Christmas preparations are in full swing, and for some recent “parents” that means special food purchases. These could be dishes made with Suffolk duck, grass-raised lamb, or venison. Some will look for botanical ingredients, such as marigold petals and burdock root. Others will buy their “baby” their first “Christmas pudding” at Ocado.
These buyers are not just any parents – they are Parents of Pets, a UK consumer group that is inspiring a revolution in the feed industry.
During the pandemic, pet ownership has exploded in Britain, with more than three million households purchasing a new pet. Research by US pet food company Mars Petcare found that 32% of new dog owners and 42% of new cat owners had no experience as “pet parents.” This has created a unique opportunity for pet food brands and start-ups to sell new types of food.
“In recent years, animals have come to be seen more and more as part of the family,” says Manasi Uttekar, analyst at Fortune Business Insights. “So owners buy pet food the same way they shop and consider their own food. They are looking for highly nutritious products from sustainable sources. They are looking for the label of natural, organic, little processed or raw.
Pet food by mail is a growing offshoot of this revolution, with companies delivering bespoke menus to owners’ doors. One of those companies is Katkin, which specializes in freshly prepared cat food. “We are now discovering the truth about what our pets’ food contains and how it is made,” says Nikki O’Farrell, who co-founded the company with her brother, Brett, in 2018. “We so let’s look for companies that really care and design for our cats.
The UK also has the largest share of pet food launches in Europe that include ethical and environmental claims. Today, 33% of new brands have recyclable packaging. Feeds containing sustainable seafood from the Marine Stewardship Council have grown by 57% in the UK over the past five years. “The new startup, The Pack, offers vegan dog food,” says Uttekar, “and Lily’s Kitchen will be launching one soon. “
Purina, one of the world’s largest pet food manufacturers, has launched two big new launches in Europe for 2020: organic cat food and insect food. Many companies also focus on bugs. When pet owners decide to cut down on meat in their diet, some seemingly are looking for ways to reduce their pets’ meat consumption as well.
A 2020 study on the environmental carbon footprint of pets found that food manufacturing created greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the total emissions of countries like Mozambique or the Philippines.
Pet parenting is expected to grow as more millennials own and spend on pet services and accessories – especially Christmas treats – and the market has responded quickly. . Ocado is offering Christmas puddings for dogs for the first time this year – made from cookies with a yogurt filling – and specialist companies are offering a range of festive dog cakes and sushi and venison for cats.
There are also special Christmas cranberry and sweet potato chew sticks for the vegan dog in your life. Christmas might be all about extra treats, but as O’Farrell points out, pet parents just want the best from the pet food smörgåsbord on offer. “This is not luxury we are talking about, it does not spoil your cat: it is a necessity for a healthy and happy animal.