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Much like healthy foods for humans, healthy pet foods are booming. As increasing numbers of people view their pets as members of the family, they understandably seek out foods meant to support their health rather than simply buying the cheapest or most convenient food. Popular health features range from the generic “natural” to the inclusion of probiotics, grain-free, anti-aging, and other super-premium foods. Beyond that, consumers are buying pet supplements to support pet health beyond the claims on the pet food package.

Pet food companies and marketers are reaping the benefits of this growth in what are typically high-end, high-margin products. However, consumer focus on pet health brings challenges as well, ranging from the need to rebrand with an authentically new focus on health to the demand that companies reformulate to remove controversial ingredients. On balance, though, the growth of healthy pet food is a boon for the industry.

Looking to the future, however, it’s tough to think that will remain the case. It’s well known that health is not enough to singularly motivate consumers to buy human food—flavor and texture have a bigger influence. Although health may inform consumer purchase decisions—and will do so more heavily with some consumers than others—it’s not the ultimate determinant of a product’s success. Taste is. And that’s easy to understand: after all, what’s the better appeal: “this is good for you” or “enjoy”?

In much the same way, it’s not advisable for pet food marketers to stake their brand on health (or “nutrition,” which introduces a subtle shift in focus) alone. Although no small number of pet parents can be expected to buy based primarily on health, for others, convenience, a known brand name, the appeal of the food and its packaging, and even a company’s commitments will weigh heavy on their purchase decision. Healthy, natural food is increasingly expected for pets rather than being a point of differentiation and, therefore, is becoming less central to pet food marketing.

Positioning pet food and products is a compelling challenge given the sector’s crowded market and low differentiation. Here at MarketPlace, we’re up for the challenge, with deep knowledge of the industry and relevant personal experience among our several pet parents. If your pet food or products company needs a hand motivating consumers to buy, let us know.

Matt Miller staff photo
Matt Miller writes, teaches, and practices biodynamic gardening near Reeds Spring, Missouri. A MarketPlace alum with a background in academic research, he’s fascinated with how culture, media, and business interact—and equally with the best methods of cultivating healthy fruit trees.