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Attracting flexitarian customers with plant-based dog food

July 26, 2023

Did you know that flexitarian eating habits aren’t exclusive to human diets? The popularity of healthy, planet-friendly, plant-based food is also spilling over into the diets of our companion animals.

Interest in plant-based dog food is rising, with a recent Beneo study finding 72% of US pet parents were open to having plant-based protein sources in their animals’ diets. The respondents indicated a high interest in hybrid diets – balancing animal and plant-based protein sources – lending further weight to the notion that flexitarianism is leading pet carers to try a similar approach to feeding their pets.

The top reasons driving consumers to switch to flexitarian diets include health, sustainability, and taste – all things dog parents are increasingly demanding for their pets, too. Satisfying these drivers must remain a top priority in producing dog food products to attract the value-driven pet parent. So, how do we do this?

Let’s look at health, as an example.

As more consumers make the connection between a good diet and improved health, they are now taking extra care to choose the right foods for their beloved pets, nudging them toward plant-based dog foods. Brands that can prove their products are packed full of healthy, nutrient-rich and high-protein ingredients will win flexitarian favor.

As such, it’s essential products contain healthy, natural, and functional plant-based ingredients, selected by expert animal nutritionists. But flexitarian owners must be made aware – highlight recognizable and nutritious, high-protein plant-based ingredients on packaging and in marketing. By doing this, you can make products more attractive and reduce health concerns pet parents may have.

When it comes to trends, sustainability is present in every segment of consumer goods. Fortunately, there are multiple positive ways that you can utilize the sustainability trend in dog food.

To attract environmentally-minded flexitarians, why not use your product packaging as a platform to showcase the ways that plant-based food is better for the planet? Keep these packaging communications short and sweet, with an overall positive tone. Likewise, your brand’s website is ideal to highlight studies that link climate and diet.

Most pet-food companies share very little information and generally just post their macronutrient profile. The bar is higher for plant-based products

Alongside your product’s health focus, utilize recipes that contain sustainable ingredients sourced in an environmentally responsible way. Where possible, make use of leftover or unwanted human-food ingredients to reduce food waste. You can also limit packaging materials and switch to recyclable or biodegradable packaging, and gain sustainability accreditations. Just ensure you back up sustainability claims with proof – show what you are doing and its outcome. Commission and publish product LCAs to remain transparent and increase your brand’s credibility.

You now have a marketable product. Hurrah! However, pet food is an incredibly personal thing for dog parents – it’s a product they interact with two or more times a day and provides their pooch with all they need to remain happy and healthy. How can a new player gain trust with so many long-established, animal-based dog-food brands?

By creating transparency around products and processes, you can give your customers insight into the performance of your products. It’s vital you refrain from making overzealous health claims and that you back up any declarations with real data and facts. This will gain you credibility, strengthening customer trust and willingness to purchase.

Be transparent by sharing all your product’s lab results – including full nutritional panels and in-vitro digestibility studies – right on your website for anyone to read. Most pet-food companies share very little information and generally just post their macronutrient profile. The bar is higher for plant-based products to demonstrate that they are healthy and safe. So rise to it and keep raising that bar!

For a deeper dive into how to attract flexitarians with plant-based pet food, check out the New Food Hub. And come back next time for more insights on all things flexitarian!

Gemma Tadman is ProVeg International’s B2B Communications Manager. In her role, she works to engage and support businesses in the transition to sustainable food and drink production, and accelerate the growth of the alternative protein industry. This article is republished from the July/August 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International, the industry's leading resource for alternative proteins. To subscribe to all future editions, please click here

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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