Food trends constantly evolve, reflecting society’s growing awareness of how what we eat affects our health and the environment. More Americans are choosing foods with an eye to nutrition, natural and locally sourced ingredients, and sustainable preparation processes. They’re not just considering those factors for their own plates, either – they’re thinking about them when it comes to choosing pet food, too.
“Trends in pet food have always mirrored what’s happening in human food,” says Geoff Bednar, senior scientist with Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “When human foods became more processed and mass produced with less-than-healthy ingredients, the same thing occurred in some pet foods. Now, as consumer awareness shifts toward more healthful options, Americans are looking for the same positive qualities in the food they feed their pets.”
A survey of grocery shoppers found that many are conscious of the ingredients that go into the food they choose and how that food is prepared. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed by the Hartman Group said they want food and beverages that are minimally processed, 26 percent look for ingredients they recognize, and 25 percent seek foods with the shortest list of ingredients. What’s more, they’re willing to purchase specialty items; nearly 75 percent of consumers say they made a specialty food purchase last year, according to Mintel Group Ltd., a market research firm.
“Consumers care about ingredients, and their understanding of the importance of ingredients is constantly evolving. As pet owners’ expectations for their own foods change, it’s natural that their expectation for the pets’ foods will follow,” Bednar says.
Pet food trends of recent years have included corn and grain-free foods, gluten-free options and foods made with more natural ingredients, such as ancient grains. The most recent trend – small-batch style cooking – focuses on how pet food processing is associated by consumers with the quality and healthfulness of the finished product. With the entry into the marketplace of products like Hill’s Ideal Balance Crafted by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, pet food manufacturers are responding to consumer demand for natural ingredients and increased care in the production process.
Small-batch style cooking invests extra preparation, time and attention to detail to produce a higher-quality product on a smaller scale. Microbrews are an example of small-batch cooking. Hill’s employs small-batch practices to produce its new Ideal Balance Crafted product line, and incorporates the natural ingredients such as novel proteins (trout, salmon and tuna), whole and ancient grains (quinoa and buckwheat) and wholesome vegetables (sweet potatoes and peas) that health-conscious pet parents are looking for in food for their pets.
However, pet nutrition experts warn that natural does not always mean well-balanced nutrition. That is why Hill’s relies on pet nutritionists to carefully formulate recipes with select ingredients that together provide an optimal balance of nutrients for each of its products. Combining the science of perfectly balanced nutrition with the art of slower, more thoughtful cooking processes of small-batch preparation gives consumers a natural, carefully produced pet food option that does not compromise on nutritional balance. To learn more, visit HillsIdealBalanceCrafted.com.
“Just as they’re seeking better options for their own tables, pet owners care about the quality of their pets’ food, as well,” Bednar says.