While Americans have always been crazy about their pets, the pandemic has brought humans and their furry companions even closer together.
“With pet fostering and adoptions up during the pandemic, along with increased sentiments of pets contributing positively to our health and well-being, pet owners have made sure their animals’ needs come first,” says Steve King, CEO of the American Pet Products Association in Stamford, Conn.
As trends in pet products mirror those of human lifestyle trends, he adds, “I think most of the grocery retailers will say their offerings have changed in the past decade as their customers have become more interested in products that contribute to their lifestyle in a healthy, convenient way. By expanding their pet aisle in a strategic manner to incorporate more products that contribute to a healthy pet lifestyle, they can cater even more to the nearly three-quarters of their customers who own pets.”
For many pet owners, promoting good health begins with food.
“One of the key trends driving growth in pet food and treats is the human food trend of ‘better for you,’ which has translated to ‘better for your pet,’ ” says Joe Toscano, VP of trade and industry development for Nestle Purina North America in St. Louis. “People are very interested in what they feed their four-legged family members, which means they want to know what’s in the food as well as what’s not in it. This leads to consumers buying more natural and superpremium products.”
In response, Purina’s Puppy Chow, Cat Chow and Fancy Feast brands have launched natural recipes, and the company has developed several new “better-for-you” treats this year, such as Prime Bones—natural dog chews made without corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Along with seeking out healthier dry foods, consumers are increasingly exploring fresh and frozen pet food. According to total U.S. multioutlet data from IRI for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 4, 2020, dollar sales for dry dog food dipped 0.8% to $5.3 billion, while sales of frozen and refrigerated dog food increased 33% to $410 million. The trend hasn’t caught on with cat owners, however. According to IRI, refrigerated and frozen cat food sales dropped 9.7% to $7 million, while dry cat food sales grew 1.2% to $2.4 billion.
According to IRI, treat sales increased nearly 10% to $3.8 billion, reflecting consumers’ desire to pamper their pets.
“With people spending more time at home with their pets, treats are showing strong, sustained growth,” says Toscano. “They’re an incremental purchase for consumers and hold great potential for retailers as a basket-builder and profit-driver.”
More and more, grocery retailers are realizing the profit potential of pet products. In recent years, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer launched a major expansion of its pet departments, including adding an additional aisle in 246 Meijer supercenters to accommodate an expanded assortment of food. Along with toys and even Halloween costumes, the retailer now carries dozens of pet food brands, including Blue Buffalo, Nutro, Nature’s Recipe, Fresh Pet and the store’s own private label, True Goodness.
E-commerce is another major trend in the pet category, as consumers make fewer trips to the grocery store. “We are continuously working to increase our pet offerings online,” says Tina Potthoff, SVP of communications for Hy-Vee, based in West Des Moines, Iowa. “We also work with our suppliers to provide deals and discounts when possible.”
Total U.S. multioutlet (grocery, drug, mass market, military and select club and dollar retailers) | Latest 52 weeks ending Oct. 4, 2020
Source: Market Advantage TSV; IRI Liquid data
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