Vegetarian dog food is becoming more and more popular among eco-conscious pet owners

Consumer concerns about health and the environment are spurring the rise of a new meat-free category: pet food.

Among Increase pet ownership Driven by the pandemic, the owners hope to apply their own eating habits and values ​​to their animals and are willing to pay more for this. Executives and analysts say this has led to the launch of products ranging from plant-based dog food to pet snacks made from insects.

“Modern consumers and pet owners want to feed their pet companions the way they feed themselves,” said Michael Lavin, founder of Germin8, an agricultural and food technology venture capital firm that specializes in animal nutrition and health. “They apply the same food principles when making decisions for pets.”

The factors that motivate these products-the link between meat intake and environmental damage, and the health problems of processed foods-reflect the factors that promote the rise of “flexible vegetarianism” in humans. Consumers mainly follow plant-based Diet, with occasional intake of meat and dairy products.

Judy Nadel, the co-founder of The Pack, a vegan pet food startup, predicts the rise of “flexi-dogian”, namely dogs that eat mainly vegetarian and vegan foods and occasionally meat. “We are experiencing a climate crisis. It is unacceptable for dogs to eat meat for every meal in the future,” she argues.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh said the environmental impact of pet food production is huge calculate Agricultural land equivalent to twice the size of the UK is used annually to produce dry food for cats and dogs on a global scale.

They found that about half of the dry food is made from crops, including corn and rice, and the rest is made from animal or fish products. The researchers said that combining these findings with data on the environmental impact of raw material production, they found that the annual carbon dioxide emissions of dry food were 106 million tons, which would be the 60th largest emissions in the world by national calculations.

In terms of animal health, some owners worry about processed meats in dog food. “In the human diet, it’s well known that processed meat is associated with rising levels of cancer and obesity, but now it’s 2021, and we continue to use it as the main ingredient of our dog’s diet,” veterinarian and co-founder Guy Sandrov Said Guy Sandelowsky. Founder of Omni, a vegan pet food startup company.

Shiv Sivakumar (left) grew up in a vegetarian family and co-founded the vegetarian pet food startup Omni with Guy Sandelowsky

Big brands are also betting on alternative protein.

Mars owns leading brands including Pedigree, Royal Canin and Whiskas, and this year launched a “plant-first” food in the United States, of which 60% are non-GMO plants and mixed with animal ingredients.In the UK, it launched Lovebug, a Insect protein-Based on the cat brand.

The company is also among them investor Wild Earth is a leading American plant-based pet food start-up company, which is also entering pet food made from laboratory-grown meat.

Emerging markets are still small, but Tracey Massey, global president of Mars’ pet nutrition division, predicts that by 2025, alternative protein pet foods will grow by 30%. “It’s very niche, but it’s growing very fast,” she said.

Nestlé’s Purina brand launched dog food last year with ingredients such as insect protein and broad beans, as well as meat. In 2020, it acquired Lily’s Kitchen, a natural pet food brand, and it also offers vegan dog food and dog food, which includes ingredients such as millet and lentils, as well as zucchini and carrots.

However, there are controversies about the nutritional value of plant-based dog food. According to the British Veterinary Association, cats who are obligate carnivores should not eat a vegetarian or vegan diet.The body did it Not recommended BVA President Justine Shotton (Justine Shotton) said that although it is theoretically feasible, it is possible to feed dogs a vegetarian diet.

“Currently, there are not many evidence-based studies on vegan pet food meeting the nutritional needs of dogs,” Shorten said, adding that pet owners who are interested in a pet’s vegetarian or vegan diet should consult their veterinarian first. She said that all owners have the responsibility to take care of their pets to ensure that they meet the welfare needs of the animals.

The Pack: Vegan Pet Food
Startup The Pack uses ingredients such as pea protein and seaweed to produce dog food

Although not a vegetarian, insect protein provides a nutritional alternative to meat while avoiding animal welfare issues. However, analysts say this is still an expensive option, and some pet owners refuse to feed their pets with insects.

Nader says The Pack works with animal nutritionists and scientists to produce dog food using pea protein, papaya, kale and seaweed. “We can use plant foods to achieve the same nutritional value as meat,” she said.

Mars’ Messi said that although dogs can survive on a meat-free diet, “you need to make sure you add other things” and added: “This is not to say,’I am a vegetarian, I hope my pet is a vegetarian. It’s that simple. A vegan. It’s hard (hard. We spent years developing these products.”

Histogram of sales (billions of dollars) shows that global pet food spending will accelerate

Omni co-founder Shiv Sivakumar warned consumers not to prepare their own vegan dog food. But growing up in a vegetarian family in South Asia, his pet dog basically eats what humans eat, and can live for 14 to 16 years, which makes him believe that dogs can thrive on a diet that does not eat meat.

Nader is optimistic about vegan dog food and predicts that by 2030, 50% of all dogs in the UK will follow the trend of human elasticity. She admits that some customers want to provide a variety of foods for their dogs and see vegan food as a supplementary option.

For mature pet food companies, it is to provide consumers with choices.

Massey said that the Internet allows pet owners to try new products, “see what works,” and added: “Some of these trends will come and go-no one really knows which ones will stay. I would say, pay attention to this. space.”

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