Sales of “Natural” pet food continue to show healthy growth

Natural foods are good for you and your pet

The market research company GfK, reported in 2016 that the US market for “natural” pet food was worth around $7.5 billion (equivalent to 58% of the “speciality” pet food sector), with grain-free worth around $3.9 billion. (Natural and grain-free pet food: Serious contenders. )

In recent years the concept of “humanization” of pet food has been a strong driver of market growth. This interest in “natural” pet food should not therefore come as any surprise, as pet owners themselves recognise the benefits of “natural” diets and want the same for their pets. Interest in “natural” pet food is also seen in other less mature markets outside the US and is an indication of future potential sales growth.



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Another market research study by “Packaged Facts” published in October 2016, indicates that sales of “natural” pet food are highest amongst “older” pet owners, aged over 70 years of age. In a market, they report to be worth US$8.2 billion, they also report that “Baby Boomers” aged between ages 50 and 69 also strong purchasers of this type of pet food. This is also not surprising as these age groups are often health conscious as they seek healthy longevity for both themselves and their pets, through eating good, wholesome food. In addition to this, they often have enough disposable income to pay for premium “natural” pet food. This research also found that “natural” pet food sales showed 12.1% compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2016.  (US natural pet food market sales top US$8.2 billion. )

The paradox that is “Natural” pet food.

Whilst sales of natural pet food are booming, it is something of a paradox when it comes to comparing consumers beliefs in what constitutes “natural” and with the regulatory definitions.

With respect to regulatory definitions of “natural”, the lengthy US AAFCO definition covers many scenarios where pet food might be labelled “natural” pet food. The AAFCO definition is as follows: –

“a feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices.”

In Europe, FEDIAF has adopted a shorter definition. FEDIAF defines “natural” petfood as follows: –

“The term “natural” should be used only to describe pet food components (derived from plant, animal, micro-organism or minerals) to which nothing has been added and which have been subjected only to such physical processing as to make them suitable for pet food production and maintaining the natural composition.”

Comparing these 2 definitions, it is evident that from a regulatory viewpoint, “natural” might mean many different things in different countries to different people, including pet owners and pet food manufacturers, as the definition cover a whole spectrum of concepts.

In addition to that, different pet owners are likely to have their own opinions on what the concept “natural” means. For example: –

  • Natural raw dog food – combination of meats, fruit and vegetables that have not been “processed” and are sold in either chilled or frozen formats
  • Natural dry dog food – combination of cereals, grains, fruit and vegetables that have not been “processed” (but might have been pelleted)
  • “Natural” dry dog food – Extruded dry dog food made from “natural, wholesome ingredients” e.g. dry milled pea starch.

Another key feature important to pet owners and often associated with the “natural” category is the concept of “hypoallergenic” pet food. For example, pet food that is made without the addition of synthetic additives like colours, flavours, preservatives and antioxidants, that might be considered undesirable ingredients with the potential to cause health problems like allergies.

In summary, if the regulatory definition remains “relaxed” and open to interpretation, then “natural” pet food can cover a wide range of concepts and composition.

The watchword for pet owners is to read the label, try and understand it and use their own judgment to decide if the product would be good for their dog.

The problem of introducing something new into your dog’s diet

“Neophobia” is a word used in general life to describe the situation when someone has a fear (sometimes irrational) of something new. This is seen in eating, for example when a parent is introducing new foods into a toddler’s diet as they grow.

The problem is also seen with pet food when an owner tries to make the change from a pet food brand to another or when changing product format e.g. wet pet food to “raw” format.

These problems can often be overcome by gradually introducing the “new” diet” into your dog’s feeding regime over a period of weeks until they stop showing signs of distress e.g. digestive problems or start to eat the new food.

The same problems might also exist when switching a dog to “natural” dry pet food.

When “natural” is no longer enough for today’s pet parents

In alignment with trends in the human food sector, there are indications that pet owners are now looking for more “attributes” than “natural” in the pet food they buy for their pets. (Pet parents look beyond natural with pet food purchases; )

The industry is now seeing that pet owners are willing to pay more for products from manufacturers that can tell compelling stories around key areas like: –

  • Transparency – “What is in my dog food?”
  • Certification – “What certification does the manufacturer have to demonstrate commitment to food safety, quality and ethical issues?”
  • Sustainability – “How does my pet food manufacturer demonstrate that sustainability is core to their business?”

Whilst pet owners expect this of their pet food manufacturer, in turn they are also expecting that the raw materials suppliers are also able to meet these same demanding expectations.

Vestkorn – Meeting the demanding widespread requirements of today’s pet parents



Vestkorn pea products are completely “natural” and are manufactured by a “dry” milling process, without the use of additives that feature in the manufacture of pea products using “wet” milling processes. These meet the need for completely “natural” ingredients.

However, Vestkorn goes beyond supplying “natural” products like dry milled pea starch and can meet many of the other demands of today’s pet owners.

In addition to their “clean” process, Vestkorn can also meet requirements on: –

  • Sustainability – Food ingredients produced in an ethical, responsible, sustainable manner that cares for the environment and where future sustainability is maintained
  • Transparency – Following the melamine crisis of 2007, pet parents require us to demonstrate where our raw materials come from and the overall process for conversion into pea products
  • Food safety – Pet parents expect the same standards of food safety management as used to ensure food safety of the food they eat

As outlined above, certification to demonstrate compliance to recognised standards is also important in the petfood industry of the 21st Century.

To meet these requirements, Vestkorn are certified to internationally recognised standards that demonstrate their commitment to meeting the quality, food safety and lifestyle standards of pet owners in the 21st Century. In addition to satisfying current Norwegian Food Safety Authorities standards for food and feed, additional internationally recognised certification includes: –

  • Food safety – ISO22000
  • Quality – GMP+
  • Organic – Norwegian Debio organic standard
  • Halal
  • Kosher

Not only can Vestkorn meet demands for the supply of “natural” products but they can also satisfy all of today’s demands on quality, safety, functionality, lifestyle choices and trust.

This makes Vestkorn a wise choice as your preferred supplier of high quality pea products.

We would like to thank David Primrose for such analyses of the market and willingness to share these data with Vestkorn media!