Top-shelf pet fare

by Erica Shaffer
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Consumers are willing to spend top-dollar for treats with health benefits for their pets.
Consumers are willing to spend top-dollar for treats with health benefits for their pets.

ROCKVILLE, Ill. – Pet owners are going for premium food treats for their four-legged charges, market researcher Packaged Facts said in its “Pet Treats and Chews in the US” report.

The “premiumization” of pet treats and chews has been the primary growth-driver in the pet products segment. Premium products such as nutraceutical pet treats and chews and items offering “human-quality” ingredients have resonated with pet owners, according to Packaged Facts.

Statistics from the American Pet Products Association’s annual Pet Ownership & Annual Expenses survey reveal that 65 percent of US households, or 79.7 million homes, own a pet. Of that number, 54.4 percent of households own a dog while 42.9 percent of households own a cat. Additionally, basic annual expenses for dog and cat owners include $61 for dog treats and $51 for cat food treats.

The overall market for pet treats and chews is valued at $5.4 billion, Packaged Facts reported. And retailers who grab the super-premium edge of the pet treat business reap the financial rewards: Margins on super-premium foods can reach 40 percent compared with 30 percent for premium brands and 20 percent or less for standard brands. Ingredient trends in pet food products mirror trends in human food, so pet treats that contain superfruits, ancient grains and exotic proteins appeal to doting “pet parents.”

“The pet overall market has been seeing little expansion in terms of dollar and volume sales, but what gains there have been are primarily a result of higher-priced, higher-quality products entering the market,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “And absent any other galvanizing factors toward increased pet ownership, ongoing premiumization is crucial if pet market dollar sales are to continue to rise.”

The Pet Food Institute recommends pet treats in moderation.
The Pet Food Institute recommends pet treats in moderation.

Nutraceutical treats for pets especially have taken off in popularity due in part to the “graying” of the US pet population. The prevalence of older pets also has spurred spending in many sub-categories of the pet market segment, according to Packaged Facts. So, nutraceutical pet treats and chews are the “perfect middle ground” for retailers and consumers. Retailers can offer nutraceutical treats as a compromise between traditional pet treats and supplements; and consumers can justify the expense because of perceived “two-for-one” benefits the premium treats represent — a treat with health benefits.

In its January pet owner survey, Packaged Facts found that 65 percent of dog owners and 55 percent of cat owners agree that pet treats offering special nutrition can be beneficial to pets with specific health conditions. Also, one-third of survey respondents strongly agreed and one-quarter somewhat agreed that pet treats played an important role in their pets’ health.

But the Pet Food Institute reminds consumers that too much of a good thing can still be bad for pets. The institute recommends using pet treats in moderation and as part of a balanced pet diet. Treats should not exceed 10 percent of a pet’s caloric intake — pet owners who give more treats should reduce the amount of pet food accordingly, the institute advised.
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