In his latest Budget speech the Chancellor Philip Hammond said we are coming to the end of the era of austerity. But in recent years Britain’s dogs and cats have never had it so good. UK consumers think of their pets as members of the family and are increasingly happy to pay a premium for petfood with natural ingredients.

At an estimated total value of £2.6bn, the UK petcare category is incredibly important for retailers, says Helen Warren-Piper, Sales Director at Mars Petcare UK:

“Pet owners spend on average £699 per year more than non-pet owners and are becoming more conscious of what they are feeding their pets, wanting to ensure they have the best possible care and nutrition. This equates to the pet shopper’s basket spend being 37% higher than non-pet owners. Even without pet food, the average pet owner’s basket is still worth nearly £4 more than a non-pet owner.”

Category growth is currently being driven by Dog Care & Treats (6% YTD), Cat Care & Treats (3% YTD), Super Premium Cat Wet Single Serve (8% YTD), and Dog Wet Single Serve (6% YTD). These are forecast to continue to be large contributors to growth up to 2021.

Trends such as humanisation mean that pet owners are increasingly interested in feeding their pets products with natural ingredients, or products formulated to meet specific dietary needs – and shoppers are willing to pay a premium for this. In addition, with over 78% of owners wanting more special moments with their pets to enhance their relationship, the trends of Indulgence and Treating are of particular importance to the category.

Health awareness trends have swept through the consumer goods market and it is estimated that natural petfood brands will be worth £300m by 2020, the fastest growing segment in the category with growing numbers of shoppers willing to pay a premium for natural products.

Consumers are placing value on healthy, fresh food in both their own diets and that of their pets. Tapping these trends, Mars Petcare launched NATURE’S TABLE™, an affordable yet premium natural brand providing pets with healthy, wholesome food made from natural, high-quality and ethically sourced ingredients.

Humanisation

With a static pet population and high calorie conversion, Helen Warren-Piper says one of the biggest trends affecting Petcare is humanisation, with over half of cat and dog owners regarding their pets as a member of the family, and almost three quarters of owners referring to themselves as ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’. Pet owners have the same expectation on the quality of food and services for them as they choose for themselves. When shoppers choose premium products they are paying for high quality food that they can trust and they know their pets will enjoy.

SHEBA® Craft Collection – an exciting new super premium product combining selected ingredients and a new texture sensation that cats cannot resist – reflects this trend. Over 30% of ‘Cat Wet’ shoppers are exclusively seeking natural and real-looking manufactured cat food and are willing to pay more for it, so this NPD will drive growth in the Cat Wet Single Serve category by ‘trading up’ mainstream shoppers.

Science based products also attract shoppers who are concerned with what they are feeding their pet, with 62% of female pet parents and 44% of males reporting they would do whatever it takes to make sure their pet is healthy.

This is evident in the increased importance of brands such as Mars Petcare’s PERFECT FIT, which offers super premium, advanced nutrition that delivers on owners’ demand for high quality nutrition foods for their pets. PERFECT FIT provides products to meet the nutritional needs of cats and dogs, plus a range of services that cater for their broader health needs, from exercise to mental stimulation. Early in the year, the brand launched PERFECT FIT Plus Programme. The online programme, providing weekly tips for pet owners, can be accessed through a Chabot on Facebook Messenger – the first of its kind in the UK for a petcare brand. The interactive messenger gathers information from the user to create personalised tips and insights for each user’s cat or dog.

Treating:

73% of pet owners say their pet can read their moods and one in 12 UK pet owners have held birthday parties for their cat or dog. Mars Petcare recognises that pets are part of the family and initiating bonding moments is critical.

Treats exchanged between owners and pets can enhance the emotional bond between them, as well as providing functional health benefits such as oral hygiene or help with training.

Three quarters of dog owning households buy treats for their pets each year. The use of cat treats has also increased, with 45% of cats being fed in between meals in 2014 compared to only a third in 2010.

Hand fed cat treats have seen double digit growth in the last year, and in response Mars Petcare has launched SHEBA Creamy Snacks. For dogs, they have recently launched PEDIGREE RANCHOS Original Treats, 95% meat and animal derivatives, made from quality ingredients carefully dried to have the smell and taste dogs love. This saw PEDIGREE treats enter the ‘meaty’ sub-category –jerky or dried meat style treats – which is the fastest growing care and treats sub-segment.

Premiumisation comes first with Felix Liz Wood, Purina UK&I Market Development Organisation Director, agrees that shoppers are increasingly seeking more premium cat food options: “We seek to provide our pets with the very best nutritionally, as they’re considered an integral part of the family.”

FELIX is the number one selling brand across the entire pet food category, with total brand value sales worth over £244 million. Six of the top 10 selling pet food SKUs last year were FELIX pouches, including three of the top four: As Good As It Looks Ocean Feasts, Adult Fish Selection and Adult Mixed Selection. It’s key that retailers stock the market leaders to cater to consumer demand.

FELIX offers a range of premium options, available in Single Serve pouches, such as FELIX As Good As It Looks Doubly Delicious, which combines two different types of meaty or fishy ingredients in one pouch. Awarded Product of the Year in the cat category for 2018, the As Good As It Looks Doubly Delicious range is growing by 24.6% YOY, marking its significant success amidst premiumisation within the sector.

Consumers are increasingly interested in their pets’ health, mirroring their own health-conscious attitudes. When it comes to pet food, shoppers can feel confident in providing their cats with FELIX; all pouches are a 100% complete and balanced food, containing Vitamins D & E and Omega 6, which provides cats with all the vitamins and minerals they need.

Finally, the snacking sector of the pet food category is now worth over £400 million, which presents a huge opportunity to boost sales. FELIX Goody Bags and FELIX Crispies incorporate delicious flavours and textures in one bag, providing cats with a selection of tasty treats.

When it comes to NPD, FELIX is driving innovation in the category. Earlier this year, FELIX launched its new Concoctions range – a selection of extraordinary recipes, including Salmon in a Chicken Liver flavour sauce, or Duck in a Shrimp flavour sauce. Joining the popular As Good As It Looks portfolio, the new range is driving value by encouraging a switch to more premium options. The launch has been supported by over £1m in media investment across radio, social media and a brand-new TV advert.

In time for Christmas, FELIX is introducing seasonal pack-designs for its Goody Bag Mixed Grill and Goody Bag Original Mix treats, as well as for its FunSauces Tempting Grilled Turkey “topping”. Three new, limited-edition Goody Bag tins are also available, characterised by mischievous poses from the iconic black and white cat, with red, gold and green festive sleeves.

Its contents comprise a selection of treats, including Original Mix, Seaside Mix, Mixed Grill, Picnic Mix and Dairy Delicious. The limited-edition packs will encourage impulse purchase instore, with Purina enjoying an uplift in brand sales of 8% from seasonal designs in 2017.

Wagg rebrands

Wagg, the UK’s No. 1 Dry Dog food brand by volume, has re-launched its entire range of dog food, as it looks to attract new customers and drive sales among existing ones. Wagg has also launched a new website, bringing the new look brand and packaging to life and giving pet owners access to detailed product information.

Wagg’s research ahead of the relaunch found many customers believe current packaging in the category is overwhelming and the language used can be confusing. Wagg has now changed its packs to ensure all the important information is clearly displayed in easy to understand language. All additional information has been moved to the website, so the packs stay clean and clear. Lucy Stones, Brand Marketing Manager for IPN, the owner of the Wagg brand, said:

“We believe it should be as easy as possible for the average person to feed their pet well, giving their animals exactly what they need without having to pay a premium price. Despite the fact our pet food is affordable to the mass market, we know it’s important that shoppers don’t perceive they are getting a lower quality product. The new packaging brings the fun Wagg personality to life while communicating our expertise as the brand that knows exactly what your dog really needs.”

Butcher’s Pet Care takes a ‘lead’ on plastic-free packaging

Butcher’s Pet Care, the UK’s number one canned dog food brand, is removing the equivalent of 4.2 million plastic bottles from its supply chain by replacing the shrink wrap on its canned food for dogs. The 6 & 12 pack cans are now 100% recyclable, using cardboard packaging from sustainably grown trees. The first wave of the roll out will see them in over 3,400 stores in Tesco, Coop, Waitrose, Ocado and pet specialist outlets by November 2018.

Rachel Collinson, General Manager for food for dogs at Butcher’s Pet Care, says: “We know reducing plastic packaging waste is a key concern for consumers. We feel strongly that every business has a role to play in making it easier for shoppers to move away from plastic.

Our plans to switch to cardboard have been in place for over a year and by the end of next year we will be well on track to being 99% recyclable and will keep working towards our long-term goal of being 100% recyclable.”

The new packaging forms part of Butcher’s re-brand revealed earlier this year. The look and feel repositions Butcher’s dog food as naturally nourishing but still affordable, with 100% of all meat carefully sourced from British and Irish farms.

Different Dog – not dry or wet or raw, just unique

Different Dog is a unique product on the market, gently cooked by hand to make it easy to digest, then frozen to lock in the goodness. Not dry, not wet, not raw, every recipe contains at least 60% fresh British meat. Made with natural and fresh ingredients, the recipes deliver perfectly balanced meals which are gently cooked then frozen.

Different Dog sells a range of handmade meals and treats, online and in a selection of retailers, available as one-off purchases or as a tailor-made subscription service.

Products include Keep Me Trim Turkey, Comforting Chicken and Festive Feast, a limited-edition Christmas recipe featuring turkey, cranberry, sage, red cabbage and parsnips, with no overindulgence, just natural and perfectly balanced frozen from fresh dog food. Complementary products include Bone Broth, a complementary liquid food for dogs feeling a bit peaky or picky eaters needing some gentle encouragement.

IAMS new launch backed by record spend

IAMS has launched a new range IAMS for Vitality, supported by a £2m multichannel media campaign, the largest in the brand’s history. The campaign includes TV advertising, PR, digital, social, mass sampling and sponsorship of Crufts, the world’s biggest dog show.

IAMS for Vitality is the next evolution of the brand’s historic dry food range, IAMS ProActive Health, with an upgraded recipe including fresh chicken, responding to insight from IAMS’ survey of over 8,000 pet owners across Europe and offering expert nutrition for all life stages and breeds.

The new range features all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to support the 7 signs of healthy vitality. IAMS for Vitality also supports a glossy coat, healthy skin and teeth and a strong immune system for a happy, playful pet that looks and feels great whatever their life stage.

With over 70 years’ experience, IAMS’ new improved formula offers cats and dogs a range of nutritional benefits including high levels of animal protein, with up to 85% for dog and 91% for cat and with fresh chicken for both cats and dogs and a new lamb variant for dogs. The new products contain no fillers, artificial colours, flavours or GMOs and are wheat free.

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