Adventures in Pet Food

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry, shares her insights and opinions on all things pet food, addressing market trends as well as news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other hot topics for the industry.
Pet Food Market Trends

Global Pet Expo news: petfood spending, natural cat treats, superfoods

At Global Pet Expo 2014 (GPE), held last week in Orlando, Florida, USA, the story was all about growth: Overall US pet care spending is projected to grow nearly 5% this year, topping out at US$58.5 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), organizer of the show. Of that, US petfood spending is expected to reach US$22.62 billion by the end of 2014 after increasing 4.5% in 2013 to a total of US$21.57 billion, APPA said.

And, APPA was tooting its own horn (and rightly so) for the growth of GPE. Celebrating its 10th edition this year, it has nearly doubled in size, according to Bob Vetere, president of APPA. Earlier this year, GPE was named one of the US's 50 fastest growing trade shows by Trade Show Executive magazine.

Interestingly, in a presentation given during GPE on dog and cat market trends, David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, pegged US petfood spending for 2013 at US$26.1 billion; he said the figure had been adjusted upward from his firm's earlier projections because its data sources now include sales from Walmart and other outlets previously not covered. However, that represented only 3.7% growth from 2012. (APPA does not divulge its data sources, so it's difficult to explain the discrepancy between its figures and Packaged Facts'.) 

Sprinkle also highlighted two other key stories for the US pet care market:

  • The increasing popularity of dogs. In 2006, 35.4% of US households owned dogs; in 2013, that rose to 38.7%. Sprinkle pointed out that in 2004, 36% of US households had dogs and 33% had children; now those figures are 39% and 32%, respectively. Meanwhile, cat ownership has decreased slightly, from 25% in 2006 to 24.4% in 2013, while the percentage of US households owning dogs or cats (or both) has risen in step with dog ownership (from 47.8% in 2006 to 52.3% in 2013).
  • Though cat ownership is flat, cat owners are finally starting to treat their cats with food products more similarly to how dog owners have done so for several years now; the percentage of US cat-owning households buying cat treats has soared from only 39.6% in 2006 to 52.8% in 2013. Sprinkle called this the "dogification" of the cat market -- though it still doesn't come close to dog treat purchasing, with 81.6% of US dog-owning households doing that in 2013 (it was already at 79.1% in 2006).

Sprinkle added that as part of this "dogification," cat owners are also turning more and more to natural cat treats -- and manufacturers are responding. Of the many new treats on display at GPE for both dogs and cats, natural was probably the most common theme, along with functional and, increasingly, concepts borrowing from the human food world. (Note that Sprinkle will present similar information during Petfood Forum 2014  on April 1.)

For example, among its many new product offerings, WellPet featured  Kittles natural cat treats (which the company claims are highly palatable and accepted, even by the most finicky cats) and Divine Duos wet cat foods, which use a proprietary technology to combine a pate product on top of a loaf product. (Sprinkle also mentioned that purchasing of moist and wet cat food is growing and is now at 53.3% of US cat-owning households, though it was already at 46.5% in 2006.)


Perhaps WellPet's most innovative and "humanized" product was one for dogs:  Wellness Core Superfoods Protein Bars, directly copied from the protein bars increasingly popular among people, along with the trend toward incorporating superfoods into products. Merrick also brought out all the stops for dogs, launching more than 60  new dog food products, including many grain-free ones, during GPE.

Among miscellaneous news from GPE, whether officially announced or just heard on the show floor, these stood out:

  • APPA also released a newly expanded National Pet Market Opportunity Study focused on previous pet owners and non-pet owners, as well as pet ownership by generation, to try and identify opportunities for and barriers to pet ownership in the US. A key finding: currently there are 84.6 million current US pet-owning households, 26.6 million households that previously owned pets and 11.4 million that have never owned a pet.
  • Fromm Family Pet Foods celebrated its 110th anniversary. While every company has anniversaries, I believe 110 years (and, as Fromm touted, five generations and one family of ownership) is worth mentioning. On its timeline, Fromm said it was among the first companies to formulate and manufacturer petfood, use extrusion and incorporate natural preservatives in its petfood products.
  • There was a little buzz on the show floor about Blue Buffalo's impending IPO.
  • The folks at Zuke's Performance Pet Nutrition said their new owner, Nestlé Purina PetCare, has vowed that the Purina name will not appear with the Zuke's logo or on any Zuke's product bags and that it won't change Zuke's manufacturing or distribution (in other words, no mass market or grocery distribution of Zuke's products beyond the natural grocery stores Zuke's is already in). We'll see!
  • Clear Conscience Pet announced it's retaining counsel to protect its Sliders brand trademark. And I quickly realized why when I saw at least one other company featuring a new treat named Sliders in its GPE booth.

While many would argue that currently everyone is just copying everyone else with new petfood and treat product launches, it does seem rather curious to use the same exact name.




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