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Transparent labels help Pet Owners make healthier Pet Food Choices

Author: Myriam Snaet; Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO

Healthier pet food, with claims such as ‘all natural’ becoming ubiquitous in both human food and pet food, many pet owners are now looking to optimise their furry friends’ diet. Whether that means no additives, meat sourced in a specific way, or non-GMO ingredients, pet owners seem to have clear expectations of how a healthy and natural diet should look. And it becomes clear that transparent labels are becoming a priority for many pet food buyers across the world. BENEO and New Nutrition Business interviewed a selection of pet owners to gather their opinions on the matter.

Dog owner, 55, Sweden: “I definitely think about this when buying food for my dogs. I want as few additives as possible, that is, the food should be as clean as possible. The ingredients need to be healthy, sourced from reliable countries where it is not allowed to add things like antibiotics or other chemicals”.

Cat owner, 67, UK: “It is something that I’ve heard of, and I know some very passionate cat people who talk a lot about this. I’m not interested enough to seek out new products myself, but if I came across something that was promoted as ‘clean’ it would definitely make me more inclined to buy it for my cat. I would interpret it as being better for him and closer to what his digestive system was designed for.”

Cat owner, 54, US: “When I’m looking for healthy cat food, I’m looking for the ingredients. I look on the ingredient list, I am looking for the benefits that they claim on the front of the package, just because I want to know I’m getting the best for my cat and helping them live longer and helping them be healthy.”

Dog owner, 55, US: I’m looking for on the packaging are somewhat similar to what I’d look for on my own packaging for food that I buy for myself or my children. Not the exact same obviously but along the lines of all natural, sometimes organic. Something that has ingredients that are understandable and stuff that I recognize. Once you start buying things with words on it that you don’t know the meaning of or can’t pronounce chances are it’s not really good for you.”

As in the human world, the clean-eating concept is vague and consumers don’t always understand what it means. Many pet owners we spoke to seemed confused about the concept, saying that they ‘like the sound of it’ but would want to know what it actually means before buying a product carrying the claim. A clean label claim is also easily confused with claims such as ‘all natural’. “I’m not sure I understand how it differs from natural” said one British consumer when asked how she would interpret the word ‘clean’ on a pet food product.

While the industry might talk about this trend as “clean label”, the majority of pet parents read labels on pet food packages to know more about the products they buy so they can make healthier food choices for their beloved pets. 3 in 4 agree that it is important to check a pet food label to ensure there are no ingredients they dislike. This is also supported by figures showing the high relevance of ingredients list and claims that are being read by 3 in 5 consumers always or usually when purchasing a new pet food. Overall, it became clear that natural ingredients and less preservatives or additives are key characteristics for pet owners to make pet food seem healthier.

The same survey reveals that more than half of pet owners think that rice ingredients such as rice protein and rice starch sound natural, and therefore appealing. Our research also indicates that rice is seen as a healthy ingredient for pets, scoring significantly better than other cereals.

There is no doubt increased demand and interest in clean-label pet food, but it is crucial for manufacturers to be clear about what this means – to themselves, and to consumers – and there’s an opportunity for manufacturers to set the standard and choose natural cupboard ingredients.