In Response: A New Era for Animal Nutrition

December 1, 2010

The animal-health industry has witnessed a number of interesting developments recently. On one hand, the recession has stimulated demand for products offering value for money and practicality. But parallel to this, the market for premium, niche products has blossomed-despite the economic downturn.

The animal-health industry has witnessed a number of interesting developments recently. On one hand, the recession has stimulated demand for products offering value for money and practicality. But parallel to this, the market for premium, niche products has blossomed-despite the economic downturn.

It’s Only Natural
Pets are increasingly humanized by their owners, as demonstrated by the thriving markets for pet fashion, therapy, and grooming. Pet health is no exception. Consumers are better informed than ever about health and nutrition, and consequently, demand for organic, natural, and “free from” products has never been higher. Owners want the best for their animals. With many choosing pet food as selectively as they choose their own, it is not surprising to see this human market trend crossing over into the realm of animal health.

Research demonstrates that the market for natural animal products has enjoyed significant growth over the past five years. According to a Packaged Facts report, the U.S. market for natural pet food has more than doubled since 2005, despite the recession, and is now worth $1.5 billion.1 The report further predicts natural and organic pet foods to net $2.6 billion in sales by 2014 and account for 12% of the overall pet food market.

Clearly, attributes such as organic and natural are set to become increasingly coveted in animal nutrition. The good news for manufacturers is that natural ingredients are palatable and usually formulate well with existing products. Plus, natural ingredients are applicable in a variety of supplement delivery options. This opens up a number of exciting new product-development opportunities, as well as the option to improve existing lines.

Because natural ingredients require meticulous management, from controlling the selection of raw materials through the final details of export shipment, when these products are responsibly managed, they can also provide the assurance consumers are looking for when choosing the best for their pets.

Safe, Sustainable Choices
Across numerous industries, there is now strong demand for traceability and sustainability. For example, a recent report found that 70% of consumers now consider sustainability when choosing a food product.2 And increasingly, they expect products destined for animal consumption to align with these values.

Many leading industry players are responding to this trend. Mars’s pet-care business recently announced a commitment to using only sustainably sourced fish by 2020. As one of the world’s largest producers of pet-care products, the company has set an important precedent for the industry. We expect the market for sustainable ingredients for animal-health applications to prosper as more product developers begin to adopt this approach.

Product safety is also of growing importance. Since pet deaths resulted from contaminated Chinese products in 2007, the market has been calling for products manufactured to human-grade food standards. Food and supplements for human consumption are subject to far more rigorous quality-control processes.

Nutrition for Conditions
Supplementation for specific conditions is another emerging area in animal nutrition. Animals are living longer than ever before and face a number of the health issues associated with aging. This can affect animals’ working lives or enjoyment of life as they get older. The importance of effective supplementation is therefore increasingly recognized by animal-health professionals and owners. Science is confirming what people have observed for years, and it is now clear that animals gain as much from supplementation as humans do.

Bone health is one interesting example. Like most health conditions affecting animals, it can become an issue for a number of reasons. Firstly, animals are living longer. This means their frames are under strain for longer and have longer to deteriorate. Secondly, due to either poor diet or exercise, rising numbers of companion animals do not develop the bone density required for good health. Finally, sports and working animals are becoming increasingly valuable, and the strain placed on their bodies can lead to bone damage-and result in loss of these animals’ value. Breeders of such animals often have to provide evidence of bone health as part of the sale conditions. As a result, assistance in developing and maintaining bone density while animals are growing is also vital. The same can be said for any number of health conditions afflicting animals as they reach their golden years.

Creature Comfort
It is encouraging to see the horizons of the animal-nutrition market broadening. Owners now seek diverse products that meet an ever-widening range of emotional and physical needs. What’s more, there is mounting evidence to suggest that animals benefit as much as humans do from a well-balanced intake of nutrients. These factors combined signal a new era of opportunities for product developers in the animal-nutrition sector.

References
1.    “U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2010-2011,” Packaged Facts, March 2010
2.    http://76.12.66.24/release/usb_junemnr.htm, United Soybean Board, June 2010