J.M. Smucker pet food sales were lower than expected in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 (Q1 FY20). Smucker executives discussed the reasons for the four percent decline in pet food sales during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

“Momentum for the majority of our pet brands continues to be masked by the decline in our private label business and the Natural Balance brand in the pet specialty channel…,” Mark Smucker, chief executive officer, said during the call. “The shortfall expectations resulted from underperformance of Nutrish dog food as a result of greater than anticipated impact from premium competitors’ aggressive pricing actions,”

Smucker said that the company was taking actions to revive growth for Racheal Ray Nutrish pet foods. The strategy includes trying to encourage new customers to try the brand and encouraging loyalty, along with new advertisements. However, Smucker expects sales of Nutrish to remain soft into the second quarter. He expects Nutrish sales to increase by mid- to high single digits over the fiscal year as a whole.

Some Smucker pet food and treat brand sales up

Other areas of Smucker’s pet food segment increased sales, including cat food. Meow Mix led the brands with an 8% increase. 9Lives and Nutrish cat food also grew, Smucker said. Dog snacks also grew with Pup-peroni, Nutrish and Milk-Bone leading the pack.

“The Natural Balance brand declined 12% and was the other significant factor driving the decrease,” said Mark Belgya, vice chair and chief financial officer.

Despite the declines, J.M. Smucker’s pet food segment profit grew by 20% compared to the prior year, Belgya said. The company’s analysts expect pet food net sales to be flat or up 1%.

Considering all segments J.M. Smucker’s earnings per share were US$1.58, which fell short of forecasts by US$0.17. Likewise, the company’s revenue was lower than expected by US$96.95 million at US$1.78 billion.