Food trends such as paleo, clean eating and raw diets are not just fashionable for humans - increasing numbers of pets are being fed special diets in search of health benefits.

Industry experts are suggesting the biggest trends in pet food in 2017 will be natural foods, clean labelling, plus hypo-allergenic and LID (limited ingredient diet) products.

US pet food online publication Petfood Industry says ingredients and labelling are the two biggest issues, with consumers wanting their pets' food to be "ever closer to the foods they put on their own dinner plates".

Pet owners also want clear and transparent labelling, so they know what the food contains, and how it has been prepared, the publication says. Keywords like "natural" and "sustainable" are on the rise, and the idea of "scientific formulation" - suggesting chemicals and interference with natural products - is on the outer.


Dave Allan, general manager of Bombay Petfoods, which produces the Jimbo's brand, says owners wanting to know what they are actually feeding their pets is part of a larger trend towards 'humanisation' of companion animals.

"Look at how animals are portrayed in the media, on shows about animal rescues and training - it's all about the love and how much we enjoy our pets and make them a part of our lives and families," Allan says.

"Premiumisation" is another trend, in which people who want the best for their animals are prepared to pay for it.

"It's about people who really care about animals and care about their relationship with their animal," Allan says. "If people can see that the pet food product looks and smells better, they can relate to it - it is very much like how they feed themselves. Brands need to continue to be innovative to meet that demand."

The trend towards natural ingredients and more premium products sits well with Jimbo's. Its range of products, made from raw meat and free of grains, fillers, artificial colours and flavours, are designed to appeal not only to their end consumers - dogs and cats - but significantly, to those buying them. Plus the strong Jimbo's brand promotes a sense that the manufacturers really care about animals and their wellbeing.

"Our products are not cheap, compared to others on the market, but that's part of the brand proposition - quality is remembered long after price is forgotten," says Allan.

Its premium niche products are big sellers: eight of the top 20 pet food products sold in supermarkets in the Auckland region are Jimbo's, including its Supreme cat food and Hypoallergenic Lamb dog food - the fifth highest-grossing dog food.

Allan says Jimbo's Supreme is made by a team of butchers who trim the beef by hand to ensure it is 100 per cent lean prior to processing it.

"It's expensive but a lot of work goes into it and it's quite a specific product. It's attractive to people who would otherwise go to the butcher and buy gravy beef and trim it themselves - but who might not have the time," Allan says.

"Jimbo's Hypoallergenic Lamb is targeted at dogs with skin problems, which can be caused by allergies to other proteins. It's functional; people buy it knowing that they are doing the best possible thing for their pet."

Allan says it all comes down to food being "the mechanism by which people show how much they love their animals."