Pet Talk: January 2023

Taking a Glance at 2023: What’s Trending

January is one of my favorite months because I find myself always optimistic about what’s to come and what to plan for. Although we’re barely through the first week of the year, I am already realizing that 2023 will be much like the previous few years when it comes to pet products. What do I mean by this?

With over 68 million households in the U.S. with a pet (this is about two of every three homes have at least one pet) the pet industry is big business. A lot of new, innovative products for pets and their owners were introduced in the past decade.  We saw a shift to more natural foods and treats, high-tech tracking and genetic testing companies, and a large influx of pet professionals including dog trainers/behaviorists, dog daycares/pet sitting businesses. With these in place and thriving, it looks to me that we’re holding steady with most of the innovations introduced and will continue to see a lot of the same.

Fresh food is now a way of life

Stores like mine partially exist to offer healthier alternatives to what we were seeing at big box and grocery stores. Pet owners responded and spoke with their wallets, shelling out more money for fresh, healthy foods, food toppers, treats and supplements that were free of fillers, by-products and artificial ingredients. Big name companies jumped on board, offering “natural” products. Healthy options for pets has become mainstream! I imagine this trend to continue, as pet food and treats is too big a business for big named brands to not participate with their own version of healthy and natural.

  • Look for natural foods and food toppers and more options in frozen/refrigerated foods. 
  • Consumers want transparency from the companies they buy from even more than ever. I predict this to continue and the more transparent, the more trusted.
  • Environmentally-conscious products with minimal impact will continue to be important.

Grain-free foods are still figuring out their place

In 2018 the FDA announced a potential link between grain-free foods contributing to a heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Pet food manufacturers scrambled to provide food their clients would deem safe. And although we still don’t fully understand, even as studies* on the matter are not finding a link between most binders in grain free, there are more cases of DCM now than in the past. What has concerned me is that pet owners are demanding foods with grains, coming in and asking if they were to add grains to their dog food if that is all it takes to avoid this heart condition. My answer is absolutely not. The addition of grains to the diet is not likely to avoid a heart condition. 

Dog owners specifically may want to add more variety to their diets, including toppers, changing out meat proteins, and adding more freshness to their bowls.

Interactive toys

Interactive feeding and treating toys and gear have been introduced. I’m now seeing pet owners looking for ways to entertain their cats and dogs without the use of food and treats. I think expert pet manufacturers are looking at unique ways to address this but at this time, I have not seen very much new or different just yet. 

Although it’s not clear yet what exactly will be innovated, there is demand for interactive, mind games that do not involve food or treats. I’m excited to see what may come from this.

So, with 2023 now in full swing, it will be interesting to watch the pet industry continue to address the millions of pet owners in their quest for products to help enrich their pets’ lives. I am optimistic that the trends toward transparency, and healthy and earth-conscious products will continue to thrive!

*Tony McReynolds, “New Clues to diet associated DCM in dogs”, AAHA, 8/10/21