Emma Clifford
Emma is Associate Director, Food & Drink. She provides insight on the UK F&D market with a special focus on healthy eating and is regularly featured in the national media.

The obesity problem – deep-rooted among humans – has seemingly been passed on to our four-legged companions with close to half of cats and dogs declared overweight or obese.

As with humans, food is a major pleasure in life for many pets. With a strong link between eating and contentment it’s no wonder downsizing portions leave owners feeling guilty, even if it’s in the pets best interest in terms of health.

Paired with perceptions of unfulfilling diet food, the idea that owners are both taking away some of the joy of eating for pets and leaving them hungry is making owners feel downright cruel.

TIME FOR PET FOOD MANUFACTURERS TO STEP UP

The onus is on pet food manufacturers to seize this opportunity and overturn the ingrained negative perceptions of diet food through a strong focus on great taste, fillingness and long-lasting energy. Owner’s want their pets full and happy, but for a fraction of the calories.

Protein can play a key role in boosting the appeal of diet pet food, along with avoiding artificial additives as the focus shifts to natural, transparent products in both our pets’ diets and our own. While being free-from additives and preservatives is a claim so prevalent in pet food today that it’s considered a given, many pet owners have lingering doubts about additional ingredients with 73% wishing brands would be more open about what goes into pet food.

BOARD THE HEALTH TRAIN

Health-boosting ingredients, like superfoods, are currently having a big influence on pet owners’ perceptions of food. Almost half believe health-boosting ingredients to be just as effective for pets as they are for humans. Including these positive nutritional ingredients in lower-calorie or “diet” pet food products can help give them a boost in the eyes of pet owners. This spotlights for owners that while the products are ideal for pets that need to slim down through a calorie controlled diet, they are also bursting with nutritional goodness to keep pets in prime health. Health is, after all, the absolute primary concern owners have for their pets.

A positive nutrition angle can be bolstered by terminology that is stronger, more positive and more relevant than the standard ‘diet’ and ‘light’ commonly used today. Swapping these buzz words for phrases that exude health, vitality and wellness can make products instantly more attractive to consumers and falls in line with the healthy, clean lifestyle we’re all trying to achieve. Getting their pet’s diet in line might just be the push many people need to shape up their own diet.

Emma Clifford is Associate Director, Food & Drink at Mintel and is responsible for researching and writing food reports. Before joining Mintel in 2011, Emma worked as a marketing information analyst at Marketforce and she gained retail experience from her time working as a fashion distributor for Debenhams at the company’s head office.