As dog and cat food go, so goes US pet specialty channel

Premium and custom dog and cat food, plus dog treats, rank as major product categories for US pet retailers, who expect their sales to increase this year.

(Andrea Gantz)
(Andrea Gantz)

US pet retailers are starting off 2018 optimistic about their pet food sales, according to a survey by Pet Product News magazine. Nearly half of respondents, 48 percent, expect sales of premium and custom pet foods to increase this year, compared to only 8 percent who said they expect those sales to decline. The survey was conducted in late summer 2017 among US independent, chain and franchise pet retailers.

This jibes with a report from Packaged Facts projecting US dog and cat food sales (excluding treats and chews) in all channels to reach US$27 billion, up 4.4 percent from 2017 (

Such a high proportion of US pet retailers anticipating a sales increase for premium pet food is especially positive because dog and cat food and treats rank as major product categories for their stores; 54 percent of respondents identified dog food as a key category, with 53 percent naming dog treats. For cats, the percentages were 49 and 30, respectively.

A respondent’s comments allude to the increasing inclusion of product characteristics traditionally tied to premiumization in lower-priced products, too: “The trends I see are for less-expensive and non-GMO food,” said Lisa Gay, co-owner of H3 Pet Supply in Stratford, Connecticut, USA. Everyone wants the same “clean” food for their pets that they themselves consume, she added.

Another area to watch is growing ecommerce sales, respondents said; 51 percent consider competition from online vendors as the most significant threat to the pet product retailing business. Diving deeper, 32 percent said they view online competition as a significant threat, with 19 percent saying they see the threat as “considerable” and 16 percent consider it “somewhat” of a threat.

While 22 percent don’t see ecommerce as a threat at all, it’s still surprising that 78 percent do not have an online retail component to their business; and among those that do, the largest amount of sales (reported by 28 percent) is less than US$500 a year. Yet 21 percent of respondents reported sales of US$10,000 or more, and 26 percent said they are anticipating increased online sales in 2018.

During Petfood Forum 2018, Natasha Davis of GfK will present an update on pet food sales and trends in the US pet specialty channel (

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