Pet food has long been influenced by human food trends, such as the growth of gluten-free mimicked by grain-free in pet food, so just as vegan and veggie food is increasingly adopted by pet owners, has that translated into how we feed our pets? We surveyed 1,500 dog owners to see what they thought.
Are pet owners interested in vegetarian dog food?
The overall reception to veggie dog food was pretty mixed, with 41% on the fence saying they might feed it, but weren’t totally sold on the idea. However, more people had a clear ‘no’ at veggie and plant-based food at 36% vs 23% who responded positively to trying it.
Digging a bit deeper into the different points of view, it became clear that the easier win for plant-based brands was through pushing a flexitarian feeding message – incorporating veggie into the occasional main meal, or via treats, rather than expecting a complete change in feeding routine. This was echoed by the 44% of people who put their nervousness in trying down to a lack of understanding, and the 46% who would prefer to try the food before committing, indicating that there is an appetite for change, however, we’re still at the start of our plant-based journey.
Are pet owners interested in plant-based dog food?
The lack of understanding of the motivations to feed plant-based was even more widespread – less than half of the respondents were aware of the impact of pet food production on our global carbon footprint, though more generally 67% believed it was important to reduce our carbon footprint. It would seem that this general awareness hasn’t necessarily translated into taking positive action in what they feed their pet yet.
Pet owners’ views on insect based dog food
When asked about insect protein based food, another relatively new arrival in the pet space, there was a slightly more positive picture. This time it was a warmer 49% saying they may try it, but more positively this was followed by 28% of people who would definitely try it and only 23% totally against. Just as with plant-based food, the main hurdle to trial was a lack of knowledge, with 45% of people saying they don’t know enough about it. However, we can’t ignore the third of people who actually believe the idea of feeding insects is disgusting.
Other value statements indicating the challenge for these new innovations was the 55% of people who believe that dogs are carnivores and need a form of meat in their diet. Swiftly followed by the 43% who are worried about the price of these foods. It would seem that even though many of the cheaper meat-based pet brands actually use poor quality cheap derivatives or meat meal, the fact that they are meat rather than veg based, gives a higher value perception. There was, however, an encouraging 25% of respondents who think these innovations are positive news for pet owners.
Cat owners’ views on insect based food
We then turned our focus to cat owners, for while plant-based foods are not appropriate for our carnivore feline pets, insect protein is definitely making some headway in being accepted by cat owners.
Half of our respondents were aware of insect protein being used in cat food and an encouraging 41% of owners said they would definitely consider trying it, followed by 40% who might and only 19% rejecting the idea. Drilling down into the ‘maybes’, the main hurdle was a lack of understanding, they needed persuading through both education and also trials or samples. Interestingly, the lack of more established brands in the space was also a cause for wavering views, with 25% feeling they would be more convinced if insect protein was adopted as an alternative protein by their existing brand. For the negative responses, the largest group, 48% were happy with their current food, rather than actually having a strong feeling against trying insect protein, however, the biggest direct reason for rejection was the 45% of cat owners who thought the idea of insect protein disgusting. Just as in dog food, there will always be a portion of owners who will never be persuaded – if they won’t eat it, then their precious furbabies certainly shouldn’t either!
Thinking more generally about the role of cat food production in tackling global sustainability, fewer cat owners than dog were aware of the impact, though a greater number actually seemed concerned overall with the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, with 75% believing we should all play our part. However, translating this belief into positive action in terms of their pet food choices hasn’t necessarily happened yet. There is clear support for insect-protein in principle with 35% of owners believing it’s a positive innovation, but bigger hurdles to cross are the 55% who felt the new innovations were too expensive, followed by 45% feeling they didn’t know enough about it. Taste also featured more heavily with cat owners, with 32% worried their cats would like it, samples would be a great option here for food brands trying to win over fussy felines.
Source: Tailster Pet Panel survey of 1,200 pet owners January 2022
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