As consumers, we’re all paying more attention to labels and claims on the food and products we buy. We study ingredient labels for words we can’t pronounce, or artificial ingredients that could be harmful to our bodies. We want to know who made this, where it came from, and how the ingredients were grown or raised. Increasingly, pet parents are taking the same approach, seeking pet food with high quality ingredients, as well as other meaningful claims they have seen on the foods they are purchasing for themselves.
Trends in pet food
According to Nielsen, consumers purchasing dog food are actively seeking foods that contain no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), corn, fillers, artificial colors and preservatives. Shoppers are also examining the ingredients and choosing foods where meat is the primary product ingredient. In the 52 weeks ended Dec. 30, 2017, dog food products with meat listed as the first ingredient accounted for 46% of the category, up 7 percentage points vs. the previous year.(1)
The demand for higher-quality ingredient pet food has boosted retail sales dramatically over the past 10 years, with annual pet food household spend among pet owners increasing 36% between 2007 and 2017. Protein has always been an integral part of the canine and feline diet, and in light of a growing desire to keep pets healthy so they can live longer lives; consumers are newly focused on the variety and amount of protein in their pets’ diets. According to Nielsen, as the demand for transparency is increasing, meat is more commonly the primary ingredient.(1)
Pets are part of the family
It’s not surprising that pet parents are also looking for foods that meet the same standards they already choose for themselves. After all, many of the same farms that feed us, also supply the pet industry. Farms making the investment in higher quality feed, better animal welfare practices, and other meaningful certifications sell their products at a premium compared to conventionally raised products. And consumers are voting with their wallets. Many are willing to pay more for products with premium attributes and meaningful certifications for themselves as well as for their pets. Buying certified pet food is a great way to support the same farms and companies that are supplying high quality products in the meat departments and some restaurants, as we are helping spread the costs of farm certification across more and more products in the store, encouraging more supply from farms looking to lead the way in animal welfare.
Animal welfare certification is a differentiator
As consumer demand increases, manufacturers are also taking note. Not only are they developing products with better ingredients; they are also taking a closer look at the entire supply chain – from farm to bowl. According to a recent Pet Business article, an increasing number of manufacturers are not only concerned about the quality of factories where dog food is made, but also about the farms where the animals are raised.(2) The article also mentions Open Farm, one of our GAP animal welfare partners. Many of our farms and ranches also supply GAP Certified raw materials to our pet brands like Tender & True, Fresh Pet (Nature’s Fresh), HappyNHealthy Pet Products, and Only Natural Pet. For these pioneering brands, GAP sets the standard for how animals are raised on-farm – standards around the amount of space the animals have, the type and management of indoor and outdoor environments in which they live, and the type of enrichments they are given (like perches for poultry and wallows for pigs). GAP uses third-party certifiers to audit each and every farm to ensure the standards are being met.
When meat ingredients used in pet food are GAP Certified, it is a clear signal to consumers that the proteins they are feeding their pets have been raised according to specific animal welfare practices. What’s also unique about GAP’s program is that we create standards, and certify products, according to six different animal welfare certification levels with their corresponding label and claim:
It is important to note that for every GAP Animal Welfare Certification level, no antibiotics and no growth hormones were ever administered to the animals, and the animals were fed an all-vegetarian diet. At GAP, we believe that quality begins with better farm animal welfare. The GAP Animal Welfare Certified label is a differentiator for premium pet food products looking to add a meaningful claim to their high-quality product.
Learn more about GAP
To learn more about the GAP Animal Welfare Certified program, visit us at globalanimalpartnership.org and follow us on social media (@certifiedGAP). If you’re a consumer, ask your current food brand if they are animal welfare certified by GAP. GAP Certified pet food and treats can be found in thousands of outlets, and online, across the US and Canada including Petsmart, Chewy.com, Whole Foods Market, Amazon.com, ThriveMarket.com, Bark!, Earthfare, PCC Markets, and MOM’s Organic Market.
If you’re in the pet food business, visit our website and click on “GET CERTIFIED” to start the process, or contact our Business team to learn more at LPA@globalanimalpartnership.org. We’ll be at SuperZoo later this month and would love to schedule some time to discuss our program and your products in further detail.
- Nielsen, “Trends in Pet Care Mirror those of Pet Owners”, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/trends-in-pet-care-mirror-those-of-pet-owners.html, April 2018
- Pet Business, “Seeing is Believing”, http://www.petbusiness.com/June-2019/Seeing-is-Believing/, June 2019