Edible insects, the next generation of dog food
The acceptance and use of edible insect protein as a food input is gaining traction. The nutritional profile, sustainable outlook and potential economic benefits position edible insects as a viable alternative to traditional pet foods. Whilst currently not mainstream in human consumption, pet food applications, in particular insect based dog foods, represent a growing opportunity.
Reflecting on the history of dog ownership, be they workers or pets, what is clear is that dog feeding trends have naturally followed their owner’s food preferences. Be it borne from availability, utility or convenience, as evidenced by historical records, dog feeding trends reflected prevailing human diets. Depending on the time period, dog food intake has varied greatly. Diets have included grains (such as maize, barley, spelt and whey), breads, seasonal vegetables, milk based products, offal and meat offcuts.
In modern society it was James Spratt who pioneered the world’s first dog food biscuit product in the 1870’s. Whilst not grounded in nutritional science, this was a seminal moment which marked a shift from feeding dogs excess food or leftovers to using specific products marketed as dog foods. Since this time, the dog food category has rapidly developed in step with the growth of veterinary and food science. Whilst pet nutrition continues to evolve, interestingly our personal food preferences, availability and economics continue to drive trends.
History sets important context when considering alternatives such as edible insects. Founder of insect dog treat business Buggy Bix and board member of the Insect Protein Association of Australia (IPAA) Shaun Eislers, says the edible insect market is only at the beginning of its journey. “Whilst the Australian market is nascent, opportunities to incorporate edible insects are presenting at all stages of the value chain. One of these is insect based dog food products.” According to Mr Eislers, with over 4.8 million pet dogs in Australia, insect based dog treats and foods are an excellent market entry point to develop widespread market acceptance of edible insects.
This is of importance when looking to future dog food trends and market acceptance thereof. The prevailing types of protein inputs used for traditional pet foods show a clear tendency towards meat based products ranging from prime cuts down to offcuts and byproducts. This is unsurprising and represents the consumer mindset alternative protein sources such as edible insects need to navigate.
The question remains, will edible insects be accepted by pet owners as a desirable dog food? Contrary to the historical approach to dog foods, the divergence of human food and dog food in conjunction with the development of pet nutrition has helped set the stage for edible insects. There is an opportunity to complement existing protein inputs providing they are beneficial for dogs. Market research and testing supports this view. Findings suggest dog owners are willing to nourish their pets using edible insect based dog foods providing there is no compromise in nutritional quality.
This is also consistent with the market response to Buggy Bix. Since the launch of their insect based dog treats, a consumer mind shift has started to occur. “Initially we were educating every customer on the nutritional, environmental and economic benefits associated with our insect based dog treats. This has started to change and consumer acceptance is much more widespread. Customers are now asking when we are going to expand our range into everyday dog foods and even cat food!”
Although requiring the formation of a new category within the pet food market, importantly there is consumer interest and developing demand. Australians are becoming increasingly health conscious and aware of their environmental footprints. This awareness is translating into their everyday lives and pets are a natural extension. Deeply ingrained dog food trends and mindsets are beginning to change and, whilst early in the journey, edible insects are well positioned to become commonplace within pet foods.
Quoted: Shaun Eislers