The move addresses a trend of people seeking more eco-friendly or allergen-free diets for their pets, and puts Nestle into potential competition with smaller brands like Yora and Green Petfood’s InsectDog.
“We see increasing demand for diversified sources of proteins for pet food products,” Bernard Meunier, head of Purina in Europe, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
He said limited planetary resources and decreasing meat consumption in Europe were incentives to explore new proteins.
The Purina Beyond Nature’s Protein line, which launches in Switzerland this month, will be available in two variations – one using chicken, fava beans and protein from black soldier fly larvae, and one using chicken, pig’s liver and millet.
Both will be available for dogs and cats at Swiss retailer Coop, which also sells insect-based snacks and burgers for human consumption. Rollouts in more markets are planned starting next year, Meunier said.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had strengthened the bond between people and their pets, pushing up demand for high-quality pet food and leading to market share gains for Purina.
Nestle’s petcare unit had sales of 13.6 billion Swiss francs ($14.96 billion) last year. It was the group’s fastest-growing category with 10.6% organic growth in the first nine months of 2020.
In April, Nestle bought UK-based natural pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen. Meunier said Purina’s European portfolio was now complete and the focus would be on organic growth.
In a blog post last year, the British Veterinary Association endorsed insect-based pet food, recommending it to owners who wanted a ‘livestock-free’ diet for their pets.
One leading supplier of insect protein in Europe is Dutch company Protix, founded in 2009, which sells ingredients made from the black soldier fly, mealworms, crickets and locusts.