The pet health category has shown immense growth, potential, and has mirrored trends similar to the human personal wellness space, with 33% of canine households and 20% of feline households using supplements for pets.1 Further, according to a 2018 study, sales of GMO-free pet food rose 28.8% as compared to the previous year.2 Trends in clean labels, recognizable ingredients, functional benefits, and layers of transparency to help make informed decisions no longer lie solely in the human wellness space, as many seek the same for their pets. In addition to the growing trend for clean labels, the number of pet owners around the world continues to increase and a shift in perspective of the animal’s role in the family has brought additional awareness to the category. As these trends continue, formulators look to meet the growing demand and provide innovative pet health solutions for a variety of animal species, applications, and deliverability forms.Delivery and Formulation Flexibility
Palatability is a significant factor in pet health products and applications. The diversity of delivery opportunities tailored to specific breeds and species requires palatable options with flexible dosing, solubility, and tolerability. As the segment grows and demand rises, a formulator's ability to remain adaptable and innovative should include a diverse product pipeline that appeals to pets and markets to their human companions with tangible applications that mimic human wellness trends.
According to research conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital, a growing population of pets, namely cats and dogs, are experiencing joint pain.3 The natural supplement market has opportunity to meet those needs, and a variety of botanical ingredients are well poised to support the joint health segment. Boswellia serrata, for example, is growing in popularity as it offers opportunity for healthy joint benefits and a balanced inflammatory response supporting aging and active animals. Clinical studies on Verdure’s Boswellia serrata extract, WokVel®, have shown support for joint function, healthy inflammatory responses, healthy joint aging, and improved joint integrity.4-7
Outside of companion animals, trends for healthy aging, joint support, and wellbeing are also prominent in segments targeting performance and working animals, such as equine. The equine market segment is one seeking solutions for balanced inflammatory response and joint health solutions given the propensity of these injuries and health issues in horses.8
Similar to Boswellia, curcumin has shown a lot of promise in promoting healthy joints for active and aging animals. Researchers at the American Association of Equine Practitioners presented results which concluded that “horses fed Absorbine® Bute-Less® Performance, including curcumin (Longvida®) fed to horses reduced pain and improved lameness from [inflammation] after 30 days of feeding, while maintaining stomach health.”9 The study also showed that “horses exhibited significantly lower pain response upon palpation and significantly higher peak vertical force in the same leg/legs when compared to horses fed the control.”9
Appealing to the growing need for natural alternatives that bode well for companion and performance/working animals also requires clean label initiatives. As trends for joint health support rise, so does demand for products and ingredients with seals of approval, such as National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), non-GMO, gluten free, as well as certifications providing assurance that products are free from banned substances that many performance animals are prohibited from consuming (e.g. race horses and Olympians are clean label athletes).
Gut Health and Metabolism
Digestive health is another common concern for pet owners. Animals may experience digestive system issues, caused largely from overeating and eating poor-quality or eating difficult to ingest foods.10 To address these issues, many look to the gut for opportunities to support digestive health and more. Prebiotics for pets may help support the growth of beneficial bacteria and promote a healthy gut microbiome. Supporting good bacteria has been attributed to improved digestion and nutrient absorption, which in turn helps to promote healthy immune responses.20 Pomella®, Verdure's patented pomegranate extract, may offer beneficial support for a healthy gut microbiome, healthy gut flora, and offer antioxidant support through its prebiotic potential. Further, gut health extends beyond just digestive support. Research indicates the gut plays a role in many systems within the body, making it even more important to maintain a healthy microbiome.12
Stress, Mood, and Behavioral Support
Cognitive wellbeing and mood, often associated with behavior and stress support, are hugely trending in the pet and animal health space. Botanical extracts offer many opportunities for addressing healthy brain aging, cognitive support, mood, memory, and more. Similar to the human market segments, curcumin has become an increasingly popular ingredient benefitting a variety of pet health concerns including cognitive health and healthy brain aging. Research examining the binding activity of curcumin in types of canine amyloid has found that it binds to several types of amyloid.13 This suggests that, similar to evidence in humans,14 Longvida may cross the blood brain and blood retinal barriers in animals, allowing delivery of free curcumin to the brain and target tissues. Additionally, several studies in healthy humans have shown positive improvements to mood, emotional wellbeing, healthy brain aging, and cognitive function suggesting potential benefits in the animal health category at manageable daily doses as well.
With rapid growth in ingredients shown to offer calming attributes for mood and temperament like CBD and holy basil, many pet owners are seeking natural products to relive anxious behaviors of their companion animals. Bacopa monnieri, another Ayurvedic botanical shown to calm a busy mind, has also shown promise in addressing aspects of mood, memory, focus, stress, emotional balance and sleep. Bacognize®, Bacopa monnieri extract, has shown functional support potential through improved working memory, reductions in mental fatigue, support for healthy sleep cycles, and has been attributed to improved mood through its calming properties. Bacognize has potential to support performance and companion animals in similar ways.15-16 For pet owners, mood and emotional wellbeing is of top concern. Studies suggest stress in pets impacts a wide variety of health systems including the immune and digestive systems.17 Balanced emotional wellbeing may offer a robust opportunity to applications and functions within the emerging category.
Skin and coat support, immune health, and oral health are areas poised for growth within the pet health category as owners extend beyond standard pet food to meet dietary needs through treats, premium and specialized foods, supplements, topicals, and more. Ingredients such as Tinofend®, Tinospora cordifolia, and Thymocid®, Nigella sativa oil, are both uniquely positioned for balanced immune response support. Further, these ingredient solutions may offer formulation flexibility as well as nutritional and functional capacities that appeal to a multi-faceted delivery for a wider target market. As pets become even more integrated into homes and families, quality, transparency, and recognizable ingredients are at the forefront for formulators and pet owners alike.
Learn more on this topic, and industry insights from Nutritional Outlook: ‘Pet nutrition’s transformation: Pet food and supplements are getting healthier’. †
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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