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Pets: The produce industry’s rising consumer class

The pet industry is booming in the United States, and pets, especially dogs, represent a unique rising consumer class for the produce industry.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans’ pet spending reached a record-high $99 billion in 2020, with nearly $40 billion spent on food. Pet adoptions spiked 30-40 percent in most areas across the nation as Americans work-from-home and shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Top trends in pet food processing mirror the trends in human food:
• Healthy ingredients, including fruits & vegetables
• Alternative proteins
• Minimally processed
• Sustainably produced

Last month, Petco launched a strategic partnership with The Honest Kitchen to bring the brand’s human-grade dog food to all Petco stores and petco.com.

Pet Plate, The Farmer’s Dog, and Ollie, are examples of popular direct-to-consumer pet food delivery services that tout human-grade pet meals loaded with healthy ingredients including fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs.

Even mainstream brands like Nutro by Mars Petcare are bringing fruits and vegetables to the forefront of their dry dog food ingredients and committing to clean ingredients.

As the pet food industry trends towards health and human-grade, there is a unique opportunity for produce industry marketers to attract new consumers and brand loyalty.

The consumer goods industry has pounced on the healthy pet food trend. In 2018, J.M. Smucker acquired Rachael Ray’s Delish premium pet food brand for $1.9B and General Mills purchased Blue Wilderness for $8B.

Our industry can capitalize on this trend too:

  • Is your brand looking to connect more closely with Gen Z?
  • Are you looking for content ideas on how to promote a sustainable solution for fresh produce by-products or scraps?
  • Is your marketing team being tasked with promotions that yield new channel sales?
  • Would you like to connect with Boomers on a topic that isn’t related to aging or preventable disease?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider creating some content that promotes your product as a pet food.

Of course, you need to do some research to confirm that your product is safe for pets to consume and adopt a disclaimer statement that raw or homemade pet food should only be served with approval from a veterinarian.

But make no mistake – there is a great opportunity to drive brand awareness and product sales through pet food promotions.

In 2020 The Produce Moms  {{BB #:366223}} published 194 blog posts. I’m not always great at tracking how each and every blog performs; however, I always know what the top-10 performing blogs are on a weekly and annual basis.

  • Two of our Top 10 blogs in 2020 were pet food recipes.
  • We had six weeks in 2020 where 4 of our top 10 blogs were pet food recipes. 40%!!!!
  • In 2019, we never had a top 10 blog list that included a pet food recipe.

There is no shortage of adorable pet influencers on Instagram or TikTok for our industry to leverage as brand ambassadors. My business isn’t the only one out there thinking about Pets as a rising consumer class.

Duda Farm Fresh Foods had a successful “Dog Days of Summer” campaign in August 2020 that not only promoted celery as a treat for dogs but connected their brand with a new pet-centric audience and pushed their Instagram followers past 10,000.

The opportunity exists and the time is now! Pet households are on the rise. Human-grade pet food is mainstream. Scratch-cooking for pets is trending.

And yet again, fresh produce is at the apex of a food trend – this time, the consumer is our pets.

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms, the leading consumer brand focused on driving the sales and consumption of fresh produce. Lori sold fresh produce to retailers for ten years and often appears in the media as a produce industry spokesperson.