“Natural” pet food may get all the headlines, but grain-free is the engine powering the natural juggernaut. New data from GfK’s point-of-sale pet panel, which represents more than 11,000 pet specialty stores, shows that grain-free dog and cat food now accounts for one-third (34%) of all pet food sales, and 48% of the “natural” category.

Overall, grain-free SKUs brought in $2.6 billion in the past year (October 2014 to September 2015), a growth rate of 25%. Dog items accounted for $2.1 billion of those sales, with grain-free dog treats spiking a remarkable 43% year over year. And grain-free items now represent 46% of all sales in the Dog Wet category.

In some ways, grain-free’s success is a matter of sheer quantity; 45% of all pet food items introduced in the past year were grain-free – 1,557 new products, compared to 1,355 during the previous 12 months.

Another reason for grain-free’s elevated revenue is the category’s hefty price per pound – $3.01, on average; that is 26% higher than the overall pet food figure of $2.39 per pound.

“Grain-free has the potential to outgrow the natural category, because it also reaches into non-natural food and treats,” said Maria Lange, business group director of GfK’s POS Tracking (Pet) team. “Without grain-free, the natural category would be declining in growth – and we think grain-free’s potential is far from spent. Cat SKUs, in particular, represent an untapped opportunity for new grain-free sales gains.”

GfK’s POS pet panel in the US helps both retailers and manufacturers make smarter decisions. Pet specialty stores can gain free insights into the marketplace simply by sharing their sales data with GfK; and manufacturers can obtain unmatched reports on nationwide trends, as well as the performance of their own products and of competitors.