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Pet parents are seeking the same quality, targeted supplements for their four-legged family members as they take themselves. This market is only getting more opportunistic.

For millennia, humans have enjoyed the company and caretaking of domestic pets. Their loyalty, their comfort, their playfulness are all aspects that increase overall quality of life. And when we love someone or some pet, well, we always want to ensure they have the very best.

The concept of “doggie or cat vitamins” not too long ago was one that was met with raised eyebrows; really, the food and treats they would get was enough, right? Well, no. Especially when one knew what was contained in that store-bought food canines and felines had no choice but to ingest.

However, as dietary supplements have become part of conventional consumers’ daily routines to improve their own health, it’s a natural progression to apply that practice to their pets, according to Shaheen Majeed, marketing director of New Jersey-based Sabinsa. For example, he offered, as digestive health has become a prominent issue, probiotics and enzymes for pets have also gained interest. Same thing with curcumin for joint health. “So, we’re seeing product trends in the pet market follow just behind that of humans. Vet care is one of the biggest expenses, so just as with human health, people look to supplements to maintain health and reduce the need for visits to the doctor.”

There are some very compelling numbers to support Majeed’s commentary. Overall in 2017, Americans have approximately 312 million pets. People spend more than $1,500 a year on their dogs, and $1,200 on their cats. Kathleen Paffendorf, sales executive, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., New Jersey, pointed out that the American Pet Products Association expects the total spending on our pets to reach approximately $69 billion for 2017, a rise of approximately $2.6 billion over 2016. “Dogs still make up the largest percentage of pet ownership at 60.2 million households compared to cats at 47.1 [million] households,” she cited.

Within the overall booming pet care market, the pet supplement sector, pointed out Jennifer Buchanan-Hilliard, new business development manager, Chemi Nutra, Texas, “is a much smaller, but highly competitive segment of the $62 billion pet industry that will continue to see growth in the coming years. Industry outlets expect a CAGR of 5 percent over the next few years for pet supplements.”

Fur Babies

According to Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, sales of pet supplements are expected to increase from $541 million in 2014 to exceed $697 million in 2019, pointed out Karen Hecht, PhD, technical marketing specialist, New Jersey-based AstaReal USA, Inc.

Hecht sees the growth and opportunities in pet supplements stemming from how people perceive their pets and why they feel their pets need these products. Back in 2000, a survey noted that 83 percent of pet owners referred to their dogs or cats their “babies.” In tandem, empty nesters and baby boomer retirees often seek companion animals that they love to spoil and treat as family, said Hecht. “Their pets are getting older as they too are aging, and they recognize that senior animals experience very similar health issues—cardiovascular, skin, vision, cognitive and muscle/joint—like many of them are currently experiencing. In fact, a survey by Packaged Facts in 2015 revealed that almost half of all pet owners were buying age-related food and nutrition products for their pets.”

Additionally, both Hecht and Buchanan-Hilliard noted, people are also seeking products for their pets that address their common concerns and desires such as non-GMO (genetically modified organism), soy- and gluten free, organic and vegan, she noted. Responsive pet supplement marketers are launching new products with human-grade ingredients that address these desires, and the field has a lot of room for new or “improved” entrants.

In addition to the manner in how Americans now view their pets as almost-human family members, there are two other major factors driving growth of the pet supplement category, observed Derek Archambault, director of marketing—pet and retail for Vermont-based FoodScience Corporation. “As with humans, pets are living longer, and as Dr. Hecht pointed out, they are developing more age-related problems. Second, veterinary costs are rising, leading people to seek alternatives.”

Beyond the “if it’s great for me it’s great for my dog-kids and cat-babies” mindset, Buchanan-Hilliard observed that another factor is contributing to the new landscape of pet supplements is increased manufacturing sophistication. “Manufacturing capabilities and diverse product offerings have led to a wide range of delivery systems and products, we don’t have to give our pets a pill; we now have chews, gravies, toppers, and water enhancers to deliver additional nutrients.”

Jamie Deloske, sales operations manager for American Laboratories, Inc. in Nebraska sees more stringent regulations playing a key role in the growth of the pet supplement market. “These regulations promote more R&D on the manufacturing level, helping to bring more new products to market while ensuring all products (new and existing) prove beneficial and use quality raw materials,” she said.

All these factors become very relevant when the economy improves, and according to Debora Nelson, QA/QC manager, Pet Flavors Inc., Florida, the economy has improved which means pet owners have more money to spend on their pets.

Much of the demand for human-grade quality may be the elevation of the family “pet” to family “member,” but there was a key trigger that also encouraged the growth. According to Steve Peirce, president of Missouri-based RIBUS, Inc., the quality of pet supplements has evolved considerably since the 2007 melamine contamination of pet food and treats from China. “This event caused consumers’ buying decisions for their pets to become closely aligned with decisions of what they would choose for themselves,” he commented.

Yet, there was an event back in 2001 that Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager, Nutrition, Ingredion Incorporated, Illinois, believes is a critical point in the evolution of pet supplements. In that year, manufacturers and suppliers of nutritional supplements for companion animals and wildlife formed the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), a self-policing body that works closely with FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine) and AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) to establish regulatory guidelines that are fair, reasonable, responsible and nationally consistent and serve the best interests of animals. The cornerstone of the NASC is CompliancePlus, a program that provides a framework for product quality assurance and labeling guidelines, as well as a system for supplement-associated adverse event reporting.” This has provided guidance for the industry to segment to grow and develop,” he said.

Segments of interest—and therefore growth opportunities—are condition-specific supplements, which Buchanan-Hilliard said is the fastest-growing segment. “Pet owners are customizing their supplement routine based on the age and health concern of the animal. While joint supplements account for the largest segment of pet supplements, you have options that target skin and coat, stress, dental hygiene, digestion, liver and kidney support and cognition products just to name a few,” she stated.

Another segment of interest is pet obesity/weight management, she noted. Pet (mostly dog) obesity has been on the rise in the U.S., thereby accelerating potential for growth in this category. Paffendorf agreed, adding, “As a growing number of pets are experiencing weight control issues and we see the continual reporting of steadily rising incidents of diabetes, more significantly in felines, we find that products that safely provide a solution are of primary importance to many pet owners, thus giving more focus on these products by the pet food/treat manufacturers.”

Pharmachem pet-supplement customers, said Paffendorf, are increasingly seeking formulas for weight management, inflammation control and, more recently, natural and organic options, specifically its whole foods fermented organic daily vitamins/ingredients.

In general, stated Deloske, “the pet supplement market has evolved from supplements with no proven benefit, serving much like a treat, to a market focused on improving the number of healthy pets and tailoring to their specific needs. Pet supplement manufacturers are beginning to see each ingredient as a beneficial source of nutrients, from the enzymes and fillers, all the way to the palatants that are being used.”

Ingredient Options

Ingredion manufactures and provides FORTIFEED prebiotic fiber for digestive support. Luchsinger explained that FORTIFEED is a short-chain fructooligosaccharide (scFOS) prebiotic fibers that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of beneficial microflora in the intestines of monogastric animals. FORTIFEED prebiotic fiber is preferentially fermented in the gut by Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which produce short chain fatty acids. This helps change the microflora composition in the gut with the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting pathogenic growth/activity. This in turn encourages healthy digestive function, supports a strong immune system and helps reduce bad odors in the stool of the animal. “FORTIFEED scFOS is one of the most effective prebiotic fibers for companion animals and only a small dose is required,” he said.

Chemi Nutra offers ingredients for canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), stress, agility, and a new ingredient called Mediator PA (phosphatidic acid) for healthy aging and muscle growth. SerinAid PS (Phosphatidylserine) has research for cognition benefitting companion animals as well as humans, noted Buchanan-Hilliard. Another ingredient is AlphaSize A-GPC that is also used for improving cognition and physical fitness in pets; Chemi Nutra filed a full GRAS (generally recognized as safe) dossier for AlphaSize A-GPC and will soon have a USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) monograph. “A strong introduction of what PS has been shown to do in companion animals has been demonstrated by Osella et.al in the article ‘Phosphatidylserine (PS) as a potential nutraceutical for canine brain aging: A review,’” she said.

American Laboratories Inc. is a manufacturer/supplier of enzymes, proteins and palatants for both human and animal nutrition. Similarly, Pet Flavors is “on the palatability side” of pet supplements, Nelson described. Pet Flavors provides natural powdered flavor bases that are used to enhance the flavor of a supplement or mask an ingredient that may taste bitter or have an offensive aroma to the animal. “We ensure that our flavor bases will not react with an active ingredient,” she emphasized. “We have stability studies that have been continuously ongoing for 25 years. Our data verifies that our flavor bases are stable for five years. Our palatability studies show that our flavor bases have a palatability range of 90.0 to 99.9 percent.”

Pharmachem’s Phase 2 Carb Controller standardized white kidney bean extract, is its most extensively clinically studied human weight loss supplement, and in 2004, it was used in a canine study for weight management, with 15 (86 percent) of the 17 dogs in the study losing significant weight (Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, vol. 23, no.2). It is currently being used in pet supplements as Phase2Pet carb controller.

The authors of the study explained, “The basis for the study was the use of starch carbohydrate ingredients in dog and pet foods and the feeding of table scraps which often consist of starch based products. Since the canine digestive tract is designed to digest and assimilate mostly protein, the addition of a significant percentage of starch carbohydrates into the diet will be stored as fat, often in the abdominal area. This increase in weight is one of the major causes of the sudden rise of diabetes, heart disease, muscular, skeletal problems and cancers in the canine population…This study [was] the first to look at the use of starch blockers in animals in a clinical setting.”

Paffendorf added that Phase2Pet can be extruded into pet kibble, flavored and sprinkled onto pet food for ease of delivery or can be incorporated into a pet chew or treat.

Sabinsa’s VetVitals line includes: LactoSpore VG: Shelf-stable probiotic of Bacillus coagulans that produces L(+) lactic acid to support GI (gastrointestinal) microflora balance and immunomodulation; BoswellinVG to support against severity of joint inflammation; VetPerine, which contains 95 percent piperine, used as a potential bioavailability enhancer; VetZyme, Sabinsa’s proprietary enzyme blend assists proper digestion and better absorption of food; and Curcuminoids VG, “a unique composition of three curcuminoids mainly curcumin, Bis-demethoxy curcumin, and demethoxycurcumin,” said Majeed. “Curcuminoids are well recognized to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and wound-healing potential.”

FoodScience Corporation produces a wide range of evidence-based nutraceuticals using ingredients with research behind them. “For example,” stated Archambault, “one of our core products, GlycoFlex 3, has been clinically proven to increase hind leg strength by up to 41 percent and is supported by the Washington State University Study titled ‘The effects of GlycoFlex 3 on stable stifle osteoarthritis model in dogs.’ We just completed a clinical study on our Composure product, which demonstrates that the product’s effect works within 30 minutes and lasts up to four hours.”

For the pet supplement market, FoodScience also offers Perna Canaliculus, and dimethylglycine (DMG). Through partnerships with several other suppliers, FoodScience provides phytosome forms of curcumin, boswellia extract called Curcuvet and Casperome and a low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid called HyaMax.

AstaReal Astaxanthin is a powerful, natural biological antioxidant. It is closely related to other carotenoids such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein. The molecule contains the longest conjugated, double-bonded polyene chain of any related xanthophylls, with both hydroxyl and keto groups on each ionone ring. This configuration is unique to astaxanthin and is responsible for its superior antioxidant activity in quenching singlet oxygen, free radical scavenging and lipid-peroxidation. Studies have shown that astaxanthin enhances immune response in dogs, and stimulates cell-mediated and humoral immune responses in cats. Another study showed that astaxanthin modulated age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction in healthy canines.

RIBUS produces “clean label” excipients, “using grain for functionality and not filler,” asserted Peirce. Until recently, pet food companies used lamb and rice or grains to bulk up the food, but they are moving away from grain due to pet parent concerns (ie, “grain-free”). RIBUS can replace monoglycerides with rice bran extract (Nu-RICE), silicon dioxide with rice hulls (Nu-FLOW), and magnesium stearate with rice extract blend (Nu-MAG).

“Consumers now want a clean label, true and easily identifiable ingredients where the source is both recognizable and able to be pronounced, and transparency as to what is in the finished product,” Peirce observed. “We believe we will see a substantial change toward healthier products in the entire pet food and treat sector in the immediate future.”

After all, summarized Buchanan-Hilliard, “All of us pet owners want nothing more than a long and healthy life for our pets, and providing the right nutrition and supplementation can help.” NIE

For More Information:
American Laboratories Inc., (402) 858.2612
AstaReal USA, www.astarealusa.com
Chemi Nutra, (512) 993-3959
FoodScience Corporation, (802) 872-2101
Ingredion, (866) 961-6285
Pet Flavors, (321) 821-4863
Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., www.pharmachem.com
RIBUS Inc., (314) 727-4287
Sabinsa, (732) 777-1111

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