In the latest evidence that natural alternatives are driving the petfood market, GfK data for the past year show a 28 percent spike in grain-free food sales at US pet stores. Through its Retail and Technology division, GfK tracks sales in more than 11,000 US pet outlets, including national and regional chains, as well as neighborhood pet shops.
Overall, US$1.7 billion was spent on grain-free pet products at pet outlets over the year from September 2012 to September 2013, and account for about one-third of all new pet items introduced each month. In the past year, the number of grain-free pet products has grown 33 percent, to more than 3,500 on shelves currently - about 2,300 for dogs versus nearly 1,200 for cats.
Dog items also account for the vast majority of grain-free sales: US$1.4 billion in the past year from September 2012-13, compared to US$322 million for cat products. Additionally, consumers pay roughly 45 percent more for grain-free products.
"We see the growth of grain-free foods - and natural pet products generally - as part of a larger trend toward humanization of pets," said Maria Lange, senior product manager of GfK's Retail and Technology team. "Consumers are clearly comfortable splurging on pets they see as valued family members, not just everyday animals. We see brands like Blue Wilderness, Natural Balance and Taste of the Wild leading the way; and we expect other outgrowths of the natural trend to emerge in the coming months."
Pet owners want a lot from their pet food brands. They want primary proteins that suit what they believe is best for their animal. They want grains or they don't. They want something customized, but it has to be easy to understand.
Constraints and crises, like those experienced in 2020, help drive innovation and sustainability offers context.