What Pet Owners Need to Know About Natural Dog Foods | Current Issue


From insect proteins to an assortment of fruits and veggies, today’s increasingly selective pet owners are evaluating every part of their pets’ food. Foods with natural ingredients that supply specific health advantages are in demand, industry insiders report.

“Micro-targeted ingredients are in vogue,” said Anne Tilley Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, a Berkeley, Calif.-based pet food manufacturer that makes a kibble that mixes insect protein with plant-based ingredients. “The shotgun approach is out the window. Manufacturers are specific ingredients for very specific reasons. Taste is at all times a giant consideration for an ingredient, after all, but right behind that’s the query: What precise dietary need does that ingredient serve? For instance, can it help with joint health?”

The “premium natural” category is the fastest-growing segment within the pet food industry right away, based on Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Pet Co., a Tewksbury, Mass.-based pet food and treats manufacturer. Wellness Pet Co. believes it’s driven by the desires of millennial and Gen Z pet owners, she said.

“This next generation of pet parents search for credible brands they’ll trust and has a greater interest in feeding premium treats, toppers and supplements that make them confident their pets’ needs are being met,” Bernal said. “This implies pet food products made with ingredients that pet parents know and recognize, like sweet potatoes, blueberries, flaxseed and carrots.”

Bernal also noted that functional ingredients are key.

“Pet parents need to see the visible health advantages of their pet,” she said. “And while they appreciate top quality, natural ingredients must be the premise of their pet’s eating regimen. Pet parents are searching for ingredients that include antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate to maintain their pets feeling and looking their best.”

One other key trend is a shift back toward whole grain products after a longtime shift toward grain free, based on Kelly Walters, brand leader, pet foods, for Redbarn Pet Products, a pet food and treats manufacturer in Long Beach, Calif.

“Moreover, customers are searching for more premium foods, with more premium claims—ingredients they recognize, functional ingredients that serve a purpose within the pets’ nutrition and no ‘filler’ ingredients,” Walters said. “Customers are searching for more premium options inside kibble, but in addition inside alternatives to kibble like freeze-dried, frozen, fresh, air-dried, wet, etc. Some are using these alternatives as complete meals, while others are using them as a topper to supply variety, taste and a dietary boost to their pets’ on a regular basis meal. Customers want to supply the perfect for his or her pets, and we’re seeing that shift occur with the eating regimen they need to offer them as well.”

Jason Ast, owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., said that offering pets diets with natural ingredients needn’t be complicated.

“We’re of the opinion that clean eating for dogs is so simple as feeding fresh, minimally processed foods—high in moisture, clean protein, low carbs and low sugar, with as few man-made/tampered-with ingredients as possible,” Ast said. “With that in mind, we also shrink back from jumping on the fad diets and ‘hyped-up’ foods or corporations. Which means we don’t swing backwards and forwards as recent corporations bring products to the market.”

Ast added that dog owners ought to be aware that the word “natural”—though thrown around so much in marketing—is usually open for interpretation. At the tip of the day, most of his customers who want “natural” are simply searching for something absent of artificial flavors, colours and man-made alternatives.

“Are you able to pronounce all of the words within the ingredients panel?” he said. “If that’s the case, that’s an excellent start.”

It’s necessary to recollect natural doesn’t at all times mean higher, said Nicci Cammack, owner of NorthPoint Pets & Co., a pet store in Cheshire, Conn.

“While I’m all for fresh food, context matters whatever the style of food being considered,” she said. “There are lots of variables to administer including cost, organic, processing and others. Making decisions based on the ‘natural’ state of the food or ingredients might not be the safest or most transparent method to determine what’s best to your pet.”

Product Development

Transparency Rules

To raised understand natural pet foods, it may be helpful to be acquainted with the product development process. Retailers should hunt down manufacturers which are transparent about these details, industry insiders note.

Pet owners and retailers have to stay on top of their research, said Nicci Cammack, owner of NorthPoint Pets & Co., a pet store in Cheshire, Conn.

“Attempt to be mindful of constructing decisions based on emotion and marketing,” she said. “Two questions that may enable you level the playfield no matter food type include: Do you conduct a dietary evaluation in your finished formula that goes beyond the guaranteed evaluation? The second query is: Does that company also conduct a digestibility study to find out that the nutrients from the food are literally absorbed and utilized by the pet? If the corporate says ‘no’ to those questions, I might not recommend feeding the food.”

Cammack added that not every pet does well with every style of food and pet owners have to keep their pet’s individual needs in mind.

At Redbarn Pet Products, product development begins with an understanding of what pet owners are searching for, said Kelly Walters, brand leader, pet foods, for the Long Beach, Calif.-based pet food and treats manufacturer.

“We start by identifying what pet parents want for his or her dogs, and what dogs need from a dietary and/or engagement standpoint, after which work to match those as much as develop a product,” she explained. “Once we now have identified a product need, we’re capable of start developing into optimal nutrition for that category. We work to discover one of the best natural ingredients to deliver optimal nutrients for the pet. As we construct out a product, we discover the suitable balance of quality, natural ingredients to deliver on nutrition, taste, variety and texture.”

Walters added Redbarn can be at all times looking out for novel natural ingredients which are approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), in addition to match or exceed the functionality of synthetic ingredients to make sure a protected, nutritious, unique and quality product.

Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian at Wellness Pet Co., said that upholding best manufacturing processes is vital for the Tewksbury, Mass.-based company.

“For each recipe we produce, a team of dedicated veterinarians, food scientists, technicians and animal nutritionists work diligently to make sure our premium natural nutrition meets the needs of all dogs and cats to support a lifetime of well-being,” she said. “Each ingredient chosen is analyzed to make sure its safety and suitability for that pet’s unique life stage and lifestyle, and we then further analyze the finished products’ ingredient profile for over 50 nutrients to make sure every dog or cat will get the stringent, precise formulation it needs.”

For Jiminy’s, a Berkeley, Calif.-based pet food manufacturer of a kibble that mixes insect protein with plant-based ingredients, sustainability can be a part of its development process—something that is very important to lots of today’s consumers.

“Within the last 12 months we’ve saved over 400 million gallons of water while the insect farms we work with required a fraction of the land consumed by farms supporting traditional proteins,” said founder and CEO Anne Tilley Carlson. “More importantly, we also cut significantly the quantity of greenhouse gases produced by traditional proteins.”

Latest Products

A Mixture of Formats

As demand for dog foods with natural ingredients continues, the market has seen a gradual stream of latest product introductions.

Jiminy’s has introduced two recent entrees: Cravin’ Cricket and Good Grub. Each are wet foods available in Tetra Pak cartons.

“The food is nutritionally complete identical to our baked kibble, so you should use them as a topper or as a standalone meal,” said Anne Tilley Carlson, founder and CEO of the Berkeley, Calif.-based company. “Each our kibble and now our wet food use insect protein, which is an incredible advantage. Like several other novel protein, Jiminy’s is an excellent option for pet parents struggling to resolve their dog’s allergies or digestion issues.”

Redbarn Pet Products plans so as to add to its line of Grain-Free and Whole Grain Dry Dog Food, which is just available through independent retailers.

“We’re excited to introduce three recipes of Air Dried Dog Food that every include 90 percent or more meat, and our recent each day dental treats, Chew-A-Bulls, that are available a wide range of fun sizes and styles,” said Kelly Walters, brand leader, pet foods, for the Long Beach, Calif.-based manufacturer.

Earlier this 12 months, Wellness Pet Co. introduced Wellness Bowl Boosters, a fresh food topper designed to enrich a dog’s favorite kibble—which will also be served as an entire and balanced meal if desired.

“This addition to the Wellness lineup of products gives pet parents three delicious recipes, with chicken, turkey, beef, rice and a wide range of vegetables, to supercharge their kibble,” said Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian for the Tewksbury, Mass.-based company. “We’ve found that pet parents need to mix toppers with existing food. With these recent products, our pet parents will give you the option to source kibble and fresh products from the identical brand, allowing them to supercharge existing kibble recipes for additional benefit. These toppers are an excellent way for pet parents so as to add nutrition quite than completely transitioning to a recent eating regimen, which some pet parents are sometimes hesitant to try.”

Trade Talk


Erica Vogt, senior marketing manager of Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis

What do pet owners need to learn about dog foods made with natural ingredients? How has their approach to purchasing natural foods modified, and what’s Whitebridge offering on this category?

The concept of “natural” pet food has broadened. Today’s natural pet food buyers are usually not only what isn’t within the food—less desirable ingredients like byproducts, corn, artificial colours and flavorings, and chemical preservatives—they’re equally concerned with what’s in food. They need high-protein recipes enhanced with superfoods and other natural nutrients that proactively support health and wellness. Because the humanization trend continues, visual appeal is very important too; pet owners want natural foods that appear to be their very own, with recognizable ingredients reminiscent of whole meats and vegetables.

All the line of Tiki Pet food is made with healthy, natural recognizable ingredients—from shredded chicken and gourmet crab and lobster to vegetables and fruit like peas, carrots, diced apples and kale. Our broad range includes: Tiki Dog Aloha Petites for small dogs, featuring real shredded chicken and flaked fish, with nutritious superfoods—sweet potato, pumpkin and kale—in a savory broth; Tiki Dog Meaty, a clean ingredient panel with limited ingredients plus vitamins and minerals; and Tiki Dog Taste of the World, restaurant-inspired recipes that appeal to pet parents who need to indulge their pups with international flavors.