Mars Petcare, home to the Pedigree and Whiskas brands, is developing meat substitutes for pet food.
The company is understood to be exploring high-protein, plant-based replacements for beef, chicken and rabbit, amid concerns that the environmental impact of farming could turn cat and dog owners off traditional brands, the Telegraph reports.
According to a senior City source, Mars considered making a bid for Quorn Foods to support its plans but chose instead to work on its own meat alternatives.
The rising popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets for their relatively low impact on carbon emissions is expected to extend to pets and is viewed as a market opportunity.
Pets account for around a fifth of the world’s meat consumption, which has prompted a flurry of start-ups to create a range of alternatives, the Telegraph reports.
Companies like Unilever and Nestlé have been increasingly experimenting with meat substitutes such as meatless ‘bleeding’ burgers and chicken-less nuggets. However, the burgeoning meat-free pet food industry has been largely dominated by smaller, fledgling firms to date.
Yora, a Brighton-based company, uses insect larvae to create a protein-rich flour which is used as a key ingredient for its dog biscuits. And Hownd has said it is developing its own Wild Earth-style vegan/vegetarian dog food.
Last year, Mars Petcare took part in an $11m (£8.2m) funding round for US dog food start-up Wild Earth. The brand uses koji, a Japanese fungus used to make soy sauce, to create a protein designed to resemble the taste of meat.
At the time of the investment, Ben Jacobs, Mars Petcare’s head of ventures, said: “We can solve some of the planet’s most pressing problems…. [if we] efficiently produce protein while reducing the environmental impact of feeding hundreds of millions of pets.”
Mars declined to comment.