Getting it 'Just Right': Why customized dog food is the next big trend

Logan Sowa

More and more every day people are seeing their pets as more than just a beloved companion, they' our family. We're dressing them up for Halloween, bringing them everywhere we go, and are that much more invested in making sure our pets are getting the right nutrition.

Gone are the days of "dog food" being an unfortunate fate for your pup who yearns for your table scraps -- pet foods have skyrocketed in variety in the last several years, and companies are laser-focused on making sure the best ingredients are in them.

According to the American Pet Products Association, spending for pet food increased 22.5% in 2016, to $28.23 billion. Premium foods seem to be the key to driving that growth (as well as improved statistics) -- but so are the millennials who are buying it. Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the APPA, said, "Now that millennials have officially taken the reins as primary demographic of pet owners, they stand to further develop the humanization of pets trend."

He says he's excited to see how the data continues to evolve with this new group of pet owners, and we are too.

We had a chance to sit down with a pet nutritionist to talk about a variety of things from the most important ingredients to look for in your dog's food to one of the newest (and coolest, we think) trends in pet food: entirely customized blends for your pet.

Below, our conversation with Nutritionist Chris Wildman, PhD with Just Right by Purina.

AOL: Generic dog food just isn't good enough anymore — why do you think pet owners are so interested in what they're feeding their pets now more than ever?

Chris Wildman: Pets continue to become a more important part of their family. With this in mind, we know they want to give them the best. Pet owners want to provide nutritious and delicious meals to help their pets live longer and happier lives.

AOL: What's the most shocking thing people learn about their dog's food?

CW: That dog food is not one size fits all; every dog is different and unique! People are also surprised to learn they're not the only ones who feel overwhelmed when trying to find the right food for their dog. At Just Right, we combine the owner's first-hand knowledge of their pet with our nutritional expertise to personalize their dog's food to their individual needs.

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AOL: And what are the benefits of personalized nutrition?

CW: Since no two dogs are the same, personalized nutrition allows pet owners to help create a dog food based on their dog's unique needs and preferences. Just Right by Purina knows that while we know nutrition best, owners are the ones that really know their pet best and taking a personalized approach enables us to tailor a blend to best fit their dog's unique nutritional needs. We also provide a custom feeding amount for your dog's blend, and you can even put your dog's picture on the bag – that's how personalized we get!

AOL: At its base, what are the most important ingredients for dog food to have?

CW: It takes a variety of dog food ingredients and nutrients to get the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs and deserves. At Just Right by Purina, we think of our dog food ingredients and how they work together in benefit clusters, rather than how they exist as individuals. Think of ingredients as team players. It takes a variety of ingredients with unique nutrient contents all working together: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, palatants, etc. For example, if your pup needs a diet to help promote a healthy skin and coat, your blend might include chicken or salmon, fish oil, a combination of grains, canola meal, dried egg product and vitamin A supplement which work together to deliver the necessary key nutrients to support the healthy skin and coat

AOL: What are the changes you can expect to see in your pet once they're on better food or a food that's right for them?

CW: It truly depends! Every dog's metabolism, skin, coat, energy level, eating preferences, weight, etc. is different, even if they are the same breed. This is one of the many benefits of personalized food – it allows you to tailor your dog's food around their needs and preferences. Just Right by Purina allows pet owners to create a personalized blend of dog food based on all of these characteristics with a quick and easy questionnaire. Based on the information gathered from the pet profile and questionnaire, we're able to create the most nutritious, personalized, blend for their needs.