Annually the pet food category in total convenience is worth £289 million, of which over £121 million is generated within symbols and independent retailers (IRI).

With pet owners wanting more convenient formats cat canning is in decline and cat pouches are growing strongly.

In convenience, cat pouches make up 85% of wet cat sales and are leading wet cat growth growing over £3.7million year-on -year.

Dog owners are also buying dog pouches, Winalot is number one pouch brand in symbols and independents growing 34% year on year (IRI).

As the number of pets has increased and pet parents have been spending more time at home with their pets, the bond between pet parents and their pets has become even more important.

Treats have become an increasingly important pillar in the pet food offering and treating in both cat and dog sectors has led to sales growing over £5.4 million in convenience vs. LY Year (IRI).

The value sales of cat and dog snacks as a share of pet food in convenience are growing over time and now make up over 23% of cat and dog food sales, compared to 18.0% in 2017 and 23.2% in 2021 (IRI).

“A strong cat and dog treat selection offers independent retailers a significant opportunity to expand their pet food ranges and drive incremental sales,” comments Charlotte Pilkington, Convenience Category Manager at Purina.

Premiumisation is a long-term driver of pet food sales and with the pandemic this trend has grown even further.

This is particularly true within symbols and Independents, where premium wet cat meals added 19.9% year-on-year growth (IRI).

Purina’s Gourmet is the No1 premium wet cat brand and is growing over 45% in symbols and independents.

“Given the increased number of pets in the market, and in particular the increase in the proportion of those pets with first time pet owners, it’s been important to make sure price positioning allows owners to feed their pets responsibly. Pets need good nutrition and to be fed responsibly, with the right number of calories balanced between main meals, snacks & treats which help new owners bond to their pets,” says Charlotte.

Furthermore, macroeconomic factors such as an increase in the cost-price of ingredients, raw materials, component parts, energy & transport have further impacted the cost of manufacture.

“We recognise that it continues to be vital to have a range of high quality pet food products available to suit all budgets and lifestyle/stages – which is why Purina continues to offer a broad portfolio that allows owners to have confidence in whatever product they feel is right for their pet, while also responding to consumer demand and trends through continuous NPD,” adds Charlotte Pilkington.

On the converse side, the over-index in desire of these new owners to indulge their pets has meant that there has been an increase in demand for higher priced pet food. Overall, an increased demand for snacks combined with the higher avg. £ / kg price points for that sub-category has led to an increase in total category avg. £ / kg of almost 5%, w/ Purina w/in 130 bps of this increase rate.

The UK is a nation of pet lovers, and even with the massive influx of pets that occurred in 2020 and 2021, new pets continue to enter households. While the rate of acquisition has slowed relatively (as more pets in recent years created a bigger “base” off which %’s could grow, and some owners took the opportunity to get pets in 2020 / 2021 that otherwise may have waited until 2022), the number of cats and dogs in UK will continue to grow, such the total UK cat and dog food industry is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%, 2022 – 2025, leading it to be worth over £4¾ in 2025.

There is a strong correlation between the size of pet and size of wet portion. This is reflected in market with over half of the wet dog category allocated to 400g cans. The remainder is broadly now split between tray and pouch format. Dual feeding is also on the rise with 72% of shoppers feeding wet and dry combined. Purchase decision is based on ingredients, range and price.

“Pet owners love to pamper their pets and that the bond between pets and their humans has been a huge source of support to so many during the pandemic,” continues Charlotte Pilkington. “We know they are looking for reassurance that their choice of food is every bit healthy as it is tasty. Consumers continue to opt for more personalised, natural pet food choices and are looking for increased health benefits, to help maintain digestive health, mobility and healthy skin and coat.”

Zoe Taphouse, Category & Market Activation Director, at Mars Petcare, comments: “During the course of the pandemic, there has been a notable shift in the total market, with petcare value moving away from grocery.”

As a result, last year the convenience channel’s share of petcare sales saw a growth of 0.2% to 5.4% (Nielsen), while online value sales grew by over 16% in the same period.

As restrictions eased, the convenience channel saw its share of petcare spend increase by 0.5% points to 14.6% of total category value in the past year, with cat owners increasing spend in c-stores by 0.5% and dog owners spending 0.3% more (Nielsen).

“This provides retailers with the perfect opportunity to encourage shoppers to increase their basket size as a result, wholesalers should ensure that they offer the right products in the right formats,” says Taphouse. “This is where our Dream 16 range plays a key role – a reinvigorated range of must-stocks that should form the core of a retailer’s petcare offering.”

The Dream Sixteen also includes three price-marked packs (PMPs); bestsellers from Pedigree, Sheba and Cesar carrying RRPs of £3.75 – £4.75 price-mark.

“It is crucial for wholesalers to maintain a core range of best-selling products as well as stocking well-known brands. Wholesalers should provide good, clear signposting in depots to help retailers access stock easily and allow retailers to be as time efficient as possible,” adds Taphouse.

Premiumisation has long been a key driver of petcare sales, but the last year or so has seen the trend grow in popularity even further, with 40% of owners viewing their pet as a child or family member (Mars). In convenience, sales of luxury brands have increased by 18.4% for cats and 19.7% for dogs (Nielsen).

“Therefore, it is important for wholesalers to utilise this opportunity by increasing space for these products,” suggests Taphouse. “Positioning within the depot will also be key to driving excitement amongst retailers. Wholesalers should place new launches at the front of depots or at the end of aisles to increase visibility.”

Overall, sales of branded cat food have increased by 6.6% in the past year, dog food brands are up by 6.3%. In c-stores that growth is higher at 10.8% for cat and 10.4% for dog. Luxury brands are performing more strongly still with 18.4% for cat and 19.7% for dog (Nielsen).

“With this in mind, it is important for wholesalers to stock a selection of products to allow retailers to capitalise on trade-up opportunities in link with the premiumisation trend,” advises Taphouse.

Daniel Mackenzie, owner of All About Pet Health, comments: “Consumers are more aware of their pets’ health since the beginning of Covid. As pet owners focus on the safety and health of their own families, the furry members of the family also fall under that protective eye. Pet health products are more in demand than ever before, even more so since the pandemic started.”

All About Pet Health has seen a rising demand for sustainable packaging in general. Many packaging suppliers are launching their own fully compostable pouches and as such, the prices for these more eco products has fallen dramatically making them a viable proposition for All About Pet Health’s customers.

The digestive category is by far the most popular in the All About Pet Health range. Products like No Scoot and Digestive Probiotic have been the top sellers for the last 5 years.

“Soft chews are gaining popularity year-on-year, consider stocking a range of products that target the key areas of pet health; digestion, joint, skin & coat and general health,” suggests Mackenzie.

“Make sure you know the products individually and what they do,” Mackenzie advises wholesalers. “Make sure your customers understand what the products do. Explain the potential cost saving to pet owners that these products could save hundreds of pounds in vet bills.”

Lily’s Kitchen has launched a new range of healthy, plant-based recipes for dogs into independents and wholesalers.

Comprising two new treats and two wet recipes for dogs, the Plant Power range has been developed so that dogs can join in key moments with their pet parents and is designed to tap into key trends such as Meat Free Mondays.

Dogs are naturally omnivores and can benefit from a wide variety of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Lily’s Kitchen has carefully developed the new plant-based recipes so that pet parents can feed dogs a little less meat, while keeping their dogs happy and healthy.

Pet owners are increasingly conscious of their own health and the environment, and so Lily’s Kitchen has launched the new recipes so that they can extend these healthy habits to their dogs.

The two wet tins are nutritionally complete recipes full of plant-based protein and are made from natural ingredients, perfect for dogs to devour while pet parents are doing Meat Free Monday.

The Mighty Burrito Bowl with Jackfruit (RRP £3.00, 400g tin) is packed full of jackfruit, red pepper and kidney beans, and flavoured with cinnamon and parsley.

The Vibrant Rainbow Stew (RRP £3.00, 400g tin and £1.50,150g tray) is made with tasty vegan ingredients and a selection of vibrant vegetables.

The new treats come in two delicious, grain-free recipes: Tropical Mango Jerky (RRP £3.00, 70g) and Succulent Sweet Potato Jerky with Jackfruit (RRP £3.00, 70g). Both treats have a chewy texture and are made with natural ingredients, and plant-based protein.

Samantha Crossley, Marketing Director at Lily’s Kitchen, comments: “As dogs are omnivores, feeding them vegan food once or twice a week is the perfect way to incorporate more vegetables into their diet in a healthy way.

“The new Plant Power range has been designed so that dogs can cut down their meat consumption, but still enjoy a nutritionally complete meal. They’re so tasty, dogs won’t even notice the difference.

“We believe that all pets deserve to eat proper food full of nourishing, natural ingredients, and the newest range does exactly that and celebrates the power of plants.”

Emma Herring – Senior Brand Manager of Webbox, Webbox Naturals and Meatiful at Pets Choice, comments: “The natural pet food category has been a growing trend in recent years and customers are much more informed about what goes into their pet’s food, and they want to be feeding their beloved pets the best quality foods.

Webbox Naturals has seen 34% year on year growth (IRI), demonstrating the demand for more premium pet food with natural ingredients.

An additional trend is a desire for ingredients with added functional benefits, such as in the new Webbox Naturals Cat Sticks. Cat grass has been added to one variant to aid digestion and malt to another to reduce furball formation.

Premiumisation is a clear trend within the pet food market. Brands are driving growth, in fact, the only brand not in growth is Private Label which represents the entry price point. Shoppers are moving into wet food for main meal which is a higher price per kg than dry.

In cat, luxury wet main meal is +10% and Natural wet main meal +25%. In dog, pouch and tray formats (+10%) are driving growth over traditional cans at +4% (IRI).

“List the best-sellers and ensure a range of flavours and formats for consumer choice as we know that parents are treating more often with home working etc. so having a good variety of treats on offer is key,” suggests Herring.

“There has also been a huge increase in new pet ownership since the start of lockdown, so stocking products that are puppy and kitten friendly is essential to cater to customers at the very first stage of pet ownership and encourage customer lifetime value. IRI data shows that kitten friendly products are +29% growth and puppy friendly products +22% growth and Christmas 21 as an occasion to trigger further new pet ownership will ensure these products remain as relevant as ever.”


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