How to treat (and supplement) pets like part of the family

Published: 19-Apr-2024

Globally, 85% of pet parents agree that proper nutrition and supplements are as important for their pets as they are for themselves, writes Guillaume Maio, Marketing Manager, Pet Nutrition, at ADM

These savvy consumers increasingly seek high-quality products to support the holistic well-being of their pets.

Common areas of focus include mobility and joints, dental and oral wellness, healthy ageing and general well-being.

As an indicator of this mounting opportunity, functional treats for dogs and cats in the United Kingdom each have a forecasted CAGR of more than 12% through 2026.1

Pet supplements are also predicted to show steady growth, with the UK’s overall pet health and supplement market estimated to grow by a CAGR of 8.6% through 2026.1

The introduction of functional treats has boosted consumer interest in the pet supplements segment. Soft chews are outpacing other pet supplement formats in terms of growth as functional treats deliver a guilt-free reward with the added advantage of wellness benefits — much like gummy supplements for humans.

Flavour is key to capturing pet satisfaction: taste profiles often centre around chicken, fish and other meats, as well as fruits and vegetables. For people and their pets, fun and functional wellness products are dynamic drivers of potential.

Where human and pet nutrition converge

Functional ingredients that are highly popular among humans can be just as useful for their furry companions. This commonality facilitates the development of a coherent product offering for the entire family, such as microbiome solutions.

Consumers worldwide are gaining awareness that the gut microbiome helps to maintain overall well-being for themselves and their pets. Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics can all support a healthy gastrointestinal environment, as well as the skin and oral microbiomes.

However, consumer understanding of biotics and which products are effective is still relatively nascent. Plus, the less information a consumer has about biotics, the less likely they are to purchase them.

How to treat (and supplement) pets like part of the family

Remarkably, of surveyed Europeans, Polish consumers are the most knowledgeable about the gut microbiome and biotics related to cats and dogs … and 81% have purchased biotics for their pets at least once.2

Most people who purchase biotics do so because they’ve received a professional recommendation and want to help their pet manage a specific condition. Approximately one in three European pet owners have purchased biotics at least once a year because of a recommendation.2

In many cases, they use biotics to support their pet’s digestive or gastrointestinal concerns. There is a clear opportunity for brands to help inform more consumers about the advantages of biotics in pet products.

Expanding awareness through marketing and packaging, as well as veterinary advocacy, can help to increase the adoption of these wellness products.

A window of opportunity

Positive endorsements from a trusted source go a long way in terms of informing consumer purchasing decisions. European pet owners primarily rely on veterinarians, pet stores and websites about pets to research new foods, treats and/or supplements for their dogs and cats.2

On top of that, 95% of functional treat purchases are highly influenced by the product’s attribute and primary health benefit claim.1

Consumers perceive claims such as clinically tested, scientifically studied and vet recommended as evidence of a product’s effectiveness.3 And nine out of 10 European consumers say a veterinarian is their number one trusted source of information about new pet products.2

Scientifically robust benefit claims are also necessary to convince trusted key audiences such as veterinarians, pharmacists and specialist retailers that new wellness products dedicated to dogs and cats do what they say.

Furthermore, compliance with European regulations is critical for successful product launches. Brands can get a running start with a white label manufacturer that offers innovative, turnkey formulations that are designed to address pet parent demands.

Consumer insights show that soft chews are the clear leader as the preferred treat format in Europe, followed by sticks and biscuits.2

Toppers and mix-ins are also gaining interest. These formats currently have greater availability in the marketplace because they are easy to use and convenient for pet owners.

How to treat (and supplement) pets like part of the family

But unique formats can also unleash opportunities; 27% of German pet owners say they would buy functional treats as a squeezable paste.2 No matter what the format is, functional products must preserve active ingredients throughout their shelf-life.

Overcoming functionality challenges

Soft chews are typically manufactured with classic extrusion equipment, although this high-heat process might negatively affect colours, flavours and functional ingredients.

Unlike others in the industry, ADM creates turnkey and tailor-made soft chews with a cold extrusion process that omits the use of heat, water or gumming agents. This preserves the texture, flavour and benefits of all the ingredients and enables suppliers to bring a superior soft chew to market.

The quality and type of functional ingredients can also help to ensure they remain active during transit and storage. For example, extreme heat from extrusion and baking can diminish the efficacy of live probiotics.

Postbiotics, which are a preparation of inanimate micro-organisms and/or their components, can confer a health benefit on the host despite challenging processing conditions.4

Thus, postbiotics may be a useful alternative to probiotics in certain wellness product applications.

Pioneering research in pet nutrition

As the field of microbiome solutions continues to mature, research regarding the use of biotics and their effects on canine health is just beginning to emerge.

How to treat (and supplement) pets like part of the family

Sophie Nixon, PhD, Head of Clinical Research for Pet and Animal Well-Being at ADM, has overseen an exploratory, first-in-species study with adult dogs to evaluate the effects of daily supplementation of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT8145 (BPL1) in both live probiotic and heat-treated postbiotic forms.5

Data indicates that both the probiotic and postbiotic versions of BPL1 can safely be supplemented in healthy adult dogs, with changes observed in faecal short-chain fatty acids, bacterial composition and faecal metagenome (compared with controls).

A further clinical study is ongoing to assess additional physiological outcomes. Additionally, inactivated Bifidobacterium longum CECT7347 (ES1) may support gut barrier function according to in vitro data.6,7

In addition, the efficacy of the live probiotic Bacillus velezensis DSM 15544 as a zootechnical additive (a gut flora stabiliser) was confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).8

Pioneering science such as these trials will spur the development of pet products that feature highly sought-after wellness claims and comply with European regulations, providing consumers with trusted options to support the wellness journey of their pets.9

Evidence suggests that demand for functional pet products and supplements is growing in the European market.

Half of European pet owners report purchasing functional treats at least every 2 months and approximately six in 10 consumers say they would be interested in buying some type of functional treat for their dog(s) and/or cat(s) in the future (58% of pet owners living in Germany, 60% in France and 63% in the UK and 69% in Poland).2

Microbiome solutions present an intriguing opportunity for brands to deliver on evolving pet owner demands and take advantage of an emerging product category with extensive development potential.

By leveraging ADM’s large portfolio of ingredients, formulation expertise, end-to-end support and ongoing clinical research, pet brands will have what it takes to gain credibility and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.


  2. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (Chicago, IL, US), ADM Outside Voice, proprietary research conducted via Morning Consult (2023).
  5. Manuscript undergoing peer review: BPL1® is a trademark registered for Biopolis SL in the EU and other countries.
  6. P. Martorell, et al., “Heat-Treated Bifidobacterium longum CECT-7347: A Whole-Cell Postbiotic with Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Gut-Barrier Protection Properties,” Antioxidants 10, 536 (2021).
  7. ES1 (Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum CECT7347) is used by ADM Biopolis under license from CSIC.
  8. In the UK, this strain is named Bacillus subtilis C-3102 (DSM 15544) and, in the EU, it’s named Bacillus velezensis DSM 15544.
  9. Local regulations must be reviewed to confirm the permissibility of ingredients for each category.

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