The natural pet food category has been a growing trend in recent years and customers are much more informed about what goes into their pet’s food, and they want to be feeding their beloved pets the best quality foods.

Category wide, natural cat is showing 19% growth and natural dog showing 22% growth (IRI), demonstrating the demand for more premium pet food with natural ingredients.

An additional trend is a desire for ingredients with added functional benefits, such as in the new Webbox Naturals Cat Sticks. The brand has added cat grass to one variant to aid digestion and malt to another to reduce furball formation.

These value-added fortifications can influence the shopper’s purchasing decisions as they want to keep their pet in tip-top condition.

“Premiumisation is a clear trend within the pet food market,” comments Michael Haigh – Senior Brand Manager of Webbox. “Brands are driving growth, in fact, the only brand not in growth is Private Label which represents the entry price point. Shoppers are moving into wet food for main meal which is a higher price per kg than dry and within wet, we are seeing premiumisation driven in many ways.”

The Webbox brand is performing exceptionally well in the category, in 2021 Webbox was the fastest growing pet brand with 1 in 4 pet owning households purchasing from the Webbox brand (Kantar).

The brand currently has the top 3 best-selling cat treat SKUs and Webbox Chub Rolls are a huge success in wet dog, holding 3 of the Top 10 fastest-selling branded main meal dog SKUs (IRI).

As recessionary behaviours continue to emerge with the rising cost of living, the Webbox Chub remains an important format to help shoppers manage budget with quality and value for money from a brand pet shoppers know and trust.

Brogan Goldsworthy – Brand Manager of Felight, comments: “A key trend we’ve seen over recent years is the demand for brands to be eco-friendly and use recyclable packaging. Every Felight Cat Litter bag is plastic-free and 100% recyclable – including the handle.”

The brand has also recently launched a brand new product, Felight Eco, which is a first of its kind 100% recycled cat litter, combining a complementary mix of FSC certified sawdust, re-purposed minerals of recycled concrete and recycled gypsum. The recycled concrete and gypsum that are used in the litter are waste by-product from other manufacturing processes. Felight Eco allows the brand to give these materials a second life, using them to create a more sustainable cat litter product without extracting from limited natural resources or compromising on the Felight-performance that shoppers love.

“This continued work on our sustainability, from both a product and packaging perspective, will appeal to today’s increasingly environmentally conscious consumer,” adds Goldsworthy. “The recyclability of packaging is increasingly becoming a key driver in purchasing decisions for the consumer so it’s vital that retailers are offering sustainable products.”

Chris Socratous – Senior Brand Manager of Bob Martin, comments: “With so many new pets acquired during lockdown, one major challenge we now face is educating new first-time pet owners about the importance of parasite prevention and making it part of their pet’s regular healthcare routine. We are already doing a lot of activity in this area and will continue to support retailers in providing the best healthcare advice and products for their customers’ pets.”

Bob Martin is experiencing great success at the moment with 9 of the top 10 best-selling cat healthcare SKUs in the Grocery Market and 7 of the top 10 best-selling dog healthcare SKUs (IRI).

Bob Martin is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year and with that has been a new marketing campaign for 130 years of happy and healthy pets – celebrating not only taking care of the little things like fleas and ticks, but all of the little things that pets do that make their pet parents smile.

One of the most exciting developments for Bob Martin recently is the roll-out of brand new packaging across the full flea, tick and worm range. This new packaging brings new colourways to help shoppers differentiate between the Clear Repellent (orange) and the Clear Treatment (blue) ranges, with the most advanced formula Clear Plus being given a more premium feel with reflective silver band for superior stand-out on shelf.

Alongside the new designs, all packaging includes clearer step by step instructions to ensure pet owners can easily use the products regardless of if they are an experienced or first-time pet owner.

Chris Wragg, Marketing Director at Inspired Pet Nutrition, comments: “In the UK, pets are very much part of the family, and for that reason, we always want the very best for them. At Inspired Pet Nutrition our mission is to make great pet nutrition affordable and accessible to all through our portfolio of pet food brands that offer great value at every relative market position.”

The rising cost of living is something that is being felt across every aspect of people’s lives. But Inspired Pet Nutrition believes that this doesn’t mean that pets or pet parents have to compromise when it comes to their health or nutrition.

“The ethos behind Inspired Pet Nutrition is ensuring people, pets and the planet are at the forefront of all our thinking,” adds Wragg. “We are animal lovers, and we want to ensure pets are getting the absolute best quality nutrition possible. So, while we strive to deliver premium products with premium nutrition, we do not believe that should break the bank. The fantastic brands of Wagg, Harringtons, Barking Heads and AATU, that sit under the Inspired Pet Nutrition portfolio all provide great value nutrition at different relative price points.”

Harringtons, the UK’s number one dry dog food by value (IRI), has developed Harrington’s Advanced Science Diet, in partnership with Peter Wright from The Yorkshire Vet, and provides customers with a premium advanced nutrition product, perfect for all dogs, that is affordable for all.

“We believe that it provides a perfect balance of nutrition to boost your four-legged friends’ health and wellbeing,” says Wragg. “With specific recipes tailored for different breed sizes that are naturally enhanced with Vitaguard, a proprietary mix of pre – and pro-biotics, and vitamins & minerals to support digestion and immunity, it is a product which we are really proud of.”

Inspired Pet Nutrition is home to some market leading brands, one of which is Harringtons.

Launched in 2008, Harringtons has gone from strength to strength, quickly becoming the UK’s number one dry dog food brand (IRI), with over 4.5 million households purchasing per year.

Additionally, Harrington’s is the fastest growing major wet dog food brand.(IRI).

With such great success in the dog food sector, Harringtons leveled up to also take on the cat food world and has continued to grow within this sector.

Following the launch of a new wet cat food range in May 2021, Harringtons is now the fastest growing cat food brand in the UK (IRI).

Recent research shows that after sampling the brand’s new wet cat food product with over 4,000 cat food shoppers, 80% reported either loving or liking it, highlighting one of the many reasons for the brands’ continued and increasing success. In the last year alone, over half a million cat food shoppers (576,000) have bought the Harringtons brand (Mintel).

“Treats is a really exciting area when you consider premiumisation trends,” says Wragg. “In terms of treats, Wagg treats are our best performing range. They offer a great quality product at an affordable price point.

The fun humanised flavours have hit a real sweet spot in the market as they continue to attract new people to the treats category – and new product development is key to generating further excitement across the range, as well as variety for owners, and their pets.”

The brand is taking its expertise in treating, and is expanding, and broadening its portfolio in terms of complementary feeding.

Treats for pets are something which have always been popular among customers, but now the brand is starting to introduce affordable supplements, to further aid the health of customers’ pets.

With supplements being an exciting new category for Inspired Pet Nutrition, the brand has put together a strong launch package to drive awareness, trial and conversion.

“It’s very early days but the range appears to be performing well,” Wragg continues. “Supplements are just the start, as we have big plans for the future in this sector.”

Inspired Pet Nutrition has always prioritised the development of healthy pet food.

Natural pet food is a huge untapped market within the cat food sector, as it only currently accounts for 6.2% of sales.

By working with retailers, Inspired Pet Nutrition is investing in growing the natural category, and premiumising cat food.

Samantha Crossley, Marketing Director at Lily’s Kitchen, comments “In 2009 we pioneered premium natural pet food and created this hugely successful category. Today, Lily’s Kitchen is the number one brand in premium natural pet food (Nielsen).”

Recent data shows that we are outperforming other members of the petcare category with 41% sales growth – four times ahead of sector averages (IRI).

The pandemic has brought people closer than ever to their four-legged friends, in fact more than one in two UK adults (57%) are now pet parents (Mintel).

“At Lily’s Kitchen, we’ve always believed that pets are part of the family, and there’s a shift towards this feeling among many pet owners now too,” adds Crossley.

As pet parents are increasingly willing to spend on premium, high-quality food for the health and wellbeing of their pets, this in turn has resulted in driving premiumisation and profitability in the sector. According to Euromonitor, the pet food market was worth £67bn in 2018, but is forecast to grow to £102bn by 2024 (Euromonitor).

The treats sector for dogs and cats is certainly growing year-on-year. Recent data shows that sales of both dog treats and cat treats are up +9% (IRI) – yet year-on-year data for Lily’s Kitchen demonstrates its performance in this sector is even stronger – with its dog treats up +60% and its cat treats up +967% (IRI).

“Many of us here at Lily’s Kitchen are pet parents ourselves, so we understand that meal and treat times offer moments of joy with your pet,” says Crossley. “With more time than ever spent at home with our pets and, thanks to the pandemic ownership boom, far more puppies and kittens to train and bond with, people have understandably been treating their pets more.”

Combined sales of dog and cat treats have soared by £34.9m (8.2%) in the past year with dog treats driving the largest share of this, growing by £23.4m, 6.9% (Nielsen).

Lily’s Kitchen has a wide range of treat options for both dogs and cats, including baked treats, chews and training treats, all designed to entertain your pet’s taste buds.

“We’ve always believed that our four-legged friends deserve to eat proper food – full of nourishing, natural ingredients – and that’s no different when it comes to treats,” continues Crossley.

Zoe Taphouse, Category & Market Activation Director, at Mars Petcare, comments: “Premiumisation has long been a key driver of petcare sales, but the last year or so has seen the trend grow in popularity even further, with 40% of owners viewing their pet as a child or family member. With such strong sentiment, it’s no wonder that premium offerings are continuing to drive petcare sales. It is important for retailers to utilise this opportunity in store by increasing space for these products, building excitement with new launches and offering temping promotions to boost these sales further.”

Another key trend for petcare is natural credentials such as ‘clean’ ingredients, recipes inspired by the diets of our pets’ wild cousins, avoidance of grains and other cultivated human food stuffs is the biggest driver of growth at present – with natural claims becoming the number one motivator for human food choices, growing 6% in recent years (Euromonitor). Anything artificial is eyed with suspicion, and when it comes to ingredients, less is more; 52% of consumers agree that a product is healthier if it contains fewer of them (Mintel).

The ‘Natural Goodness’ range from Cesar taps into this trend, offering shoppers something even more luxurious to Cesar’s core range.

It contains a higher meat and animal derivative content (+12%) and lower fat content (-1%) which will appeal to these health-conscious pet owners. This ongoing trend is having a huge influence on pet nutrition, and pet food products carrying claims relating to nature-inspired diets account for 12% of the market, having achieved +14.8% growth last year (Mintel).


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