Feed Bites

Functionality Is the Future of Pet Food

Written by: Louise Calderwood   |   May 7, 2024

Pet Food, Functionality, Future of Pet Food

I just returned from the 2024 Pet Food Forum in Kansas City, Mo., last week, where it became abundantly clear to me that “functionality” is the new trend in pet food. 

The opening keynote speaker, Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute, presented several emerging drivers guiding consumers’ decision making in their pet food purchases, with “functionality” of the ingredient in the animal’s diet being high on the list. When coupled with convenience of packaging and new products emerging through the use of technology, two other emerging trends, he said that new opportunities abound for science-backed ingredients to support pets’ overall health, with healthy aging leading the way as a top interest of pet owners. 

Levine anticipates that the sales of dog and cat food will continue to grow at a strong rate of 10% compounded annually over the next three years. While price point influences pet food purchasing decisions, sustainability and functionality are increasing as pet food attributes that consumers have indicated they are willing to pay for, Levine said.  

I was excited to hear that functionality of ingredients plays such an important role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, as it was the focus of my talk in Tuesday’s Regulatory Roundtable. Currently, pet food products cannot list “functionality” claims on their labels unless the product is labeled as a drug.  I

AFIA's Louise Calderwood

addressed the functionality of pet food as gleaned from the current state of animal feed additive regulations for pet food. The proposed federal Innovative FEED Act is poised to clear the way for marketing claims which accurately reflect the ability of additives to support healthy pets and that is as functional as it gets! 

Other interesting sessions included the “Making Sustainable Pet Food” panel discussion on Wednesday, which featured representatives from the packaging, ingredient supplier and manufacturing sectors. Packaging manufacturers showcased various innovative ideas to meet consumers’ requests for the convenience of individually wrapped portions while balancing the growing interest in sustainable packaging. 

We also heard from speakers who addressed the power of data science in unlocking the secrets of pet gut health and the role of the microbiome in healthy aging for pets.   

All in all, it was a good conference and definitely gives me more to chew on, as AFIA’s Pet Food Committee plans our Pet Food Conference, scheduled for next January. 

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