The human supplement market dwarfs that of pets—the latter is estimated to value $1.8bn, according to the National Animal Supplement Council, and only half of that is for cats and dogs (the remaining half is horses). But that doesn’t stop the supplements for pets market from thriving. Ingredient companies are seeing increased demand, and market demand is forcing them to invest more in pet nutrition arms, as well as take note on what works and doesn’t work in the category.
Delivery formats and labeling
“An important consideration, particularly for dogs, is the vast difference in sizes. This impacts dosage form and labeling,” Shaheen Majeed, marketing director at Sabinsa, told NutraIngredients-USA. “Information on dosage for their 5 lb dog and their 150 lb dog must be on the label, and they have to be able to administer the right amount in, for example, easily breakable tablets or measurable powder.”
The ingredient company launched its pet nutrition division called VetVitals back in 2014, and it now manufactures a handful of ingredients in the category, such as VetZyme (an enzyme combination that helps with digestion) and VetPerine (95% Piperine to enhance bioavailability).
Since then, the company’s ingredients have appeared in numerous pet finished products, but Majeed said that of all the formats, treats are the way to go. “Dosage in the form of treats that animals find flavorsome is better for compliance than pill forms that are often a challenge to administer,” he said.
Nutritional ingredient company Maypro concurred that chews and treats continue to show success, but Daniel Lifton, managing partner of Maypro Ventures, said that there’s more innovation coming in delivery format.
“Liquids soft gels are on the rise because of the growing popularity of fish oils,” he said. “[And] we are seeing more of a move toward functional pet foods such as rawhide, and even nutraceutical infused edible chew products.”
What’s driving the trends in this space?
As it is with human health, there’s a movement towards botanical and natural ingredients over synthetic. “Cats and dogs in particular often have issues with digestion, so as consumers have learned about the digestive health benefits of ginger, probiotics and digestive enzymes, they look for those for their pets,” Majeed said. “Similarly, joint health is a common concern, especially for large dogs, so they naturally think of curcumin.”
At Maypro, the company has developed a champignon mushroom extract ingredient (Champex) that’s designed to detox and reduce a pet’s bad breath. In terms of where ingredients come from, Lifton said there’s more leeway with pets.
“Humans may have to consider allergies, such as not containing any common allergens, i.e. tree nuts, fish, vegan, no dairy products, and so on,” he said. “But for formulating for pet products these aspects are not considered as much as they are for formulas for humans.”
That doesn’t mean pets can’t be picky. “With very sharp sensory skills, not all pets may accept natural extracts easily,” Majeed said.
“Some pets will eat anything, others are finicky, so finding dosage forms readily acceptable by all of them is a challenge manufacturers face, particularly for plant extracts that often have unfamiliar colors and odors. Development of natural extracts in forms acceptable to pets and fortification of pet foods is the newest trend,” he added.