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An Inside Look at Functional Nutrition | Featured Articles

Since the infamous pet food recall in 2007 and the recent “scandal” that erupted in pet food – you know, the FDA’s pseudo-exposure of grain-free diets – parents of Pets have been hyper aware of the ingredients infused into their pets’ food.

This distrust of ingredients is now associated with pet owners’ personal preferences for better nutrition, as well as a greater awareness of recipes that address specific issues their fur babies might be facing.

“Carnivores in our families are said to be healthier on a meat-based diet rather than a high carbohydrate diet, and the functional ingredients help improve the overall health of our pets,” says Laela Johnson, Natural pet food group. “Natural forms of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and pre- and probiotics provide health benefits beyond what is provided by basic nutrition. Healthy skin, shiny coat and better digestive health are just a few of the benefits of feeding clean, meat-rich treats and meals.

However, functional nutrition is a newer concern and priority for pets, meaning this area is still somewhat undersaturated and the perfect opportunity for retailers to step into the ground floor. metaphorical. In fact, the functional pet food market was valued at just under $2 million in 2020 and is expected to grow 139% by 2030, according to “Functional pet food Market by Pet, Source, Application and Distribution Channel: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2021-2030 » by

“We are in the decisive stages of breaking with the status quo when it comes to providing targeted nutritional options designed to support pets with special needs,” says Travis Atkins, DVM and Co-Founder/Director scientist of SquareAnimal. “It’s only accessible in special market channels,” making it a key opportunity for retailers to capitalize on it.

Functional Food Engines

Although many manufacturers have made functional ingredients a cornerstone of their diets and recipes for years, the functional pet food market as a whole is still in its infancy. However, it follows in the footsteps of CBD very closely and is quickly becoming a major deciding factor in pet food purchases.

“Functional nutrition has been all the rage for the past few years as more and more pet lovers have begun to recognize the correlation between nutrition and health,” says Billy Frey, chief marketing officer for ORIJEN and ACAN animal food. “We’ve seen even more demand during the pandemic as people have started looking for ways to not only improve their own health and immunity, but also the health of their pets.”

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One of the biggest influences that is pushing functional nutrition to the forefront of pet owners’ minds is the increase in research they conduct before they buy. This self-education is two-fold, as owners are interested in identifying the best nutrition for their pets while also identifying brands that meet their predetermined criteria.

“There is certainly an ongoing interest in nutrition as it relates to human and animal health and well-being,” Atkins says. “Access to information has become easier and easier for everyone.

“As a result, the average pet nutrition IQ of pet parents appears to be increasing at a logarithmic rate, driving demand in areas that were poorly offered by the traditional pet food industry in These include more tailored nutritional regimes to impart functionality or meet certain needs.

However, it’s not just research that’s influencing increased functional nutrition, as pet parents narrow the focus on obesity-related concerns and their subsequent health issues. Surprisingly, research from VCA Hospitals shows that 25-30% of the general dog population is obese, with 40-45% of dogs aged 5-11 weighing more than normal.

“Gut health, inflammation and obesity in pets are constant and persistent trends in functional nutrition,” says Johnson. “In recent years, pet health management has reached the pinnacle. An increasing number of aging dogs and cats require immune support, cognitive support, and anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory support. of pain management.

Sourcing High Quality Ingredients

With sustainability and green initiatives at the forefront of many buying initiatives and a clear shift towards cleaner eating, pet owners are becoming very aware of ingredient lists and sourcing regulations. Fortunately, American pet food consumers are quickly removing the scarlet letter they used to put on imported international ingredients, as they realize that some countries offer cleaner, nutritionally superior products compared to state-based sourcing. -United.

For its part, SquarePet uses cage-free turkey necks and eggshell membrane collagen in combination with New Zealand green lipped mussels to provide 100% natural sources of chondroprotective glucosamine and chondroitin to support the joint health. Additionally, Atkins explained that the company includes sustainable krill flour for its DHA and EPA omega-3 content and contribution of astaxanthin, a joint-supporting antioxidant.

“We design all of our diets with a health benefit or feature, and do not promote the use of certain ingredients, withholding information or claiming ‘free’ as it pertains to the bad logic of the reviled ingredient. currently in fashion,” Atkins continues.

Similarly, the Natural Pet Food Group responsibly sources whole-food ingredients from New Zealand, which has “one of the cleanest supply chains in the world,” says Johnson, adding that each of Company diets are backed by in-house approval from their animal nutritionist. and batch tested before leaving the factory.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and quality of our food,” she says. “Our food can be traced from source to your pet’s bowl and being able to share it with the rest of the world is something we are very proud of.”

On the other hand, Frey explains that the ORIJEN and ACANA diets come from the brands’ collaboration with a “specially organized” group of farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

“Our strong network of suppliers allows us to source only the best ingredients in our functional recipes,” he continues. “Furthermore, our commitment to transparency means we use a robust supplier audit approval program and detailed traceability system for all ORIJEN and ACANA pet food ingredients.”

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All of these strict testing measures and clean sourcing methods should be a priority for retailers when curating their functional nutrition product selections. And although pet parents have earned a reputation for being knowledgeable about the nutritional and sourcing aspects of functional consumables, they often only learn basic information. It is ultimately up to retailers and their salespeople to guide customers to the most suitable products.

“Identifying the animal’s health issues is the first step,” says Johnson. “This knowledge helps the retailer direct the consumer to the right product for this condition. Knowing the life stage of the animal is also important for choosing the right nutrition – puppies have very different nutritional needs than older dogs, for example.

Once this baseline is established, store employees should inquire about more specific questions, such as the pet’s favorite flavors or delivery methods.

“Because all dogs and cats are unique, retailers should always ask specific questions about the animal before making recommendations,” Frey says. “Important questions to ask include the animal’s age, if there are any known food allergies or sensitivities, and if the animal has any specific areas of concern.”

However, all recommendations and suggestions are only ideas of what the best course of action will be. There is no guarantee that pet parents and pets consuming Functional Nutrition products will be satisfied with the flavors and results, so it is important that retailers point out that there may be a series of trial and error before the proper solution is found.

“The role of functionality in a diet varies from design to design,” says Atkins. “Some diets will exclude or reduce one or more nutrients to confer functionality, while other diets will include certain ingredients to confer functionality. Overall benefits are measured by the animal’s response or lack of response to the diet depending on the previous concern faced by that individual animal.

Functional nutrition has been in the industry for years, but it’s only just beginning to carve out its own niche as pet parents begin to tailor their pets’ diets to address specific issues and provide better overall nutrition. .

As such, retailers need to be armed with the latest information and stay current in the space to properly capitalize on the category’s potential.

“Retailers need to keep learning and reading about all things nutrition,” Atkins says. “In a perfect world, getting a solid foundation of basic nutrition would be ideal before branching off and diving into the far reaches of the internet to find nuanced ingredients and their potential benefits.” PB