Petcare is growing three times faster than total FMCG, as NPD leads the way to further success. Simon King looks at the openings this gives wholesalers
The bond between owners and their pets is a strong one, and this is reflected in consumer purchasing habits as customers look for the best products on the market from the brands they know and trust.
As a nation we’re spoiling our pets, and this is something that provides wholesalers and independent retailers with a chance to grow sales in the petcare category.
All the signs for the future of petcare are positive, with premiumisation, alongside care products and treats set to fuel further growth over the next few years.
Stephanie Case, Mars Petcare UK’s category and customer marketing director, says: “There is no doubt that care and treats are fast-becoming the number one must-stock items for retailers; unlocking greater basket spend and encouraging those all-important impulse purchases.
“Treats exchanged between owners and their pets can enhance the strong emotional bond between them, as well as providing functional health benefits. Our figures show cat treat sales at £121m and dog treat sales at £381m, up 8.9%.”
Mars Petcare has launched two new soup products for cats that it hopes will “revolutionise” the category.
Sheba Classic Soups, a complementary luxury treat, and Whiskas Creamy Soups, a complete meal, are intended to capitalise on premiumisation, which Mars believes to be the most important current trend in the category.
Arthur Renault, Sheba senior brand manager, says: “The super-premium cat soup segment is a huge emerging space around the world, and is directly behind accelerating value in the pet- food category. We have seen fantastic performance in other markets and we are confident that the UK will see the same success.”
Mars estimates that the range could hold a 15% share of the Whiskas brand business in three years’ time, while accounting for 10% of Sheba sales during the same period.
Speaking at the launch of the products, the company said that it believes the convenience channel can drive the pet-food market, especially with the idea that consumers make more spontaneous purchases in c-stores, and are more open to buying treats there – a trend that can also extend to their pets.
Rachael Brown, senior brand manager for Felix at Purina Petcare, also points to the trend of pet owners spending more on their animals, with cat-food sales in particular currently performing well across all retail channels, “proving that it’s a valuable category to invest in”.
She adds: “With nearly 18 million cats and dogs owned by almost 10 million owners, 36% of all UK households are purchasing pet food on a regular basis. Based on average feeding guidelines, a cat will consume close to 1,500 pouches of cat food each year, resulting in one of the most frequently repeat-purchased categories in grocery.
“In convenience outlets, sales of single serve cat food have increased by 5.5% in the year to date, and are worth £79m at retail in convenience. Felix is the number one bestselling pet-food brand across the entire category, with total value brand sales worth over £232m.
Tes Majthenyi, sales director at Ho-Jay Pet Products, says her company, established in 1999, was set-up to supply convenience stores with a quality range.
Majthenyi says: “We were surprised at the lack of choice in the pet sections of c-stores. It is very important that pets are fed with good quality food and that any treats are not just full of cheap fillers. We work with wholesalers. They’re important to us as they get our product on their shelves and may introduce a new customer to Ho-Jay as my sales reps can’t be everywhere.”
The role of pets in Britons’ life is emphasised by the fact that 81% of cat and dog owners treat their pet like a member of the family, according to Mintel.
Mintel’s Douglas Faughnan says: “Related to this, only a third think that people make too much fuss about what to feed their pets. These views should be reflected in brand communications accordingly. Meanwhile, the interest in pet food with premium features, such as food with ‘human grade’ ingredients and chilled pet food further suggest opportunities for NPD in this market to fuel trading up.
“The rise in real consumer incomes since the beginning of 2015, expected to continue going forward, should support such switching.”