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Veganuary may be officially over, but it seems a dog’s dinner may be a little less meaty than before. Indeed, new Mintel research shows a third (34%) of UK dog food buyers believe it is good for pets to regularly have a plant-based meal instead of a meat-based one. Meanwhile, more than four in 10 (43%) dog food buyers believe it is healthier to limit the amount of red meat eaten by pets, than not limit it at all.

And it’s Britain’s younger dog owners who are most likely to give red meat the chop, as almost three in five (58%) dog food buyers aged 16-24 believe it is healthier to limit red meat in their dogs’ diets, compared to just 30% of dog food buyers aged 45+. Similarly, four in 10 (40%) dog food buyers aged 16-24 are in favour of regularly dishing up plant-based meals, compared to just 21% of owners aged 55+.

Following other human food trends, Mintel research reveals that digestive health is also high on pet owners’ priority lists, as three-quarters (76%) of cat/dog food buyers believe that actively looking after pets’ digestive health is essential for their overall health. They are joined by 44% who believe that pet food with ‘good bacteria’ (such as fermented foods) is good for pets’ health. This comes as 42% of pet food buyers consider their pet a “foodie”. 

Overall, seven in 10 (71%) pet food buyers say that a pet’s diet has a direct impact on its emotional wellbeing, while half (51%) show an interest in food with calming ingredients such as chamomile and hemp. 

Emma Clifford, Associate Director of Food and Drink at Mintel, said: 

“Our research finds that many pet owners are keen for their cats and dogs to adopt some of the alternative diet trends that are being embraced by humans. The fact that a third of dog food buyers agree that it is good for pets to regularly have plant-based meals is a key example of the considerable scope of the humanisation of pets trend. The growing interest in plant-based diets among the population as a whole has a lot to do with this trend extending to our four-legged friends. Digestive health is also on pet owners’ radar, mirroring the fact that most UK adults agree that gut health is essential to their own overall health. We expect the humanisation trend to continue, as consumer interest in functional and all-natural pet foods are likely to increase.” 

UK cat and dog food market set to reach almost £3 billion

Brits are forecast to spend an estimated £2.9 billion on cat and dog food this year, with the market value rising by 16% over the past five years – up from £2.5 billion in 2015. Premiumisation and overall inflation have been the driving force behind value growth, with modest volume growth of about 3% over the same five year period. Today, 60% of Brits own some kind of pet. The broadly stable dog (35%) and cat (29%) ownership underpin the modest growth over the period. 

While the vast majority of pet owners buy readymade pet food, making pet food from scratch/leftovers is very much on the menu. Taking the lead, some 27% of dog owners cooked from scratch/served leftovers to their pets in 2019, up from 22% in 2018. Meanwhile, scratch cooking/serving leftovers among cat owners leapt from 13% in 2018 to 21% in 2019.

Almost half (46%) of cat/dog food buyers are interested in guidance for making pet food at home, while a third (32%) find meal kits for making pet food at home appealing.

Finally, for some owners, it seems there are no limits to what they will do for their pets, as almost half (45%) of pet food buyers say they would be willing to pay to have their pet’s DNA tested (eg via a saliva swab) to find out the healthiest diet for their pet. 

“Making pet food from scratch or offering leftovers poses notable competition for the pet food market. For most, this is in addition to bought pet food, occasional leftovers traditionally playing a part. The interest in pet owners seeking guidance for making pet food at home and in meal kits points firmly to home-cooked pet food going beyond the sharing of table scraps with pets. While the larger appetites of many dogs may encourage making food at home to help economise, health considerations are likely to, in part, underpin the interest in making pet food from scratch. In fact, three-quarters of UK adults say that cooking human meals from scratch is important to eating healthily, a sentiment which is likely to extend to pet food.” Concludes Emma.