Pet treats: a sure bet for growth in 2015 and beyond?

Pet owners around the world are looking for ways to feed their pets healthy, wholesome fare, and that’s expanding beyond the pets’ main diets to treats.

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A review of the hottest growth categories for pet products globally from 2009 to 2014 shows cat treats, dog treats or both among the top five in every single region worldwide, according to Euromonitor International. Latin American and Eastern Europe have even seen double-digit increases, while even mature regions like North America and Western Europe have enjoyed 6% to 10% growth.

Here’s how this boom in pet treat sales breaks down by region, as shown by data Euromonitor shared in a recent webinar, ““Driving Pet Care: Leveraging Retailers’ Full Potential”:

  • Asia: 5% growth for cat treats, slightly less than 5% for dog treats
  • Eastern Europe: about 30% growth for cat treats, about 5% for dog treats
  • Latin America: about 17% growth for dog treats
  • Middle East/Africa: about 8% growth for dog treats
  • North America: 8% growth for cat treats, about 6% for dog treats
  • Western Europe: 10% growth for cat treats, about 8% for dog treats

What’s remarkable to me, besides the overall growth in pet treats, is that in many regions, cat treats are growing even faster than dog treats. Granted, sales of cat treats are much lower, giving them a higher growth potential; and in regions like Latin America and Middle East/Africa, where dogs far outweigh cats in popularity, cat treats don’t even crack the list of hot growth categories. Yet in most other regions, cat owners seem to be trying to catch up to dog owners in terms of pampering their pets with treats and snacks.

Why? David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, has referred to this as the “dogification” of the cat market, noting that the percentage of US cat-owning households purchasing pet treats soared to 52.8% in 2013, up from 39.6% in 2006. And both dog and cat owners around the world are increasingly looking for ways to feed their pets healthy, wholesome fare, however they may define that (natural, organic, functional ingredients, lack of certain types of ingredients, etc.) More and more, that’s expanding beyond the pets’ main diets to treat and snacks.

“At WellPet, Chanda Leary-Coutu notes that an important theme in treats now is ‘guilt-free,’” says Packaged Facts in its report Pet Food in the US, 11th edition (September 2014). “When a pet owner can give the pet treats that have natural features, such as grain-free, wheat, corn and soy free, and low calorie, then the pet owner feels good about offering small indulgences.”

Thus, WellPet and nearly every other petfood marketer on the planet now offer treats with these types of features, as well as ones focusing on specific types of ingredients. This trend is expected to continue in 2015 and possibly beyond, with industry experts foreseeing growth in functional treats as well as new categories borrowing from other ongoing petfood trends, such as high meat. “High-meat treats, both baked and jerky, will dominate this segment,” predicts Tom Willard, PhD, with TRW Consulting Services. New forms of treats, such as the gelatin and gummy types prominent in human food, are also worth looking out for, he adds.

As Willard alludes, human food trends will also continue to influence pet treat product development. In an October webinar, Eric J. Pierce, director of strategy and insights for New Hope Natural Media, discussed how the human food trend of “snackification” is now spilling over into petfoods. (Apparently, market research experts like to name trends by adding “-ification” to a word.) With human food, the driver is people seeking to combine snacking with nutrition and function to suit their on-the-go lifestyles, Pierce said; because pet owners humanize their pets, they want to include their furry family members in this behavior, too.

So, if you’re looking to grow your sales and new product pipeline in 2015 and beyond—and who isn’t?—perhaps you should look at expanding or adding a treat line. To learn more, consider registering for Petfood Innovation Workshop: Next Generation Treats, which will include a trip to a test kitchen for hands-on experimentation and creation of new types of treats. The Workshop takes place April 27 in Kansas City, with early bird registration available through February 15 (and additional savings if you also register for Petfood Forum 2015). Stay tuned for further information.





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