In trying to stand out on the retail shelf, having “grain free” on the label of your pet food package is not the differentiator it used to be—not with four of every 10 new pet food products launched in the US pet specialty channel falling into the grain-free category.
In fact, grain-free pet food now accounts for nearly 30% of pet food sales in that retail channel, according to Maria Lange, director of client services and analytics for GfK. (She presented at Petfood Forum 2015 in April in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.) With that level of market share, is it safe to say that grain-free pet food is no longer a trend?
While growth of grain-free pet food sales in US pet specialty retail has slowed somewhat from nearly 42% in 2012 and 31.5% in 2013, it still hit almost 24% in 2014, adding up to a total of US$2.2 billion sold in US pet stores (both chains and independent shops). Within that sales number, grain-free pet treats are still increasing at a 40.5% clip, Lange said; and the price per pound of grain-free pet foods has reached US$2.94.
What’s more, grain-free is now driving continued growth in the natural pet food category. Sales of natural pet food with grain-based ingredients actually declined slightly (-2.3%) in 2014, while grain-free natural products increased 23.4%, continuing a three-year pattern. (Curiously, there are grain-free products that are not also marketed as natural, hence the slight difference between the grain-free natural sale increase and that of overall grain-free pet foods at 23.9%.)
Still, natural pet food isn’t going away, either. This category accounts for eight of every 10 new pet food products launched in the US pet specialty channel and, overall, US$5 billion in 2014 sales, a 7.4% increase from 2013, Lange said. Its dollar share of pet food sales in the channel is 67%—even higher, at 72.6%, for dog food sales. Natural dog food sales in US pet specialty reached US$4.3 billion in 2014, a 7.2% rise. While natural cat food sales grew 8.8% last year, they still amounted to only US$700 million, or about 45% of US pet specialty cat food sales.
That means there is still opportunity to innovate and differentiate with natural and grain-free cat food and treat products. With dog food, there’s no reason to stop riding the natural, grain-free gravy train; you just have to work harder to stand out from the competition.
Is grain-free pet food yesterday’s news?
Watch the video: www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5143
Debbie Phillips-Donaldson is editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry and Petfood Forum.
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.