All Eyes on Premium and Natural Pet Products

Packaged Facts estimates U.S. retail sales of pet food (including dogs, cats, and other pets) at $20.0 billion in 2013, recovering from their recessionary slump with a 4.5% increase over 2011 sales. Even so, with volume sales relatively flat, competition for every pet food dollar has never been more intense, according to Pet Food in the U.S., 10th Edition, a just-released report from Packaged Facts.

Pet food marketers are firmly focused on offering stand-out products while establishing or maintaining position in the all-important premium/natural segment.  According to David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts,   “As mass-market pet food sales stagnate, the action is in premium and superpremium foods, where growth has reached double digits in some segments.” With Hill’s reformulating Science Diet as a natural product, Walmart launching Pure Balance as its first natural pet food store brand, Nestlé Purina coming on strong with Purina One Beyond, Merrick taking acquiring Castor & Pollux and obtaining organic certification, and Del Monte acquiring Natural Balance, everyone is stepping up their game to take advantage of the natural boom. A related market dynamic is that pet specialty and mass-market brands are growing ever more alike in their offerings; to differentiate, marketers currently are turning to pet food and pet treat formulation trends such as grain-free, “meat first” and human-grade products, alongside weight maintenance and senior food formulations, the re-visioning of wet/canned foods, and highlighting novel ingredients such as glucosamine, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics.

Even as pet superstores draw shoppers away from supermarkets and mass merchandisers with increased customer service and a greater range of products, discount and online retailers are putting increased pressure on pet product retailers across the board by offering quality products at substantially lower prices. Although pet-owning households have slowly increased their income level, with 29.4% of dog or cat-owning households making $60,000 a year or more in 2012 compared with 27.8% in 2007, the percentage of pet owners shopping at discount stores remains high, at nearly 25%, according to Simmons Fall 2012 consumer survey data cited by Packaged Facts. Additionally, although online shopping for pet products remains at modest rates, at just over 6% in 2012, dog and cat owners are more likely than the population at large—at 15% and 23%, respectively—to shop online in general, pointing to significant online shopping growth potential in the pet market, particularly with the increasing availability of delivery services.

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