Pandemic boosts pet ownership, supercharges supplement market

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Solovyova
©Getty Images - Solovyova

Related tags CBD and Hemp pet supplements

The pandemic has boosted pet ownership and has dramatically expanded the market for pet supplements, an executive says. And when those new pet owners reach for a supplement, it’s likely to be one that contains CBD.

NutraIngredients-USA​ discussed the state of the market with Steve Ball, CEO of pet supplement manufacturer Zesty Paws.  The company focuses on manufacturing pet supplement chews that use a suite of branded ingredients.

Lockdown boost pet ownership

Ball said the pandemic has tremendously boosted consumers’ interest in pet ownership.  The lockdown situation boosting this trend along with baking, bike riding and others.

It may have been a tough year for humans but 2020 was a great for pets. Cat and dog adoptions spiked in March and April, and now pet parents are spending more time at home with their furry loved ones. By mid-July, from animal shelters to pet stores, pet outlets were struggling to keep up with the demand,” ​Ball told NutraIngredients-USA.

In so doing, it has lit a fire under a market that had already been looking up.  Ball said research by Mintel shows that more than one-third of pet owners say they are paying more attention to their pets’ health after learning about COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has elevated the demand for food and treats with functional benefits for pet health.  The category has experienced tremendous growth in 2020 driven by this heightened sense of wellbeing,”​ he said.

Pandemic’s profound market effects

Ball said the effect of the pandemic on the market for pet supplements cannot be overstated.

Pet supplementation as a category has accelerated in the past two to three years, from low-to mid-single digit YOY growth, to mid-to high-double-digits in 2020.  This growth has been fueled by greater pet ownership — especially this past year, with more attention to overall wellness, and also by the emergence of brands like Zesty Paws. Initially in e-Commerce only, emerging brands like ours are now gaining momentum. This created a great opportunity for expansion of Zesty Paws into retail, with an initial launch at Target in March of 2020 and at PetSmart in September 2020, both of which have been very successful and are poised for incremental growth this year,” ​he said.

New delivery modes

Ball said one of chief differentiators of Zesty Paws is its delivery mode.  Many pet supplements in the past mimicked their human nutrition counterparts and fell mostly into products that copied the pill and capsule pharmaceutical formats.  But Zesty Paws uses a chew format that doesn’t force an owner to figure out ways to hide the product from their pets inside a food item.

“While in the past the category was composed mainly of medicinal looking supplements in pill or tablet form, the launch of easier to give functional form factors like soft chews, oils, and broths has prompted the consumer to embrace the category in a bigger way.  With Zesty Paws, giving your dog or cat a supplement does not require you to hide a pill inside peanut butter or cheese and force your pet to take it,” ​he said.

CBD leads list of fast growing ingredients

As far as ingredient trends are concerned, Ball said CBD tops the list.  The excitement about the potential health benefits of this ingredient for pain relief and mood support on the part of human consumers is mirrored by pet owners when they consider products for their pets.

“One of the most important trends in pet supplementation is the use of CBD. Even with some regulatory issues yet to be settled, it is undeniable that there is tremendous momentum behind CBD supplementation. Packaged Facts research confirms that 39% of dog parents and 39% of cat parents like the idea of CBD supplements for their pets. This climbs upwards of 70% if the pet parent is already taking CBD in their own supplementation. We have just partnered with Colorado based CBDistillery to launch Hemp Elements Plus to bring the benefits of Hemp extract to dogs around the country,”​ he said.

Ball said joint health supplements are the single biggest category in pet supplements.  And he said multivitamins have also done well. Ball said these products serve a similar marketing function as they do in the human health sphere, providing a gateway to sell additional types of supplements to those consumers.

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