Australia’s $4 billion self-regulated pet food industry has been fraught with controversy in recent years as the 2018 senate inquiry into the safety of pet food identified some alarming practices and concerns for pet health.
On Tuesday, the Herald Sun reported the dog food scandal continues as three police dogs were euthanised and a further six struck down with megaesophagus after eating top-shelf brand Advance Dermocare.
With so much uncertainty about the safety of products, pet owners are increasingly turning to natural or home cooked options for their pets and looking for more ways to promote good health and wellbeing in their four-legged friends.
In 2017, $56 million was spent on pet dietary supplements alone in Australia and is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing categories in pet care in the future based on the speed of its growth in the US.
Founder and CEO of Rufus & Coco Anneke van den Broek set up her pet care brand in 2008 and today her natural pet supplements are stocked in Woolworths, Coles and IGA stores around the country. She spoke to Inside FMCG about her pet health business journey.
Inside FMCG: Can you tell me a bit about how the pet supplements market has developed in recent years?
Anneke van den Broek: The market has evolved in terms of education – pet parents know a lot more now about what their pets need, and are also willing to spend time and money on providing fresh food, raw food or premium packaged foods to ensure their pet gets the nutrition they need.
The ingredients we use are tried and tested – so while some health trends come and go, we believe in using proven supplements that we trust to improve your pet’s health. What has changed is being able to provide a multi-vitamin with multiple health benefits, in a small dosage. So your pet gets multiple benefits from one product.
Inside FMCG: What are the main areas of focus for pet owners in terms of nutrition and supplements?
AvdB: Human nutrition and supplements has become such a huge category within the health industry – and data shows that pet parents want the same health benefits for their pets as they want for themselves.
Pets are also living longer, so there’s a focus on preventative health, and helping the pet to maintain their quality of life into old age.
Key pet trends globally mirror human trends, with popular supplements including multivitamins for daily health, skin and coat supplements, gut health and probiotics, anti-ageing and joint health as well as anxiety treatments.
Inside FMCG: With all the problems of late in the unregulated pet food industry, are people starting to turn their back on the big brands?
AvdB: Our research shows that around half of dog owners have made pet food at home – and a growing number are also turning to raw food and fresh food deliveries. While the majority of pet food brands are doing the right thing, you’re right that the senate enquiry has confirmed the doubts that many pet parents have. Without mandatory regulations how can we really know what our pets are eating?
Inside FMCG: Tell me about pet/dog anxiety and what ingredients you find helps with it?
AvdB: Pet anxiety affects both dogs and cats – and has been increasingly recognised as a valid condition in pets. Pet anxiety can be triggered by things like being left alone, thunder storms, moving house or a new pet or human in the home. And just like humans, some pets are more prone to chemical imbalances and ongoing anxious behavior. Pets often display their anxiety through problem behaviours like excessive barking or chewing, destroying household items, or weeing in the wrong place. Some distressing behaviours are things like over-grooming, chewing on their own fur or skin.
Rufus & Coco Anxiety Aid contains Tryptophan – an essential amino acid that boosts levels of Serotonin (the body’s ‘happy hormone’) in the body. Serotonin regulates your body’s mood, sleep patterns and appetite – and taking a Tryptophan supplements helps to keep these levels stable rather than spiking and dropping.
Pets can also benefit from training and behavior therapy. Simple things like creating a safe zone in the home for your pet to retreat to, and rewarding calm behaviour can also help treat anxiety.A
Inside FMCG: Tell me a bit about the type of ingredients you use in the range and how you came to discover their effectiveness?
AvdB: Our range was developed with pet nutritionists over several years. My own background is in human health and supplements so I brought that knowledge to the brand and sought out pet friendly options.
We’ve used proven ingredients that are backed by years of use or clinical studies. And we also tested the palatability of the range because of course it’s important that pets are happy to eat their food with our supplements added!
The range is also unique in being powdered. Most other supplements in the market are in tablet form, which can be very difficult to administer – or they are ‘tasty’ chews which don’t usually have the efficacy of a straight supplement. I would encourage pet parents to compare the active levels of each ingredient in the product you are using. Most ingredients will have no benefit unless they are taken at clinically recommended dosages.
As pet parents ourselves we’re committed to ensuring the quality and safety of our range. Our pet supplements are manufactured in Australia in human grade laboratory standards. Our facilities are GMP and APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) certified. Australia has some of the highest manufacturing standards in the world. We’re now exporting our range to nine countries where consumers are seeking products they can trust and value Australia’s reputation for quality.