Learn How to Start a Successful Dog or Cat Food Business

Cans of organic, grain free cat food
••• Susie Wyshak

In 2015, Nielsen reported that Americans spend $2.6 billion annually purely on dog treats. And that's just dog treats. Overall, dog owners spend more than $9 billion on dog food.

Natural pet food sales hit $5 billion in 2014, a 67% market share, a 7.4% increase over 2013 according to Petfood Industry. In 2015, Smucker's purchased the Meow Mix and Milk-Bone brands for $3.2 billion. 

Getting the picture? There's a lot of money in keeping our furry friends well fed and healthy!

The Big Trend in Dog and Cat Food: Recipes We'd Be Happy to Eat

At the Natural Products show in 2015, the number of stylish and wholesome dog and cat food exhibits had expanded dramatically from the previous year — making pet food worth taking a look at if you are exploring new food business opportunities.

Peruse pet stores, and you'll see lots of trends that reflect the human specialty and natural food trends: We all want good, clean food. These trends drive success at the small business level, as with startups like Rudy Green's Doggy Cuisine. 

  1. Organic dog and cat foods with simple recipes and whole food ingredients we might use at home. Old-time companies like Bench & Field Pet Foods keep Fido healthy and owners guilt-free with "free-range chicken and natural/organic ingredients." Grain-free dog foods are a growing trend, too. The opportunity: Making pet food at home can be risky and may not provide all the nutrients a dog or cat needs. Many health-conscious pet owners may start to make food at home, then turn to store-bought brands either out of weariness or realizing there's more to making healthful pet food than they can handle.
  1. Pet snack foods and treats that are freeze-dried also echoes the trends in human snack foods. Freeze-dried foods are crunchy, attractive, convenient to store and tend to retain nutrients. The opportunity: Research what's out there and how our own specialty/natural food trends might trickle into pet food formats and flavors that have yet to be developed.
  2. Adorable and attractive package designs, such as the pet foods from Organix/Castor & Pollux, often boast designs as appealing as human packaged food. The opportunity: So many human food brands stand out and succeed due to their branding. Re-sealable, stand-up pouches a standard and easy format.

    First Steps to Start a Pet Food Business

    The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that all animal foods be safe, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled — just as with our own human foods. 

    1. Learn about the role the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) plays in controlling pet food quality and safety
    2. Read your state's regulations for producing dog and cat food, on the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) website where you will learn about labeling and the nutritional standard requirements for complete and balanced pet foods.
    3. Visit the American Pet Products Association to learn more about the industry.
    4. Get tips for starting a pet bakery business, from the nuts and bolts business perspective.
    1. Read about more brands and consider attending the Global Pet Food Expo — all the research you need in one pet food-filled place!