Sniffing out new markets

12 February 2020

Consumers around the world are starting to rethink the humble tin of pet food.

Now, they’re demanding quality, fresh, raw ingredients for their furry friends, presenting a growing opportunity for Australia’s red meat industry.

Gourmet pet food on the rise

Pet food isn’t a new category of use for red meat, but it’s underrated and undervalued, according to Michael Lee, MLA Group Manager of Science and Innovation.

“Now’s the time to reimagine pet food to benefit Australian producers,” Michael said.

A project funded by the MLA Donor Company has identified new opportunities for the red meat industry to capture value not currently capitalised on by local producers and brand owners.

“Pets are increasingly seen as part of the family,” Michael said.

“People want their dog or cat to be given the best – perhaps eating better than they do themselves.”

Some pet food costs more than $50/kg.

The MLA research found that, globally, the pet food market is projected to reach a value of US$128.4 billion by 2024, growing at a rate of 4.5% from 2019 to 2024.

The Australian market is also expected to grow from US$2.4 billion to US$2.8 at 4.6% annually through to 2023.

“We wanted to search for high‑value opportunities for red meat within the pet food market segment,” Michael said.

“This means understanding the changing consumer and seeing opportunities where we can win with Australian red meat.

“Consumers increasingly want to live sustainably and they want their pets to do the same. Food waste has a big role to play here.”

A market with untapped potential

Michael said there’s no conflict between providing food for humans and providing food for pets.

Despite a recognised protein shortage and the problem of food waste, these factors combine to create an opportunity to upcycle products by blending low‑value cuts with food waste to make pet products.

“Products that don’t qualify as food‑grade products for human consumption can be used to make pet food products at increased value and in premium formats that the pet owner relates to,” he said.

“There’s untapped potential in pet food categories within Australia and internationally – we need to now look at product and business model innovations to succeed.”

Just as MLA market insights have identified ‘ageing consumers’ as a growing market for red meat consumption, ageing pets could also drive purchasing trends.

“Pets are living longer, which presents opportunities. For example, a high‑protein supplement for older dogs with arthritic joints has been developed using hides that were previously wasted.”

Michael said finding and capitalising on opportunities such as this is a step towards bringing increased market share to Australian red meat producers. It is also a step towards new value chains to grow red meat demand.

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