% of pet-food launches between September 2015–2016 featured “high in” or “source of” protein claims, up from just 20% a year previously. In the pet-food market, there has also been ongoing interest in alternative and more exotic protein sources, such as game meat, bison, and seafood.


Premium Products 

Consumers are increasingly indulging their pets with premium and super-premium foods, as well as increasingly sophisticated snacks and treats. Many of these products are positioned to be clean label, as well as grain-free and non-GMO. 

Premium pet products are especially popular in the United States. Nearly 14% of U.S. pet-food launches in September 2015–2016 were positioned as indulgent or premium. Premium labeling is especially popular in the cat-food market (nearly 15% of launches). 

In the U.S., there has been strong interest in super-premium, single-serve formulations. Recent examples include Mars’s Sheba Perfect Portions Pate and Nestlé Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Gourmet Shreds (gourmet-style recipes such as Oven Roasted Chicken, Braised Beef, and Ocean Whitefish & Tuna). Broths and casseroles, such as Nestlé’s Purina Fancy Feast Broths, are becoming more common in the super-premium market as well.

Snacks, especially snacks for dogs, are not only becoming premium but also incorporating on-trend ingredients from the human-food market. Turbopop K9 Superfood Snacks, for example, are marketed as superfoods for dogs in flavors such as Pumpkin & Grilled Lamb Crunchy Bites, Roast Beef & Blueberry Crunchy Bites, and Roast Duck & Kale Crunchy Bites.


Mature, but Active

Despite being relatively mature, the U.S. pet-food market is bustling with new-product activity. Pet-food trends will continue to align with those in the human-food industry, and pet-food marketers will continue adding value to their products by increasingly targeting specific sub-groups of pets-including age, breed/type, and/or need state-and offering healthy, convenient, high-quality meals, snacks, and treats. 


Innova Market Insights is your source for new-product data. The Innova Database ( is the product of choice for the whole product-development team, offering excellent product pictures, search possibilities, and analysis. See what food manufacturers are doing around the world: track trends, competitors, ingredients, and flavors. In today’s fast-moving environment, this is a resource you cannot afford to be without.


Also read:

Pet Health Supplements: Paw-Portunity Knocks

Pet Nutrition and Food: Market Sales and Opportunities