BY Peter Parkinson, marketing director at Town and Country Petfoods
Walk into any supermarket or pet store and the choice of premium dog and cat food seems almost endless. Tasty recipes, natural ingredients and high quality products are now a top priority for many owners – and while some see them as an occasional treat, others would not buy anything else.
One of the key drivers behind this is the ever-increasing humanisation of pets. Dogs and cats play a central role in family life, sometimes being treated like another child, or else becoming a much-loved friend to someone living alone. ‘Fur babies’ is now a common expression and owners are prepared to indulge their pets like never before. We have seen this with the proliferation of grooming parlours, luxury kennels, clothes and accessories and, of course, food.
Modern consumers are conscious about the quality of their own food, and this extends to the choices they make for their pets. Premium products, which may include ingredients like duck breast, often appeal to humans just as much as animals. Consequently, recipes might contain whole pieces of high-grade meat, rather than composite proteins, as well as herb-infused sauces and health-boosting supplements.
This was one of the reasons why we developed the HiLife Spoil Me! range for dogs, and Indulge Me! for cats. These recipes contain natural, human grade ingredients such as chicken breast, vegetables and rice, all hand-prepared to ensure as that as few as possible of the natural flavours and nutrients are lost in the cooking process.
The demand for premium products has now grown to such an extent that we recently launched the FEED ME! Something Special pouches for dogs. These products are sold in 100g packs and reflect the fact that more people now own a small or toy dog, either because they are fashionable or because they do not require as much space. Smaller packs of quality food are also popular among time-pressed owners who want the convenience of giving their pet an easily-measured special treat with the minimum of fuss.
It goes without saying that any product development should be underpinned by extensive research into the market, as well as testing to see how well they are performing. Trends can change quickly so pet food manufacturers must be agile enough to respond to them with continuous innovation.
When it comes to cat food, owners want tasty or indulgent dishes, but for dogs, health concerns also play an important role. Sometimes this means choosing a variety that has been fortified with supplements to improve well-being, for example, fish oils can help to promote a glossy coat.
More owners are also aware that wheat gluten – sometimes used as a ‘filler’ in dog food – is a common allergen and can cause digestive problems. Wheat gluten free products are more popular than ever before as we have seen with the continued growth of our Spoil Me! and Nature’s Essentials ranges.
In addition, the importance of packaging should not be under-estimated as this is what attracts a customer in the first place and steers them away from a competitor. With premium pet food, product design, typeface and colour palette all aim to evoke a sense of indulgence or highlight the natural ingredients used.
There is no doubt that the premium pet food market will continue to grow, and this represents a valuable opportunity for both manufacturers and retailers. Of course, it might require more investment in better quality ingredients, packaging and in-store branding – however, it is one that is likely to pay off in the current climate and beyond.
For further details on Town and Country Petfoods and the HiLife brand visit www.hilifepet.co.uk. Regular news and updates are also available via LinkedIn.