Brands and manufacturers can prepare today to meet future plant-based pet food demands. A Plant-based Pet Food Frenzy Is On The Horizon
The plant-based food movement is surging. With pet food trends closely following human food and beverage trends, plant-based ingredients and plant-based protein are a trending topic amongst pet food manufacturing professionals and becoming more mainstream in the pet food market.
Here’s what we know about human plant-based food consumption, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and SPINS® data, which is already being echoed in the pet food market:
U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew more than 5 times faster than all food in 2019.
Plant-based meat adoption is particularly accelerating, seeing an 18.4% rise in retail sales versus a 2.7% increase in conventional meat during the same time period.
COVID-19 kicked plant-based adoption into overdrive, with plant-based foods growing 35% faster than all food in the four weeks following U.S. COVID-19 case spikes in mid-March 2020.
Also following the U.S. COVID-19 case spike, plant-based meat saw a retail increase 50% higher than conventional meat.
Plant-Based Diets Are On Pet Owners’ Minds
A 2019 study, “Plant-based (vegan) diets for pets: A survey of pet owner attitudes and feeding practice,” from the journal PLOS ONE, affirms the plant-based pet food trend is growing because pet owners are more likely to consume a meatless diet themselves. Further, protein preferences in dog and cat food diets have been shown to closely mimic those of their vegan or vegetarian owners, with more of these owners opting to feed their pets a diet consisting of plant protein.
With up to 12% of pet owners identifying as vegan or vegetarian, there could be up to 22 million vegan or vegetarian pet owners in the U.S. alone based on current U.S. pet ownership data.
Opportunities in this space aren’t limited to vegan and vegetarian pet owners, however, as roughly a quarter of consumers that identify as omnivores would consider feeding their dog a plant-based diet if one were available that met their criteria. A recent Mintel UK Pet Food Market Report supports this trend, as a third (34%) of UK dog food buyers believe that a plant-based diet is better for their dog than a meat-based diet.
These numbers can be expected to see significant growth in the coming years as more plant-based foods and plant-based meats become available.
Purchase Drivers And Hurdles For Plant-Based Pet Diets
Pet owners may consider a plant-based diet for their pets for many reasons. However, concerns about existing meat-based options are the leading driver of switching to a plant-based pet food. The leading concern with meat-based pet food diets is farm animal welfare and rights.
Unsurprisingly, most pet owners are animal-lovers and are more likely to place a high value on the humane and ethical treatment of animals raised for food production. An unhealthy perception of meat along with environmental and sustainability concerns over animal protein production are also strong growth drivers promoting plant-based pet food.
While plant-based pet foods have momentum, there are some hurdles to clear before achieving mainstream availability and acceptance.
The PLOS ONE study found that nutritional completeness is the leading challenge with plant-based pet food, with nearly three quarters of pet owners flagging this concern. However, providing strong evidence of nutritional sufficiency and buy-in from veterinarians were cited as opportunities to lessen nutritional completeness concerns.
Finding a partner that can help optimize plant-based pet food protein with nutrients such as vitamin and mineral fortification and supplementation of the limiting amino acid (methionine, lysine, Tryptophan, etc.) can help to address these concerns. Cost is another hurdle, with vegan pet foods retailing at upwards of twice as much per pound when compared to super premium meat-based counterparts. Thirdly, many plant protein bases require additional ingredient labeling, driving concerns that plant-based pet food carries an unnatural halo.
Innovate To Meet Expectations For Pets And Pet Owners
A key challenge with plant-based pet food, particularly in North America, is that the most cost-effective plant-protein bases are soy or wheat and most pet owners who purchase super premium pet food prefer grain-free options. To this end, pea proteins are helping fill this gap.
As more legumes are finding their way into pet foods, peas are gaining significant traction as a go-to plant-protein source for pet food manufacturers because of their versatility and adaptability into most pet food manufacturing processes.
As with any other pet food, palatability performance is critical. Recent data released by Kerry shows that achieving palatability performance using plant-based ingredients can be achieved. This data shows that unique plant-based natural flavours can deliver palatability performance on par with traditional meat digests. Tapping into taste masking and modulation technologies can also help plant-protein bases deliver the primal, meaty aroma and palatability that pets crave.
Pet owners seeking plant ingredients in their pet’s diet still want a product that delivers a similar aroma and texture as conventional meat-based products. Enhancing plant-based protein with savoury natural flavours can be an effective way to deliver the aromatic experience pet owners expect. Optimal pet food texture can also be achieved by working with a partner that has a range of integrated plant-based ingredient solutions and understands how to incorporate these proteins into pet food formulas.
Developing a plant-based meat alternative often requires additional ingredients be added to the ingredient deck. With the industry focus on shortening ingredient labels, adding more ingredients can be a concern. One effective strategy to keep plant-based pet food ingredient labels brief is opting for kitchen-friendly ingredients such as celery, dairy and vinegar over synthetic options to help extend freshness over shelf life, naturally.
Given the strong consumer trend toward plant-based food, it isn’t a matter of whether plant-based pet foods will go mainstream, it’s a matter of when. Be prepared for the plant-based pet food boom by finding a partner that understands the technology behind plant-based ingredients and how they can be optimised for use into pet food manufacturing processes.
5 Easy DIY Vegan Cat Treat Recipes
Cats love to be pampered, and sometimes they even demand it. Vegan cat treat recipes aren’t as readily available as dog treat recipes, and since we love these animals with equal abandon, we thought we’d throw the feline community a … treat!
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (combine with 2 Tbsp. water)
1 14-oz. can wet vegan cat food
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. water
1 cup sprouted brown rice flour
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 Tbsp. catnip (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or wax paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg replacer, cat food, olive oil, and water. Add the brown rice flour and cooked rice and stir. (The mixture will be thick, but you should still be able to spread it out.)
Spread the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet, creating a rectangle that is about 1/3-inch thick. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Let cool, then slice into bite-sized pieces. Return to the oven and bake for another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in the fridge.
1 cup wheat flour (without yeast)
1/4 cup chickpea flour (without yeast)
1 Tbsp. catnip
1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (combine with 2 Tbsp. water)
1/3 cup soy or almond milk
2 Tbsp. wheat germ
1 Tbsp. molasses syrup
1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Roll the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. (The consistency should resemble that of a cracker.)
Cut it into bite-size pieces and return to the oven for another 8 minutes, or until crunchy.
2 cups Cantaloupe, cut into small pieces
3 cups watermelon, cut into small pieces
1 cup whole blueberries
Splash soy milk
Nutritional yeast, for garnish
This treat can be served at room temperature or frozen. To make the room temperature version, place the watermelon and cantaloupe in a bowl. Add the blueberries and a splash of soymilk, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
To make the frozen version, place one piece of fruit and 2 blueberries in each square of an ice cube tray. Pour soy milk into the tray until filled, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast and freeze.
Make a flattened loaf about 1/2-inch thick, then place on a greased baking sheet.
Broil at 325°F for 6 to 8 minutes, turning often to ensure uniform cooking.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Cut into bite-sized pieces.
Make 4 Servings
Veggie Cat Food? Why Not All Cats Need Meat
Some tips (and warnings) for considering switching your cat to a vegetarian diet.
I don’t eat meat, for a variety of ethical and environmental reasons, and I’d rather not feed it to my cat, either. Do cats have to be carnivores?
— John McManus, Needham, MA
Unlike dogs and other omnivores, cats are true (so-called “obligate”) carnivores: They meet their nutritional needs by consuming other animals and have a higher protein requirement than many other mammals.
Cats get certain key nutrients from meat—including taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A and vitamin B12—that can’t be sufficiently obtained from plant-based foods. Without a steady supply of these nutrients, cats can suffer from liver and heart problems, not to mention skin irritation and hearing loss.
As such, a cat’s ideal diet is made up mainly of protein and fats derived from small prey such as rodents, birds and small reptiles and amphibians.
Some cats munch on grass or other plants, but most biologists agree that such roughage serves only as a digestive aid and provides limited if any nutritional value.
Of course, providing your domestic cat with a steady stream of its preferred prey is hardly convenient or humane—and cats can wreak havoc on local wildlife populations if left to forage on their own. So we fill them up on dry “kibble,” which combines animal products with vegetable-based starches, and meat-based canned “wet” foods, many containing parts of animals cats would likely never encounter, much less hunt and kill, in a purely natural situation. Most cats adapt to such diets, but it is far from ideal nutritionally.
Veterinarian Marla McGeorge, a cat specialist at Portland, Oregon’s Best Friends Veterinary Medical Center, argues that the problem with forcing your cat to be vegetarian or vegan is that such diets fail to provide the amino acids needed for proper feline health and are too high in carbohydrates that felines have not evolved to be able to process. As to those powder-based supplements intended to bridge the nutritional gap, McGeorge says that such formulations may not be as easily absorbed by cats’ bodies as the real thing.
Some would vehemently disagree. Evolution Diet, makers of completely vegetarian foods for cats, dogs and ferrets, says that its meatless offerings, on the market for 15 years, are healthy and nutritious, and, if anything, have extended the lives of many a feline and canine, even reversed chronic health problems. Claiming that most mainstream pet foods contain artery-clogging animal fat, diseased tissue, steroid growth hormones and antibiotics no less harmful to pets than to humans, its website posts testimonials from loyal customers who claim happy and long-lasting pets who look forward to their meals.
And Harbingers of a New Age, which makes “Vegecat” kibble and supplements that provide cats with nutrients otherwise only found in meat, says that its products allow owners to “prepare food in your own kitchen, choosing recipes that fit your lifestyle.”
The vegetarian pet debate is a contentious one among vegetarian pet owners and veterinarians and is one not likely to go away anytime soon. The best approach may well be to give some of the non-meat supplements and/or foods a try. If your cat won’t eat them, or does not do well on them—take kitty to a veterinarian for a check-up to see—you can always go back to what you were feeding her before.
Growing Demand For Plant-Based And Nutrient-Rich Vegan Cat Food
Growing demand for plant-based and nutrient-rich pet food is boosting sales of vegan cat food. According to Future Market Insights, the global vegan cat food market is anticipated to surpass €8.9 million in 2021.
Increasing concerns regarding pet health are propelling demand for meat-free pet food alternatives. This trend is encouraging pet food producers to incorporate plant-based formulas such as pea protein in cat food products. Owing to this, Future Market Insights (FMI) projects the vegan cat food market to expand by 7.2 per cent through 2031.
In December 2020, Madrid-based vegan pet food producer Veggie Animals expanded its product range by launching Veggie Animals PLUS for cats. The new product includes tapioca, which strengthens bones, iron, and cranberries to prevent urinary tract infections.
In January 2021, global food giant Nestle announced a new range of Purina pet food which is made from insect protein. Cutting out meat entirely from pet food, the company will incorporate black soldier fly larvae protein and with plant-based protein for added nutrition.
Prevalence of vegan diets across the globe has translated into increased sales of vegan cat food. Transparent ingredient lists are highly sought-after in human foods and this trend has proven critical in shaping pet owners’ preference for high-quality nutrients in pet food as well. Consequently, the focus on product advancements in plant-based kibble, treats, and wet food is at all-time high, creating opportunities for sales in vegan cat food.
The overall spike in pet ownership and per capita expenditure on pet food are chief factors providing tailwinds to vegan cat food sales. Unique processing techniques, reusable packaging such as pouches and stand-up bags, and product certifications will remain key variables influencing sales of vegan cat food.
Consumer trends are propelling demand for meat-free pet food alternatives. This trend is encouraging pet food producers to incorporate plant-based formulas such as pea protein in cat food products. FMI projects the vegan cat food market to expand at a positive 7.2% CAGR through 2031.
Prevalence of vegan diets across the globe has translated into increased sales of vegan cat food. Transparent ingredient lists are highly sought-after in human foods and this trend has proven critical in shaping pet owners’ preference for high-quality nutrients in pet food as well. Consequently, the focus on product advancements in plant-based kibble, treats and wet food are at all-time high, creating opportunities for sales in vegan cat food.
The overall spike in pet ownership and per capita expenditure on pet food are chief factors providing tailwinds to vegan cat food sales. Unique processing techniques, reusable packaging such as pouches, stand-up bags and product certifications will remain key variables influencing sales of vegan cat food.
As per FMI’s regional analysis, the U.S. is expected to dominate the vegan cat food market, reaching US$2,616 million in 2021.
“Growing prevalence of pet humanization, coupled with easy availability of vegan cat food through online channels are expected to propel sales in the global vegan cat food market between 2021 to 2031,” said an FMI analyst.
As vegetarian and vegan diets become increasingly mainstream, pet owners want their companion animal’s diets to match their own edibility ethics. Cats require more caution. In nature and the margins of human habitation, cats eat other animals or the pieces thereof. However, cat digestive systems can handle plant-based nutrients, allowing the inclusion of grains, fruits and vegetables in cat kibble and wet food into properly formulated cat foods.
Plants have long been part of pet food, mainly grains like corn, wheat and rice. But as the market has evolved to encompass categories such as grain-free or novel ingredients like superfoods or alternative proteins, plants have become a more significant contributor to pet food formulations.
5 Best Vegan Cat Foods of 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks
It’s our responsibility as pet owners to ensure that our pets are happy, healthy, and cared for. Whether you are a vegan yourself, or you have researched the topic and believe that your cat would be better following a vegan diet, with careful planning, you can ensure that your cat is healthy and that they don’t rely on animal protein to remain this way.
In particular, you will need to find meals that include nutrients like taurine and arginine, which are just two proteins that come from meat and would otherwise be lacking from your cat’s diet. They are also essential to the good health of your cat. Alternatively, you can include or feed supplements on top of their vegan diet that include these ingredients.
There is a vast range of vegan cat foods and the choice can be baffling at first. Using our vegan cat food reviews, you can find the right blend of food and supplements without having to thoroughly inspect every ingredient or every cat food alternative out there.
The 5 Best Vegan Cat Foods
1. Wysong Vegan Dry Dog & Cat Food – Best Overall
Wysong’s vegan pet food is a vegan base food that is used for elimination protocols and as the base to add meat protein to yourself. An elimination diet enables you to remove all but very basic foods from your cat’s diet and then add the proteins and ingredients that you want.
Wysong’s formula, which has been advocated by vets as well as pet owners, is suitable for cats of any age and the dry kibble has been coated in a probiotic enzyme. The food has also been supplemented with prebiotics, probiotics, omega-3, and extra antioxidants. It does contain taurine, but only trace amounts, but this is because it is designed as a base food rather than a complete food.
Some buyers have reported that their cats have soft stools after eating this food, even when introduced gradually and after several weeks of feeding and although it is good value, you will need to buy additional food for each meal.
2. AMI Vegan Cat Food – Best Value
AMI vegan cat food is made entirely from plant based and natural ingredients and does not contain any animal or slaughterhouse by-products. It has also been formulated so that it is a complete cat food. Unlike the Wysong above, this means that you don’t need to buy additional food to add to the base, so while it is more expensive per pound, we believe the AMI bag is the best vegan cat food for the money.
It also gets rave reviews from owners and, more importantly, their cats, with some buyers even claiming that they started with a mix of this and meat and their cats now refuse the meat. It has been enriched with taurine, which is vital to the good health of your cat. It also contains amino acids and a host of other vitamins and nutrients, ensuring that your cat remains healthy even on a vegan diet.
There will always be debate over whether a cat can endure a truly vegan diet, and the fact that this is a whole food means that it isn’t necessarily suitable for use as a base food for adding meat protein to.
3. Benevo Adult Vegan Cat Food – Premium Choice
Benevo vegan adult cat food is an entirely natural vegan cat food. It does not use any artificial additives of any sort. Benevo has added extra taurine, incorporated spirulina because its dense in nutrients, and have even included yucca to reduce odor.
It has a very good mix of protein, fat, and fibre, and it includes a solid range of vitamins and nutrients that will ensure a healthy cat that gets all the nutrients he required without having to eat animal or animal by-products. It also meets European guidelines, and it is only really the price, which is quite steep because of the list of natural ingredients included in the food, that prevents this cat food from featuring higher up our list of reviews.
Most owners report that their cats love the food, even those that would normally be considered picky and difficult eaters. This is another vegan food that can be fed to cats of any age and size.
4. Evolution Diet Gourmet Fondue Vegan Cat Food
Evolution’s diet gourmet fondue cat food is a dry, plant-based cat kibble. It is a designed as a complete cat food, which means that it includes all taurine, protein and other vitamins and nutrients that your cat requires. You shouldn’t need to add any supplements or other ingredients to ensure that your cat is getting a healthy, balanced diet.
As with most kibbles, it is recommended that you add some water, because damp food is better for your cat than purely dry food. Dampening the food in this way can also make it more appealing to your feline companion and help ensure that they eat the food you put in front of them.
This is an expensive food, but it does offer a good and varied list of ingredients. Several owners have stated that their cats do not enjoy the food and they have struggled to get them to eat it, while others have suggested that the food goes straight through their cats.
Evolution diet vegetable stew moist cat food is a pate style food made from plant and natural ingredients. It has added taurine, which helps ensure good digestive health and maintains eyesight. It is a pate, which means that it has a moist texture, which most cats will find more palatable.
The food has a good mix of protein, fat, vitamins and nutrients. The food is actually considered suitable for both dogs and cats, and it is suitable for animals of any age and at any stage of their life. Unfortunately, however, a lot of buyers report that their cats don’t like the smell or the taste of the food, and even bought in bulk these tins of food do work out to be expensive. There are plenty of more popular and better tasting natural, vegan cat foods on the market that cost less.
There is considerable debate over the topic of feeding cats a strict vegan diet.
Proponents say that it is possible to supplement essential vitamins and nutrients into their diet without forcing them to eat animal. Opponents say that, while dogs can naturally eat a vegan diet, a cat’s digestive and immune system cannot cope with a plant-based diet because there are certain nutrients that are only really present in meat. As such, one of the most important aspects of buying vegan cat food is checking the ingredients list to ensure that it contains supplementary ingredients. There are other factors to consider when buying this type of pet food.
Unlike dogs and humans, cats are considered true carnivores. They have a unique metabolism that means they have to have certain nutrients and vitamins that are only really found in meat. Without ingredients like taurine and arginine, they can become very unhealthy and a total lack of these ingredients can actually prove fatal.
Other ingredients, such as protein, are also very important to your cat. These are present in both animal and plant-based food, but animal protein is considered complete protein. When buying plant-based, meat-free food for your cat, ensure that it includes the following nutrients:
Protein – Cats have a very high protein requirement: more than dogs and animals like cows. They have an especially high protein requirement when they are kittens, but adult cats need a lot of it too. As such, cat food tends to have much higher protein levels than dog food and other food. A young adult cat, up to the age of 6, needs approximately 35% protein in their diet, and this is easier to achieve with meat. It is possible to reach these levels with plant-based food but do ensure that the food you feed meets this criterion.
Arginine – This amino acid is found in meat. While most animals can produce this nutrient themselves, cats do not have the enzyme that does this, so they have to get all of their arginine requirements from their diet. This important nutrient removes ammonia from the body and if your cat cannot do this, they can suffer from conditions including weight loss and even death. Every meal should contain some arginine for your cat.
Taurine – Taurine is another essential nutrient that cats are unable to produce themselves and that must come from their diet. If a cat has too little taurine in their diet, they can go blind and their heart can become enlarged, leading to serious heart conditions. Kittens and adult cats need this amino acid, and it is widely considered to be the most important additive in a plant-based food because it is not found in decent quantity in plants or vegetables.
B Vitamins – Vitamin B12 is essential to your cat’s nervous system, digestive system, and cognitive functions. B12 cannot be stored in the body for long. In a healthy cat, it is stored for around 12 days, but if your cat gets ill, its body will only be able to retain B12 stores for around half this time. B12 is commonly found in animal products including meat, liver, and eggs, and is harder to obtain from vegetables and plant-based food. A serious deficiency can prevent your cat from digesting food and if he is already deficient in this vitamin, feeding supplements will not help. Ensure your vegan cat food has added vitamin B12 to help maintain the good health of your cat.
Other Vitamins – Cats need some vitamins, like niacin, in higher doses than dogs. While vitamin A can be produced in the body, the enzyme required to do this is another that is lacking in cats. Similarly, cats cannot produce enough vitamin D simply by sitting out in the sun. The best cat foods supplement these ingredients to ensure that your cat gets enough, and this is especially important when feeding a vegan diet.
Wet or Dry Food?
Generally speaking, wet food is considered healthier for your cat because it tends to have better quality ingredients, although premium dry kibble can offer everything your cat needs and in decent quantity. Also, plant-based foods are not necessarily as wet as meat-based foods, so a lot of vegan food is sold as dry.
Dry food tends to stay fresher for longer and it hasn’t been weighed down with water so, although premium dry food looks expensive on the face of it, it can work out cheaper because your cat will require much less of it at meal time.
However, cats can be very fussy animals, and many of them demand wet food because they find it more palatable. Some dry kibble can be mixed with water or with a wet food in order to improve its consistency and make it more appealing for your feline friend. This can also help avoid crystals forming in the urine, but if you buy a complete and balanced dry kibble, it should have everything require for your cat’s diet, preventing the need to add wet food.
Base Food or Complete Food?
Some vegan cat foods are considered a base food. This means that you need to add extra ingredients to make them complete. This can be especially useful for an elimination diet. If your cat is showing signs of intolerance but you are unsure of what they struggle to digest, start with a base food and add one or two ingredients at a time to find foods that they should avoid. Alternatively, you can use a base meal and add vitamins, nutrients, and other ingredients, to offer the level of protein and other vitamins you want your cat to have.
Cats can be picky eaters. Some will only eat wet food while others will devour dry kibble. While it is true that some of this is learned, so a cat will relish the type of food it has always been given, this isn’t always true. You can read reviews and reports from other owners to determine whether their cats liked the taste of a particular food, but this does not guarantee that yours will have the same opinion.