Pet supplement buyers adopt trends early, like branded ingredients

Pet owners who give supplements to their animals may provide clues to wider trends in the dog, cat and other pet food industries. Pet supplements, in turn, take their cue from human health trends. Certain marketing strategies used in human products translate well to pet foods, treats and supplements, such as labeling packages with branded ingredients. Nicole Hill, executive director of strategy at MarketPlace, a consultancy serving both pet and human nutrition companies, shared these insights from her company’s research into pet supplements at the AllTech One conference on May 23. 

In a MarketPlace survey of 506 dog, cat and horse owners, 241 responded that they give their pets supplements at least weekly. Those 241 pet owners provided a glimpse at rising trends in companion animal products, she said. 

“Why we look at that pet supplement audience is because those tend to be people in the functional nutrition space who are early adopters,” Hill said. 

Pet supplement customers often also want to learn about what’s new, she said. They are interested in seeing proof of ingredient efficacy. What’s more, they may be willing to spending the money to add that functional
nutrition in their pet’s diet. Pet owners look for specific ingredients to address dog or cat health concerns, and those preoccupations mirror their own.

“In the human space, we’re seeing general health, followed by digestive gut, followed by immunity, followed by hair, skin, nails, followed by joint, brain, and reducing anxiety and stress. When we look at the pet supplement trends, we’re also seeing that, of course, in the pet space, functional nutrition largely focuses around joint health, and skin and coat health.”

Branded ingredients in pet supplements

Those pet supplement types drive sales volume in the pet space. Hill said rising trends in the pet supplement space include anti-anxiety and calming, immunity, probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants and gut health. 

“When we look at things in the pet space in terms of market opportunity, we’re looking at it through the lens of: what’s driving volume in this space?” she said. “If you were going to launch a new functional pet treat line or a pet supplement line, of course, it would be natural to include a joint health supplement, a skin and coat health supplement. But those growth drivers– the antianxiety, calming, immunity, gut health– those should definitely be considered because that’s usually where new market entrants are going to potentially make a name for themselves and have an opportunity to grow because entering a really saturated space always going to be a bit more challenging.”

Pet owners shop for a benefit in a supplement, and people tend to associate certain ingredients with particular benefits. Pet owners seek assurances that those ingredients will deliver on promises and meet their expectations. 

“When we look at that subset of people who give their pet supplements at least weekly, 45% say they seek specific ingredients, 37% said they seek branded ingredients so not just probiotics, but a branded probiotic, for instance, or not just a specific prebiotic, but a branded prebiotic.”

That ingredient branding can help give consumers the assurances they seek about health claims.

“While clinically-proven claims inspire confidence, 31% said they do, in fact, it really is the branded ingredients or the clinicals that also helps support that confidence,” Hill said.  

Even if a pet owner hasn’t heard of a specific branded ingredient, they do know that if this brand is featured on the front of packaging, it must be meaningful…It also is a signal of credibility and it helps to instill trust, she said. Branded ingredients that are already established in the human supplement and health food market can be particularly effective. 

“I’m giving this to my pet and I’ve seen it in the human space, it must be great,” she said. “If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my pet. That association really can communicate a lot to that consumer who’s purchasing a pet supplement, a functional pet treat, a functional food topper, or functional pet food, itself. Even if brands aren’t able to invest in clinicals themselves, we’re also seeing that so many want to use ingredients in their formulas that have clinical support behind them because it does allow them to build on that credibility story.”

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