Nestlé Purina PetCare, Mars Petcare and Big Heart rank No. 1, 4 and 5, respectively, on a list of the nine largest companies for 2018 in the US pet market. The list, released by Packaged Facts in late 2017, covered pet product manufacturers, retailers and distributors with annual US sales of US$2 billion or more. Rounding out the list were eight companies with US sales of US$1 to 1.5 billion, and that included three other pet food players: Blue Buffalo, Central Garden & Pet and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Because this list focuses on the US market, the rankings and revenues differ from the global list from our Top Pet Food Companies Database. In the global market, Mars ranks No. 1, followed by Purina, and Hill’s is just ahead of Blue Buffalo. Central Garden & Pet falls to No. 20 globally because our list isolates its pet food sales, while the Packaged Facts list includes its revenues as a distributor and manufacturer of non-food products. Also, our global figures are currently based on 2016 revenues; the 2017 revenues will be updated in May.

US versus global pet food revenues

In the US, Purina’s sales revenues reached about US$11 billion, according to Packaged Facts, and that included sales of its cat litter products and other non-food lines. It compares to about US$12.1 billion globally for pet food revenue alone. On the other hand, Mars’ global pet food revenues topped US$17 billion, while its pet industry sales (include pet health services) in the US were about US$6 billion. That included sales of $1 billion each for its Pedigree, Iams, Whiskas and Royal Canin brands, said the Packaged Facts report.

With US revenues of US$3.9 billion (US$2.3 billion globally for pet food alone), Big Heart’s leading brand is Milk Bone, which Packaged Facts named as the leading pet treat brand by far. Its report did not break out individual company revenues for the players it listed in the US$1 to 1.5 billion range for US revenues. Globally, their pet food revenues were US$2.26 billion for Hill’s, US$1.15 billion for Blue Buffalo and US$320 million for Central Garden & Pet.

Rounding out Packaged Facts’ Top 9 list for US pet market players: Walmart at No. 2 and US$8.7 billion; PetSmart, No. 3, US$7 billion; Petco, No. 6, US$3.7 billion; Target, No. 7, US$2.5 billion; Costco, No. 8, US$2.3 billion; and Amazon, No. 9, US$2 billion. The remaining players in the US$1 to 1.5 billion range included Animal Supply Co., Kroger, Merial, Phillips Pet Food and Supply and Zoetis.

US pet food consumers still shopping in brick-and-mortar stores

Packaged Facts’ most recent pet food-specific report, Pet Food in the US, 13th Edition, showed the rampant growth of ecommerce, which now accounts for 11 percent of US pet food sales. A separate report from Nielsen said dog food ecommerce sales grew 92.2 percent in 2017, followed by 63.2 percent for cat food. According to Nielsen, the online channel now has an 18 percent share of all dog food sales in the US, with online cat food sales enjoying a 13 percent share.

Regardless of the exact percentage, ecommerce is definitely becoming a much bigger channel for pet food sales — but according to Packaged Facts, most US pet owners still buy their pet food at brick-and-mortar stores: 88 percent of dog owners and 93 percent of cat owners said they purchased pet food in a physical store within the previous 12 months. Further, 76 percent of dog owners and 81 percent of cat owners reported purchasing their pet food only in brick-and-mortar stores, without pre-ordering it online.

While millennials are most likely to purchase pet food online for home delivery or to pick up in a store, it seems the majority of US pet owners still prefer to visit a physical retail location to shop for their furry family members’ sustenance.

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dphillips@wattglobal.com