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Grocery Store Trends: Gourmet Pet Food

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Those who are paying close attention to current retail grocery shopping trends are most likely aware of the overall increase in gourmet-style pet food sales.  In fact, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that more than 4,500 new pet food products were introduced in 2017, up by 45% from 2016.  As might have been anticipated, most of these were in the high-end food category.

Mainstream brands like Purina, Gravy Train or Kibbles ‘N Bits are slipping as younger consumers are shopping for their pets in a way that reflects their own preferences, opting for grain-free kibble and wild caught tuna.  But Annie Gasparro, author of the WSJ article published on November 12, entitled, “Pets or People, Big Food Faces the Same Supermarket Battle,” notes that some of this could change. As priorities for these young adults shifts when they begin buying homes and having families of their own, they may find they have to cut back on their pet food budget. Or maybe not!  

While there has been a strong upwards trend in the sales for ‘fancy’ pet food (like the real chicken advertised by celebrity chef Rach Ray in her Nutrish brand), market saturation is starting to take its toll.

Nonetheless, as in most every retail situation, remaining relevant is the key differentiator. Being close to the customers, understanding what they value, and being nimble enough to recognize and respond to changing patterns, is essential in pet food as in people food.

 As Americans continue to treat their pets as beloved family members, the bets are on that the pet industry will keep growing. Spending on pet food alone rose 30% per household in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010. That tapered off to about 5% from 2010-2017, but for now, the opportunities for growth in the pet food space remain. And most of the focus is on natural options and expensive ingredients. There is a good reason that major food giants like General Mills, J M Smucker & Co. and Nestle SA each bought premium product pet food brands over the last three years.

They are all counting on the sustainability of the pet industry. Market research firm Mintel says they “expect pet food sales to rise overall about 2-3% annually for the next five years as more people acquire pets.”

For more information please contact Chris Martin at chris.martin@SobelCoLLC.com

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