The rise of the four-legged flexitarians

four-legged flexitarians

The UK’s pet population is seeing a rise in four-legged flexitarians according to Mintel, which observes an increase in pet owners limiting the amount of meat in their dogs’ dinners.

Mintel’s own research – communicated in a recent release – shows a third (34%) of UK dog food buyers think ‘it’s good for pets to regularly have a plant-based meal instead of a meat-based one’.

It’s the nation’s younger pet owners, says Mintel, who are driving the figures and ‘giving red meat the chop’; 58% of dog food buyers aged 16-24 believe it’s healthier to limit the amount of red meat on their pooch’s plate, compared to 30% of those aged 45-plus.

Mirroring other human food trends, the analyst also observes digestive health as a concern high on the priority lists of UK pet owners; 75% of cat and dog owners say that ‘actively looking after pets’ digestive health is essential for their overall health’. The gut benefits fermented foods are backed by 44%, while a similar number considers their feline and canine friends to be ‘foodies’.

Many pet owners are keen for their cats and dogs to adopt some of the alternative diet trends that are being embraced by humans

Emotional wellbeing is also thought to be directly impacted by the type of pet food filling animals’ bowls, according to seven in ten (71%), while more than half (51%) ‘show an interest’ in pet food containing calming ingredients such as hemp and chamomile.

Emma Clifford, associate director of food and drink at Mintel, comments: “Our research finds that many pet owners are keen for their cats and dogs to adopt some of the alternative diet trends that are being embraced by humans. The fact that a third of dog food buyers agree that it is good for pets to regularly have plant-based meals is a key example of the considerable scope of the ‘humanization of pets’ trend. The growing interest in plant-based diets among the population as a whole has a lot to do with this trend extending to our four-legged friends. Digestive health is also on pet owners’ radar, mirroring the fact that most UK adults agree that gut health is essential to their own overall health. We expect the humanization trend to continue, as consumer interest in functional and all-natural pet foods is likely to increase.”

These observations sit against a backdrop of a UK cat and dog food industry which is set to reach almost £3 billion this year, according to Mintel.