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3 Pet Food Trends Shaping the Industry in 2022

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry and Petfood Forum, shares three pet food trends retailers should be keeping in mind this year — and yes, insect protein is one of them.




EDITOR’S NOTE: With Global Pet Expo around the corner, we asked Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry and Petfood Forum, to answer three questions about pet food trends retailers should be keeping in mind this year.

Q: What do you see as the leading trends in pet food for 2022?  

A: Health and wellness, while not at all a new trend, has become even more important since the beginning of the pandemic. That includes pet owners wanting to feed their pets foods or ingredients they perceive as healthier, such as supporting the immune system and gut health (think pro-, pre- and postbiotics) and things like so-called superfoods.

Definitely related, alternative ingredients, especially plant-based, are growing ever more popular. This applies especially to proteins but also encompasses the at least partial return to grains — especially ancient grains — after the DCM/grain-free pet food nonsense.

Finally but probably the biggest trend of all now: sustainability. More and more consumers, and not just younger ones, are seeking more sustainable products; and more and more, that doesn’t just mean environmentally friendly. For some pet owners, it also encompasses social issues like animal and worker welfare, plus corporate responsibility and support for social causes.

Q: We’re hearing from many brands that are introducing or continuing foods with insect proteins. What your thoughts on those and their continued growth in pet foods.


A: They will definitely continue to grow. They are starting to be approved for use in pet foods in the U.S.; black soldier fly larvae protein is approved for dog food now, with cat food soon to follow, supposedly; and other insect proteins like cricket and mealworms are being looked at for approval. And it seems like nearly every week, we get a press release or other information from a company that makes insect proteins expanding production or getting new funding; plus research on their nutritional and other aspects is growing, too.

What still remains to be seen is if pet owners will be willing to buy these pet foods once they’re on the market. There has been concern that we in the Western world tend to be squeamish about the thought of eating bugs (they’re regularly consumed by people in other parts of the world), but does that extend to what their pets eat? After all, some dogs will eat just about anything they encounter, including bugs, and many cats are known to at least hunt bugs.

We could look to Europe, where insect protein has been approved for use for a while now; interestingly, we don’t see much data on sale of pet diets there with insect protein, nor do we see data on pet treats sold here in the U.S. that incorporate insects, which have been on the market for a little while. I think it’s still too early to know, or perhaps the numbers are too small for research firms to track.

But, another aspect to this is the inherent sustainability of insect proteins if what producers say is correct in that they use far less water, land and energy resources than do more traditional animal sources of protein. There’s another sustainability angle in that many of the insect protein producers use discarded human food products to feed the bugs, thus eliminating that waste and making production of the insect protein close to a circular model.

With sustainability growing in importance among consumers (see answer to first question), that may well resonate with pet owners considering feeding diets with insect protein.

Q: Any specific resources you want to tout for retailers wanting to stay current on trends?


A: Not to be too obvious, but attending a pet trade show like Global Pet Expo, Superzoo or, if you can travel internationally in May, Interzoo, is a great way to see all the new pet food and treat products coming out. Now that the shows will be in person again (fingers crossed), for anyone who feels safe traveling, walking one or more, including the new products area, will provide a great overview in one place.

And if you can’t travel or don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can usually find writeups about a lot of the new products in magazines like PETS+!

Finally, shameless plug: Our website,, has information on new trends updated almost daily. We also have a new products database that includes new pet food and treat launches. Plus, our Petfood Forum conference in April in Kansas City offers the latest data on the pet food market, consumer trends, research on pet nutrition and ingredients, and more. For example, at Petfood Forum 2022, May 2-4, there will be a presentation sharing results of a consumer survey on North American acceptance of insect protein! (An on-demand version of Petfood Forum will also be available.)



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At P.L.A.Y. — Pet Lifestyle & You — toy design is definitely a team effort! Watch PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita and P.L.A.Y.’s Director of Sales Lisa Hisamune as they talk about the toy design process, the fine-tuning that makes each toy so special and why every P.L.A.Y. collection is made with independent retailers top of mind.

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