Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 4

4 | www.PetfoodIndustry.com

SOMETHING TO
▲

CHEW ON

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson

Grain-free pet food backlash:
The influences and irony

S

ince humanization became a key influence
on pet food some 15 years ago, it has played
out in numerous product development trends
and cycles. Arguably, the poster child has been
grain-free pet food.
The original purveyors of grain free did
a great job of noticing trends and concerns
among pet food and human food consumers
and responding with products to meet those
concerns. With human food, think gluten-free and paleo diets, which translated to
grain-free and "ancestral, from the wild" pet foods. The new category also played well
to pet owners who believed their pets suffered from dietary allergies.
Granted, some pets have legitimate sensitivities or intolerances to certain ingredients; one of my cats definitely does better on grain free. Yet numerous studies have
shown that few dogs or cats have true food allergies, and most intolerances lie with
proteins, not grains. Similarly, no studies have proven that grain-free pet foods are
better nutritionally for dogs or cats than are ones with grain-based ingredients.
Regardless, grain-free pet food caught on like wildfire among pet owners, capturing
about 25% of the U.S. market and spreading globally. The expansion often was fueled
by demonization - at the hands of "Dr. Google" and pet food companies themselves
- of traditional, grain-based ingredients. Which makes for great irony given the
U.S. pet food scene today: namely, the growing backlash against grain-free pet foods,
driven by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) investigation into a possible link
between them and recent, atypical cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
In response, several companies launched new pet foods and toppers at SuperZoo
in August 2019 featuring claims such as "grain friendly," "grain in," "whole grains" or
"ancient grains."
The irony is that the potential link between DCM and grain-free pet foods is no
more established or scientifically proven than was the original concept that grain
free was better for pets (https://bit.ly/2lXAkss). In fact, my colleagues who attended
SuperZoo reported that representatives of some companies said they would have
preferred to wait for FDA's investigation results as to actual causes, but they had
consumers, retailers and veterinarians clamoring for alternatives to grain free ... which
presented a new market opportunity. What goes around comes around. ■
Debbie Phillips-Donaldson is editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine.
Email her at dphillips@wattglobal.com.

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Petfood Industry - October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Petfood Industry - October 2019

Petfood Industry - October 2019
Contents
Grain-free pet food backlash: the influences and irony
Speaking of…
News and Calendar
Raised Right Pets: Human-grade pet food with a purpose
Functional pet food ingredients evolve with market demands
Singapore’s cat ban, one-dog policy bite pet food market
Emerging breakthroughs in pet microbiome research
AAFCO holds annual meeting, Part 1: Pet Food Committee
Coconut meal for dog and cat diets: Is this a good option?
Puppy and kitten formula pet foods deserve a revival
New Products
Marketplace
Advertiser’s Index
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - CT1
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - CT2
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Petfood Industry - October 2019
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Cover2
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 1
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Contents
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 3
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Grain-free pet food backlash: the influences and irony
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 5
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Speaking of…
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 7
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - News and Calendar
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 9
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Raised Right Pets: Human-grade pet food with a purpose
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 11
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 12
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 13
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 14
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 15
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Functional pet food ingredients evolve with market demands
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - BB1
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - BB2
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 17
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 18
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 19
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 20
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 21
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Singapore’s cat ban, one-dog policy bite pet food market
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 23
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 24
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 25
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Emerging breakthroughs in pet microbiome research
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 27
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 28
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 29
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - AAFCO holds annual meeting, Part 1: Pet Food Committee
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 31
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 32
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 33
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Coconut meal for dog and cat diets: Is this a good option?
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 35
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 36
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 37
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Puppy and kitten formula pet foods deserve a revival
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 39
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 40
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - New Products
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 42
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 43
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 44
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 45
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Marketplace
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - 47
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Advertiser’s Index
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Cover3
Petfood Industry - October 2019 - Cover4
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