The dog’s dinner seems to be having a makeover as Brits are buying less pet food, instead choosing to prepare it themselves at home. New research from Mintel reveals that two in five (41%) UK dog owners who buy or prepare their pooch’s food say they provide home made food for their dog.

And while Brits lovingly prepare food for their four-legged friends, volume sales of dog food are suffering. Indeed, the market for dog food has seen a 7% decline over the last five years, dropping from 744 million kg in 2009 to 694 million kg in 2013. Sales are expected to drop by a further 12% between 2014 and 2019 to reach 576 kg. The dog food market was valued at £1.1 billion in 2013, a slight increase on the £993 million in 2009 which is largely due to rising prices.

Today in Britain, 62% of consumers have a pet, rising to 74% of adults with children in the household. However, showing the importance of pets in UK homes, over one in five (22%) cat or dog owners say they would cut back on spending on their own food before cutting back on spending on food for their pet. Despite this, almost one in ten (8%) cat and dog owners said they had cut back on the money they spent on pet food in the last three months.

Douglas Faughnan, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The pet food market faces a challenging period with volume sales across both cat and dog food expected to decline. This is partly explained by the high proportion of cat and dog owners opting for homemade food for their pets, while the increasing popularity of treats and snacks is also having an impact. The use of homemade food isn’t limited to those on lower incomes trying to save money – those in households with an annual income of £50,000 a year or more are more likely than lower-income households to feed homemade food to their dog. This could mean that other considerations than cost are also at play for some pet owners, such as freshness or guaranteed absence of additives and preservatives.”

Indeed, one in five (19%) Brits who buy cat or dog food purchase functional pet food such as food with added health benefits. Further showing owners’ concern for their pets’ nutrition, one in eight (13%) dog and cat owners say that a product being low in salt would be a reason for choosing one product over another, with natural ingredients also being an important factor for over a third (38%).

Signalling that to a certain extent, manufacturers are addressing interest in naturalness and added health benefits already, some 40% of new pet food launches in the UK in 2013 carried a no added preservatives claim on-pack, up from 35% in 2013. And showing a sign of the times, one in six (17%) pet food purchasers say that food that carried a weight management or control claim – for example low in fat – would make them choose one product over another, rising to 22% of cat and dog owners in London.

Moreover, one in five (21%) cat or dog owners worry about their pet gaining weight and 22% would like to see more detailed guidance on Guideline Daily Amount, for instance of calories and nutrients, for their pet. Despite this, 9% of pet owners are concerned their pet won’t enjoy the taste of weight management pet food,

“While obesity has been declared an ‘epidemic’ among Britons, it has also become a concern with respect to the pet population. Despite this considerable level of concern, weight control foods for pets remain a niche part of the market, accounting for a small part of the major supermarkets’ or pet specialists’ product ranges. Offering pet owners reassurance and guidance in this area should offer a relevant communication message for pet food brands. Additionally, while still relatively niche in terms of new products brought to market, high-protein and low-salt claims spark a significant level of interest among pet owners, meriting further investigation by operators.” Douglas concludes.

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