The recalls of contaminated petfood in the spring of 2007 encouraged owners to convert to higher-priced foods that were perceived to be safer. This trend to premium helped boost dollar sales for the category not only in 2007, but to a smaller extent last year, despite the dramatic downturn in the economy, according to an  article by  MediaPost Communications .

US petfood sales grew 5.5% to an estimated US$17 billion in 2008 and grew by a cumulative 20.9% (compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 4.9%) between 2004 and 2008,  Packaged Facts estimates in the latest edition of  its Pet Food in the US report.

IRI InfoScan data showed category sales in tracked retail outlets up 6.4% to US$5.9 billion for the 52 weeks ending November 2, 2008, including a 7% gain in dog food sales (to US$227 million), a 6% gain for cat food (to US$125 million) and a 3% gain for other pet food (to US$6 million).

Dollar sales reflected consumer trading up and higher ingredient costs, not volume gains. Overall pound sales were down 2% and unit sales were down 6% last year, continuing the pattern seen in previous years, according to the article.

The analysts project that the economy will slow the category's sales to 4.5% in 2009 and 2010, followed by more tapering off through 2013. CAGR for 2008 through 2013 is projected at 4.1%, with premium demographics and products accounting for an even larger part of the overall market going forward.